A reply to Rev. Nelson’s article onPlanned Parenthood 11-21-15
We disagree with most of Rev. J. Herbert Nelson's article on Planned Parenthood in its assumptions, and in its conclusions. His article contains factual errors as well as poor logic and theology. Never-the-less, we can all agree that attitudes half a century ago that shamed and penalized women for having non-marital sex (especially if exposed by pregnancy) while ignoring the equally sinful behavior of the men involved were unjust. We can also agree that men need to take responsibility for the children they sire and that child support laws need to be enforced. Yet, injustice towards one group of human beings (women) can never be the basis for advocating a larger injustice towards another group of human beings (the preborn).
Before we can even consider the other “services” Planned Parenthood might or might not provide, we must first recognize that abortion is very important to the organization. Indeed, please note that the very top subject mentioned on the home page of the Planned Parenthood website is “ABORTION.” Let’s look at each of the other purported “health services” Rev. Nelson lists:
Far from providing parenting skills or resources for new parents, Planned Parenthood limits parenting support to sexual education, such as timing of teen sexual activity, promotion of birth control, and avoiding abusive relationships. Their website does briefly discuss the need for open communication and the need for parental limit setting and monitoring, but we have to wonder how this fits in with their opposition to parental notification laws.
Rather than providing counseling that empowers and dignifies women in their reproductive choices, Planned Parenthood has been caught on tape counseling underage children on how to hide an abortion (which is an invasive medical procedure) from their parents and how to hide statutory rape from parents and authorities. Sex traffickers have been "counseled" on how to get abortions for the young girls they are prostituting, and while it is true that Planned Parenthood promotes birth control for those not pregnant, pregnancy counseling primarily consists of convincing women to have an abortion: 97% of the pregnant women who go to Planned Parenthood get an abortion.
Planned Parenthood has never done a single mammogram. Their director has admitted it and their website (fine print) says in essence that they refer women to other sites to receive mammograms. Many local community health centers, which outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics ten to one, actually do provide mammograms. (http://democratsforlife.org/index.php/articles-and-op-eds/press-releases/890- democrats-for-life-supports-defunding-planned-parenthood)
True, however, birth control is also available at community health clinics, which do not participate in the abortion industry.
STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing and treatment
It is true that Planned Parenthood does provide these services, but as Christians, we are horrified that the abortion provider would give young people who are infected by the HIV (AIDS) virus this advice:
"Sharing your HIV status is called disclosure. Your decision about whether to disclose may change with different people and situations. You have the right to decide if, when, and how to disclose your HIV status. You know best if and when it is safe for you to disclose your status. There are many reasons that people do not share their HIV status. [...] People in long-term relationships who find out they are living with HIV sometimes fear that their partner will react violently or end the relationship." (http://www.ippf.org/resource/Healthy-Happy-and-Hot-young-peoples-guide-rights)
Such advice encourages those with a disease that could literally kill their sexual partners to withhold such information from them. It is not only irresponsible but immoral.
Dr. Nelson says that PP is known as a provider of low cost healthcare for poor women, but the only forms of “healthcare” listed on their website are those related to sex such as the "Morning After Pill," Birth Control, Abortion, and STIs. Rev. Nelson’s assertion that PP provides other medical services to children is patently false, unless one were to consider the below-mentioned hiding of victims of sex trafficking and statutory rape to be "medical services to children."
One of the authors of this response (PLJ), as a member of her local county Board of Health, can confidently state that her local health department offers far more in health care to poor women than does Planned Parenthood, including immunizations, treatment for diabetes and hypertension, nutrition counseling and WIC as well as all of the true health care (such as STI testing and treatment) offered by Planned Parenthood. This is true for other such county and municipal clinics nationwide, with the comfort that they do not offer the killing procedures that Planned Parenthood headlines: abortion and the morning after pill. In addition, her health department, like a large number of the over 13,000 local health departments, is located in a part of town close to where many poor women live. If the money given to Planned Parenthood through government contracts was redirected to local health departments, more poor women would be served.
