Planned Parenthood has come under fire recently for some heavily edited, secretly-filmed footage of employees of the company, revealed by anti-abortion activists. Republicans in Congress have used this to renew questions of government funding for the company, and the ever-so-fun debate about abortion rights. One of the edited videos even raised the question of legal wrongdoing, whether the company profits off fetal tissues, which the unedited video debunked, and was proven entirely false.
But some are still not pleased with the callous tone of the company’s employees when discussing the procedures.
In Politico’s July 16 article, “Republicans plan new abortion push,” they quote Rep. Steve King from Iowa saying, “When the speaker opens up on it, and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee opens up, that means that the members who want to move on this, they’ve got license now.”
Besides whether these accusations of tone are even fair, Congress has to consider that the blow-back from these videos has to overcome a huge disadvantage in public opinion. According to a Pew Research Center study published July 23, titled, “GOP Favorability Rating Takes a Negative Turn,” 50 percent of participants surveyed say Democrats are better able to handle issues of abortion and contraception, while only 31 percent said that Republicans would be better. That 19-point gap was even found during and after the first Planned Parenthood video surfaced.
Now to the issue itself. First, let’s look at the biologic argument. It makes no sense to define life as beginning at conception. The fetus for much of the pregnancy is absolutely not an independent organism. It is wholly dependent on the systems of the mother’s body, and until a certain point in brain development cannot reasonably be expected to have any definition of consciousness.
Consciousness, or having had consciousness, is what should define life, not mere potential. If potential for life is the only criteria for personhood status, then how can we stop at conception?
Don’t each egg and sperm cell individually contain the potential for life, even if that potential can only be acted upon dependent on each other? That qualifier is not different enough from the qualifier that yes, a fetus has potential for life, but potential that can only be acted upon completely dependent on the mother’s womb.
And if it’s the morally unacceptable loss of potential life that we’re really concerned with, then don’t we have a moral obligation to do everything in our power to maximize that potential life? The un-purposeful loss of every egg or sperm cell is something to be upset about, dramatically altering the realities of female ovulation or male masturbation. It would be morally disagreeable to not have as many children, thereby serving as much potential life, as you possibly can.
This idea of genetic material as sacred life is born out of an antiquated period, with old religious and social ideas, of women being beholden to breeding obligations, and it is not the moral stand that you think it is. Why on Earth would we hold more consideration for fetuses than we do real-live women?
It is entirely unfair to propose forcing women into having to carry out any pregnancy, no matter the circumstances or thought given to the development of the fetus. It is unfair to try to shame them under the pretense of medical care with forced ultrasounds. And it is unfair, and shameful, to deny anyone contraceptives because of your own held (often religious-based) beliefs.
If your boss doesn’t believe in vaccines, does the company he or she runs get to deny you coverage for such under your work health insurance? If the head of your company doesn’t believe in modern medicine at all, but thought that illness should only be treated by prayer, can that company deny you health care coverage entirely? Sounds ridiculous, but it is not any more ridiculous than companies refusing to cover contraceptives for their employees because of their own religious beliefs, which is a real thing that’s happening.
Most people out there, at least I hope, don’t want to legally impose their religious beliefs on everyone else, but there is a shocking, and vocal, minority who do. I have absolutely no idea, I cannot fathom, how they get around this country’s separation of church and state, but they sure do seem to somehow.
According to a Mother Jones article, published June 12, we could be seeing the issue of denying the right to abortion in the Supreme Court sometime in 2016. So prepare to hear this most contentious of arguments often in national politics, and remember that our country’s biggest source of pride is crowing about freedom. Freedom means personal choices. Of course we’re all pro-life, no one thinks that’s something to be taken lightly. But neither is choice.
Jonathan Greig is a senior in anthropology.