Showing posts with label Planned Parenthood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Planned Parenthood. Show all posts

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Serial Killers & Abortionists: Psychological parallels

The subtitle of the 2018 film Gosnell is "The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer." This is more than just a description of someone who took multiple lives. When one compares some of the common psychological and other characteristics of serial killers and supporters of abortion, one finds ominous parallels.

Compartmentalization is aided by another universal process: the capacity of human beings to dehumanize “the other” by regarding outsiders as animals or demons who are therefore expendable. Serial killers have taken advantage of this process in the selection of their victims: They often view prostitutes as mere sex machines, gays as AIDS carriers, nursing home patients as vegetables, and homeless alcoholics as nothing more than trash. By regarding their victims as subhuman elements of society, the killers can delude themselves into believing that they are doing something positive rather than negative. They are, in their minds, ridding the world of filth and evil. (Serial Murder and the Psychology of Violent Crimes, 2008)
Dehumanization of victims was something the writers of the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs incorporated into the character of the killer, who was based on several real serial killers, when he referred to his victims as "it."

Likewise, proponents of abortion avoid confronting the humanity of the enwombed victim. As made well-known by the 2019 film Unplanned, when the enwombed infant is dismembered, he/she is "reassembled" for inventory in a room referencing not "human" remains, but rather, "products of conception."

A defender of her days as an abortion counselor declared, "fetuses are not people," and "It is not a baby. It is medical waste." and
While it was shaped like a baby, what I was looking at was not a person. It was a fetus. A fetus my patient had chosen not to make into a baby." (Rewire News)
Activists at abortion rallies have been seen with signage referring to the enwombed as "parasites," paralleling the serial killer's reframing of their victims as some type of "filth and evil."

Related to dehumanization is euphemistic language. I reviewed a number of other euphemisms used by supporters of abortion in my review of Unplanned. Though euphemisms are common to political issues of all sorts, these are specifically designed to avoid confronting the humanity of the victim. Not one of the abortion industry's euphemisms, such as:
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Anti-choice
  • Tissue
  • Products of conception
  • Reproductive health
  • Her body
or a host of other diversionary terms directly confront the humanity of the enwombed.

Notice also how referring to the baby as "waste" and abortion as "healthcare" aligns with the serial killer's delusion that he is "ridding the world of filth and evil."

In March, Georgia House member Stacey Abrams used the euphemism "forced pregnancy" to describe a bill against abortion. Notice how the term avoids the humanity of the victim, as does the language of the serial killer. Diverting the matter to a "pregnancy," something the mother undergoes, or calling abortion "healthcare," etc., is to use "sanitizing language," which makes the idea of abortion more easily digestible for its proponents. (And, nevermind that the women in question are already pregnant. Saying "forced pregnancy" is like saying that the prohibition of all murder is "forced parenthood" to the victim's parents.)

Kermit Gosnell, the now-imprisoned abortionist featured in the 2018 Gosnell film, said in the 1960s, he pushed for "the liberalization of the performance of therapeutic abortions." He likewise touted  his work in abortion, saying, "I provide the same care I would want my daughter to receive and I feel I fulfill that standard." And, a reporter quoted him as saying, "my work to the community is of value."

Like the attitude of the serial killer thinking he is "doing something positive," phrases that describe abortion as "healthcare," or as "therapeutic," or as opposition to "forced pregnancy," are all euphemisms designed to delude one to believe he is committing some act of heroism by killing the enwombed.

Related to both of the prior categories is the serial killer's and the pro-abortionist's desire to conceal the identity of the victim. Some serial killers conceal the face of the victim:
[D]epersonalization of the body...refers to actions taken to obscure the identity of the victim, as through mutilation or covering of the face. (Handbook of Psychological Approaches with Violent Offenders, 1999) 
However, in cases of sexual or lust murder, the victim's face may be covered in order to dehumanize or depersonalize the victim. (Serial Murder and the Psychology of Violent Crimes, 2008)
The notorious "Jack the Ripper" was famously known to target faces in his attacks, especially disfiguring the faces of his last two victims.

Planned Parenthood openly decries the notion that a mother should see her baby via a "mandatory ultrasound." Young women have been denied by Planned Parenthood their request to see their baby in an ultrasound. Planned Parenthood has also refused to even perform an ultrasound unless the mother is "terminating"—per another of their euphemisms.

