Recently, the Center for Medical Progress revealed undercover videos taken with Planned Parenthood executives and personnel revealing that the abortion-provider commonly sells baby body parts, allegedly for profit, and in potential violation of various laws. Since covered here on TCV, the Center has released more videos and has announced the release of more in the future. Evidence continues to mount that PP has been involved in trafficking baby body parts for much profit in some cases.
It should be noted, for the purpose of this thought exercise, the aborted victims, many of whose hearts, livers, brains, etc. were sold, will be considered human beings. Lest this article itself be accused of the fallacy of a False Premise, I welcome anyone to confront the question of when life begins and what rational basis can be used to identify that beginning (further reading: Human Personhood Begins at Conception by Dr. Peter Kreeft).
From radio, to the web, to social media, I have heard several common reactions to this PP scandal by PP supporters. Following are paraphrases of four arguments made in support of PP and responses to those arguments.
Studying aborted fetuses leads to cures for diseases, therefore it is a good endeavor.
- This reaction is a Non Sequitur. It does not follow logically that if a "good" can be derived from any given action that the action therefore must itself be good. For example, it would be good if a random person, say Ted, does not rob a bank. Therefore, if we permanently chain Ted in a dungeon, we can achieve the good that he not rob a bank. However, the acquisition of the good in this case does not eliminate the moral violation inflicted on Ted. In the previous TCV post, we reviewed how Nazi laboratories made medical advancements by subjecting Jews to various tests that often resulted in that Jew's death. It razes the sensibilities to claim virtue in the subjection of unwilling subjects to fatal or maiming experiments.
- If proponents of this argument suggest medical advancements can only be made by way of sacrificing babies, they commit the fallacy of a False Dichotomy. There are many ways to accomplish medical research without committing human sacrifice. Edit 8/2/15 to add: In unfortunate cases of stillbirths or miscarriages, this science could ethically find ground.
- Proponents of this argument are essentially espousing the following maxim: the sacrifice of some is justifiable if we can advance medicine. As reviewed in the previous post, the Nazi scientists made this identical argument. However, these proponents are not willing to accept the role of the sacrificed person themselves. In other words, if it is "good" for a person to be sacrificed for the sake of medical advancement, why are these proponents not first in line to have their bodies destroyed and organs sold? It is a serious question. These proponents appear to be very willing to champion the destruction of a person for medical advancement as long as that person is someone else. The hypocrisy reveals that the original claim is not the "good" they claim it is. And there is no irony lost in the idea that the goal of medical advancements is to preserve life.
Planned Parenthood does a lot of good. If they were to close, we would lose all that good. Therefore, they should be left alone.
- By "lot of good," those who espouse the above argument refer to things like cancer advice or STD treatment. (Some of what PP is alleged to provide, such as mammograms, are actually not provided by PP. For the sake of this reply, let's grant that some PP visitors do indeed receive "good" medical counseling or product of some kind.) Proponents of this argument commit the fallacy of the Halo Effect (or cognitive Splitting). This refers to a person whose psychology only allows himself to view a person or entity as "all good." The beholder is blinded to any evidence that contradicts the "halo" they have assigned to the person or entity. The slaughter of babies are not considered in order to uphold the "halo" assigned to PP.
- The argument likewise includes the fallacy of Appeal to Fear. Proponents of this argument also avoid confronting the human violation occurring by scaring listeners into thinking they will lose good medical service if PP's operations are jeopardized.
- Finally, this argument contains a False Dichotomy. The availability of truly good medical care is not dependent on PP staying in business, nor continuing to provide abortions.
Planned Parenthood must be allowed to continue aborting babies because otherwise who will take care of all these children? There aren't enough adopters and we don't have money to put all these kids in orphanages.
- Proponents of the "overpopulation" argument commit some of the same fallacies mentioned earlier. One is Appeal to Fear. We are to believe the destruction of babies is "good" because we can avoid the "frightening" idea of having to pay to raise them.
- There is also here a False Dichotomy. Proponents of the argument assume the baby must be killed or sent to an orphanage/adopter. The option of encouraging the mother to raise the child does not cross their mind. There are at least three reasons why mothers should be encouraged to raise their children. First, is because children fare best in life when raised in a loving house by their mothers and fathers. Obviously, this is not always possible (which is one reason why the Church does not support extramarital sex and welcomes engaged couples to go through marriage encounters to properly prepare for marriage), but in many instances, it is a financially and stably viable option over abortion. Second, as evidenced by a February 2015 study by the Brookings Institute, "low-income women are less likely to...have an abortion once pregnant." This suggests that higher income women still have abortions despite the availability of financial resources. Third, even when the mother is in poverty, there exist a number of non-profits who help discourage abortion by helping those mothers pay to raise their children. For example, places like the Waterleaf Women's Center or Elizabeth's New Life Center help mothers with baby supplies, resources, and counseling.
- Even in cases where children are adopted or raised in orphanages, it is also reasonable to encourage financial support for these options. It is not logically humane nor dignified to say to a person, "You're too expensive, so we're going to kill you." If money shouldn't be spent on life, on what should it be spent. Similar to the question posed above, should we not ask such proponents of this argument, if society can only afford x number of people, why do you not volunteer your own elimination? The question is provocative and intended as such to reveal that which they ask of the aborted child and to reveal the evil inherent in killing to save money.
The undercover videos are illegal!
- This line of argumentation is a complete Red Herring from whether or not PP has committed atrocious crimes, whether illegal or immoral or both. Even if the recordings were illegal, it fails to address the morality or legality of what occurs within PP's walls.
- But to address the Red Herring, the assertion certainly may not be factual. According to federal law:
It shall not be unlawful under this chapter for a person not acting under color of law to intercept a wire, oral, or electronic communication where such person is a party to the communication or where one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to such interception unless such communication is intercepted for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States or of any State. (18 U.S. Code § 2511)
To me, this suggests a real possibility that the recordings were federally legal since the undercover parties were aware of the recording.
- State laws vary. As of May 2014, according to the Digital Media Law Project, 38 states require only one-party consent to record conversations. This means one of the criteria for a legal secret recording to occur requires at least one of the parties involved in the conversation to consent to the recording. An article at Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press cites several case studies regarding secret recordings. Some of those cases seem similar to what has happened here in this PP scandal. One is Sussman v. American Broadcasting Co. in which an undercover reporter exposed the activities of "psychic" employees behind the scenes. Another is Desnick vs. ABC, in which ABC sent reporters posing as medical patients to secretly film interaction with a doctor. In both cases, the court found no legal consent violations in the undercover recordings. Even in some one-party consent cases, courts have accepted otherwise questionable recordings in a private home on the basis that the recording was not used to commit a crime or tort (cf. Cora vs. Weintraub LLP). In states that require all-party consent, such a recording may still be considered legal in court based, for example, on whether the conversation took place in public (such as the Dr. Nucatola recording in a CA restaurant). For their part, the Center for Medical Progress, with regard to a two-party consent state like California, said: "The recording was done in full compliance with the California recording statute."