Sanctity of Life: All human life is a sacred gift from God and is to be protected and defended from conception to natural death. We will uphold the sanctity of life and bring the grace and compassion of Christ to those who face the realities of previous abortion, unwanted pregnancy, and end-of-life illness. – from the AAC’s Statement of Faith
Like many of you, I have been shocked and disgusted by the reports on Planned Parenthood’s “cash for fetal parts” scandal. I already knew about the abortion holocaust in the U.S. (over 1 million abortions a year), but learning of the economics and industry behind it compounded the outrage and sorrow. In case you’ve been unable to keep up with the story, I’ll give you a brief recap.
Planned Parenthood (PP) does more abortions than any other organization in the U.S. (327,000 abortions in fiscal year 2014 for PP.) A recent series of undercover videos from a pro-life group revealed more details about what PP does with the remains of all those children it kills. Apparently, fetuses are rich in stem cells that are extremely useful to scientific researchers. These researchers , some of them, are trying to cure various diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and others. But how does a researcher get their hands on the cells of a fetus? From companies like “Stem Express” a “multi-million dollar company that supplies human blood, tissue products, primary cells and other clinical specimens to biomedical researchers around the world.”
Companies like Stem Express contract with abortion providers like Planned Parenthood to purchase the remains of the children it aborts. (The term they use is “fetal tissue.”) Stem Express then uses cells from the fetal remains to grow more cells so they can be packaged and sold to researchers for $500-$24,000 depending on the type and volume of the sample. Now, even if you are “ok” with abortion, as Planned Parenthood is, it’s still not “ok” to sell the fetal body parts. Federal law prohibits companies from PROFITING from the sale of fetal body parts. To comply with the law, Planned Parenthood says it merely asks for reimbursement for its costs in procuring and shipping the specimens which it is legally allowed to do. In the undercover videos, multiple Planned Parenthood officials engage in a sort of haggling over the price of these specimens with people who they think are potential buyers. The videos also show the graphic and barbaric nature of what abortion does, with a doctor discussing which part of the baby they should crush or crunch so as to protect the valuable specimen, since an intact liver is useful to companies like Stem Express while a crushed one is not.
Concerns over the ethics behind using tissue from aborted babies have been raised for decades. In a 1974 article, “Ethical Issues in Experimentation on the Human Fetus,” LeRoy Walters used this analogy: “If a particular hospital became the beneficiary of an organized homicide system which provided a fresh supply of cadavers, one would be justified in raising questions about the moral appropriateness of the hospital’s continuing cooperation with the suppliers.”
The series of videos has put Planned Parenthood and some lawmakers on the defensive. Planned Parenthood has hired a public relations firm to handle the crisis and is circling all of the wagons. Its Clergy Advocacy Board, which includes some Episcopalians, said, “People who work for Planned Parenthood give care and respect to those in need, doing God’s work” and that the videos were “politically motivated, heavily edited, and secretly recorded.” Some elected officials, like my own representative, Congressman David Scott (D) of the 13th District, GA, are defending the group and claim there is nothing to see here. In responding to my concerns, he wrote, “Planned Parenthood has stated that it follows strict legal and ethical standards when carrying out this practice and is only reimbursed for processing and transportation costs, a practice that experts say is standard across the medical field and allowed under the law…”
On the other side of the debate, numerous of pro-life leaders and advocates have written, spoke, and tweeted about the revelations. On Twitter, the hashtag #unplannedparenthood is trending with people telling about the blessings brought by children who come from unplanned pregnancies. The U.S. Senate will try to vote, though it will most likely be filibustered, on a bill to remove federal funding of Planned Parenthood this Monday. I’ve also read that there are at least 8 more videos to be released. With so much momentum and outrage, it’s tempting to hope that further limits on abortion in the U.S. are soon to come. Whether those changes will come or not is out of our direct control but there are a few things that aren’t.
Why not use this time of focused attention on the atrocity of abortion to remind people of its terribleness? Sobering facts like 21% of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion can get people to think and reconsider. Write your elected officials and tell them you are pro-life and that you don’t want the state funding abortion providers. Also, why not consider attending the national March for Life in Washington D.C. this next January? If you can’t make it, there are local and state rallies you can attend to show your commitment to and support of life.
Robert Lundy is Director of Communications for the American Anglican Council.