The extent to which Planned Parenthood uses federal money for abortions is hotly debated. The abortion provider might have cleverly succeeded in obscuring the contribution of public funds to the killing of unwanted children through abortion, the fact remains that such governmental money aids them I providing abortions--even if indirectly. Approximately 60% of Planned Parenthood's revenue is derived from private donations. Although technically prohibited from utilizing federal funds for non-abortion services, Planned Parenthood maximizes the extent to which those private donations find abortions by utilizing federal funds for non-abortion services--basically freeing up a greater share of privately donated money for abortion. In addition, they do not count abortificients (such as "the morning after pill") in their numbers of abortions provided, although such drugs act in part by ending the life of the embryo. What about Planned Parenthood's claim that abortions comprise only 3% of the services they provide? It's another instance of playing games with numbers. According Rachael Larimore, senior editor of Slate, (the 3% number is) "most meaningless abortion statistic ever:" She goes on to admit "[I]t’s easy to calculate, as the Weekly Standard did, that Planned Parenthood gets at least a third of its clinic income—and more than 10 percent of all its revenue, government funding included—from its abortion procedures. Ask anyone who runs a for-profit business or nonprofit charity if something that brings in one-third of their revenue is “central” to their endeavor, and the answer is likely to be yes. So yes, abortion is central to what Planned Parenthood does." (https://www.conservativereview.com/commentary/ 2015/09/a-comprehensive-guide-to-planned-parenthood- funding#sthash.m6UT2lYM.dpuf).
In addition, Planned Parenthood transfers millions of dollars to its lobbying arm, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (https://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/ 2015/09/Planned-Parenthood-Chairman-Memo.pdf), to promote abortion and to try to shut down pregnancy care centers. These centers are privately funded, primarily through local congregations and Christians. Unlike Planned Parenthood, they offer counseling that actually helps the family--mother, father, and child, including children yet to be born. They give a woman ongoing support both throughout her pregnancy and many also have parenting classes. Many minister to the father as well as to the mother and encourage men to step up to their responsibility. They encourage lifestyle changes for sexually active girls, recognizing that sexual activity outside marriage does not have to be on ongoing pattern. In the US, the main correlate of poverty is single parenthood, which often is a consequence of premarital sex. To break the cycle of poverty, we must go to the root cause and teach our children the self-control and respect for themselves and others whom God created and reserve sexual activity for marriage. Planned Parenthood and its allies were successful in their efforts to limit the pro-life, pro-family work of California pregnancy resource centers.
ABORTION AND THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Rev. Nelson is more correct than he realizes (and perhaps more than he intends) in his assertion that Presbyterians first struggled with the issue of abortion in 1970. This does not mean that the church was silent on the subject of abortion, but rather it is true because prior to 1970, all Presbyterian denominations understood the biblical and historic Christian view of life as being a gift of God and eschewed abortion. Orthodox scholar Alexander Webster writes, "It (abortion) is one of only several moral issues on which not one dissenting opinion has ever been expressed by the Church Fathers.”
The Didache, which probably dates from the early second century A.D., commands, "Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion," and not even the divisions that rocked the church in the Protestant Reformation touched Christian views on abortion. John Calvin wrote that ‘the foetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being.” He went on to say in reference to Exodus 21:22-25 that “If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a foetus in the womb before it has come to light.” The condemnation of abortion continued in the American Presbyterian church when the General Assembly of 1869 called abortion a crime against humanity, and the General Assemblies of 1962 and 1965 both explicitly stated that human life was to be protected from conception and that while birth control was acceptable, abortion was not a matter between a woman and her physician but rather should be restrained by the law.
Reverend Nelson writes of being at the 2012 General Assembly while “Commissioners discussed an overture titled Calling the Church to a New Way Forward on the Issue of Pregnancies and Abortion.” Presbyterians Pro-Life was also there, and we noted that as so frequently happens, there was no substantive debate on this issue. Rather, the Health Issues Committee erroneously inferred “peace” from those of us who would protect all of our brothers and sisters and who grieve the denomination’s capitulation to the abortion culture. Perhaps their inference was because despite our grief and shame for the denomination, we have consistently expressed our dissent decently and in order without demonstrations, picketing, or marches (in contrast to some who have lost votes on other matters). But do not ever mistake our decency for peace, because we are not at peace with this policy and we cannot be at peace so long as it exists in its current form.
Even the most casual observer can see that far from “relative peace” on the issue of the deliberate killing of our most vulnerable fellow humans, almost every year there is at least one overture from a presbytery calling for a change in the 1992 PC(USA) abortion policy. How can the 1992 PC(USA) policy possibly bring “peace” when it is internally inconsistent and further is not followed by the PC(USA)? The Policy states:
1. “That no mission funds be used in violation of conscience on this issue”–yet the portion of the tithe of an objecting PC(USA) member that pays your salary for you to defend abortion is using mission funds in violation of conscience. The funds that support ACWC and ACSWP in promoting the acceptance of abortion are mission funds used in violation of the conscience of those who oppose abortion. The per capita that pays the medical benefits for Presbytery, Synod, and GA (PMA) staff, violates dissenters’ conscience because the benefits plan pays for abortion on demand, without restriction. We realize that the 1992 policy also says that the Washington Office is allowed to promote GA policy of supporting the avaiabiity of abortion, but it is impossible to do this while at the same time not using mission funds in violation of dissenters’ conscience. The 1992 policy is inherently contradictory and impossible to carry out.
2. The policy states that “henceforth all publications on abortion shall give both positions found in the 1992 Policy” (i.e. Position A and Position B), yet every publication produced by the PC(USA) has only given Position B (that a woman’s choice is paramount); the recognition that the baby is a gift of God who should be protected and provided for, and that killing the unborn baby is not justified (Position A) has not been stated as one of our beliefs in any publication since the 1992 policy was passed.
We agree that the term “pro-choice” is a poor one, and we wonder if Rev. Nelson was influenced more than he knows by the campaign launched in 2013 by Planned Parenthood to distance itself from the “pro-choice label” (which ironically, it invented in the 20th Century so that the odious word “abortion” would be erased from the minds of the American public). His arguments against the “watered down” labels sound remarkably like those advanced by Planned Parenthood, which according to BuzzFeed, “hopes to move beyond such terms entirely and present abortion as something too complicated to be divided into two sides.” BuzzFeed reports that “[a] soon-to-be-released Planned Parenthood video takes this new approach, casting labels like pro-life and pro-choice as limiting and abortion as a complex and personal decision.” (http://www.buzzfeed.com/annanorth/ planned-parenthood-moving-away-from-choice#.en9RbXoA6)
But it is absolutely crucial to accurately define one’s position. The term “pro-choice” was initially chosen by abortion proponents to move the discussion from the killing of a fetus in the womb to the issue of a woman’s autonomy but the term is meaningless without specifying exactly what the choice is. Some people favor the “choice” of killing children prenatally and can honestly be called pro-abortion. Others would better be described as condoning (though maybe not actively supporting) the killing of children prenatally “in certain circumstances,” but the fact is that a baby still dies, no matter what the label. Rev. Nelson is right that when God brings a child into the world, the lives of parents become complicated. Abortion, on the other hand, is quite straightforward: the child is human from the moment of fertilization, and abortion at any stage of pregnancy snuffs out that life. If Rev. Nelson were truly to champion an enlightened engagement of the church in the nuances and complexities inherent in our world of unwanted children, he would urge the church to reject such a primitive “solution” as eliminating the unwanted life, rather than compassionately addressing the issues of injustice, inequity, and pain in which many of these children are conceived. For example, Rev. Nelson points out that a woman who finds herself pregnant after having been violated deserves special understanding, but he must not realize that many, many women who have been violated by rape or incest consider abortion as a second act of violence. And abortion, if nothing else, is surely an act of violence against the child. Does not Scripture forbid the killing of a child for the sins of its father? Would not it be better for the Church to surround such women with healing, care, and support rather than referring her to an abortionist to make the “problem go away?” This way of looking at rape/incest is the nuanced way and as Christians, we must struggle with the fact that following God’s plan is not always easy, yet it is always right.
Similarly, when we consider the issue of “choice,” it seems strange to that Rev. Nelson would promote abortion as solely a woman’s choice while at the same time decrying the irresponsibility of men. Too many men consider abortion an easy out from their responsibilities as fathers, and the evidence is overwhelming that those who would exploit women (sex traffickers, pedophile, rapists, and perpetrators of domestic violence) see abortion as the perfect solution for any pregnancies resulting from their abuse. Many men may want to provide for their children but are denied the opportunity--even if they are married to the mother. If we were to discuss the numbers of grandparents who are would be all-too-willing to support their grandchildren, but are not able to because their daughters “chose” to kill the children, the numbers would become staggering.
We certainly pray that all Christians would receive all human life as a blessing from God, and not a curse. We pray that all human beings have life and have it abundantly. That prayer cannot be answered by condoning the intentional killing of children prior to birth or by promoting and protecting those who kill children for hire.
Patricia Lee June, M.D.
Martha E. Leatherman, M.D.