This aversion to ultrasounds is confirmed by former employees. For example, ex-Planned Parenthood worker Patricia Sandoval described how she was taught the following:
So the most important thing here [at Planned Parenthood] is that when we do the ultrasounds before their abortions, you never ever let the woman see the screen. If she wants to see that ultrasound, that screen has to face the doctor, never the patient. I don’t care if she cries. I don't care if she’s screaming. [She] never sees that ultrasound. (Patricia Sandoval - Testimony on Abortion)
The ACLU also fights regularly against women seeing their ultrasounds prior to abortion.

Pro-life campaigns like "Face the Truth", which show photos of aborted babies to the public, have likewise been met with hostility by abortion supporters. It is another attempt to conceal the identity of the victim.

Among serial killers and pro-abortionists, there exists a psychology that avoids looking upon the victim.

Selling the bodies and body parts of victims is more common among abortionists, but known to happen among serial killers. We learned of the abortion industry's body part sales in recent years via first-hand video conducted by the Center for Medical Progress. In harmony with the serial killer's delusion that they are "doing something positive" when killing, we see another mental justification used by abortionists—that the body parts will go toward medical studies. Consider the following serial killer cases involving sale of body parts and using victims for medical study.
  • Notorious Chicago serial killer H.H. Holmes "sold several of his victims' skeletons and organs to medical schools."
  • Victims of the Burke and Hare murders were sold to physician Robert Knox for use in anatomy lectures.
  • Nazi scientists testified that their murder was justified because they derived use by medically studying the victims.
The preceding parallels are not merely ordinary characteristics native to ordinary folk. The characteristics described are, in a sense, essential to the psychological justifications of both serial killers and pro-abortionists.

For those whose hearts may be stung by the pain of abortion, there are many resources available, such as at AbbyJohnsonLiveAction, or Waterleaf.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Takeaways from Unplanned movie

One of the first sentiments I had after viewing the film Unplanned was the same as my opening remarks last October about the film Gosnell: the scariest moment perhaps "is when one realizes how protected the abortion industry is."

Let's review that and several other takeaways from the film. I will keep spoilers at a minimum.

Still from the movie Unplanned (2019). Obtained from

Unplanned is an important insider look at the machinations of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry on which it thrives. The film is based on the actual life of Abby Johnson, whose name is very familiar to Catholics and the pro-life industry. Her perspective as an acclaimed and former director of Planned Parenthood has inspired many. The film's epilogue notes how Johnson's organization And Then There Were None has provided resources for and helped lead over 500 workers to discover the truth about Planned Parenthood and subsequently abandon it.

Planned Parenthood's business model is evident in the film. Abortions collect the largest margin of any product or "service" they offer. That means the difference in the amount an abortion costs them versus what they charge typically vulnerable women and girls is a larger dollar amount than anything else they offer. The description of this business model in the film is evidenced by the facts.

The film draws attention to Planned Parenthood publicly claiming they desire abortion to be "rare." Yet, as Abby Johnson and others have revealed, Planned Parenthood issues awards for increasing abortion productivity. This is hardly the organization's only lie.

Although the film does not delve into it, Planned Parenthood's long list of lies includes denial that they cover up child sex abuse, and denial that they sell baby body parts and have altered abortion procedures in order to procure specific parts.

The film does involve more than one bloody scene, including a dramatic abortion. The film received an R rating, which seems excessive, considering bloodier films without pro-life messages are given lesser ratings. However, the film's co-director Chuck Konzelman pointed out the irony of this rating, because "abortion is an act of extreme violence."

Another feature in the film worth mentioning are the several euphemisms and terms of snakery Planned Parenthood uses to disguise the truth.
  • "Planned Parenthood" - The very name of the organization itself belies the fact that abortion clients are already mothers. Its main product, abortion, and its other products like contraception, are designed to eliminate parenting. As some have noted, "unparenthood" more accurately describes their intentions.
  • "Anti-Choice" - As is often the case, including with a complicit media, the term "anti-choice" is used to describe pro-lifers who recognize the enwombed as a life. As Father Corapi often used to ask of the abortion industry's use of the word "choice": "Choose what?"
  • "Tissue" - The baby is referenced only as "tissue" that is not a baby "yet." In the film, we hear this used to convince a teen about the acceptability of having an abortion.
  • "Products of Conception" - A lesser known euphemism is the official term used by Planned Parenthood to refer to the remains of the aborted baby: "Products of Conception." In the P.O.C. room, pieces of the baby are "reassembled" and accounted for, so they can determine that they got the entire baby. As I said, the film is disturbing, but the information it reveals in this mass media format is important in combating the lies about the enwombed. Ancient Egypt wasn't the only sinful nation plagued with rivers of blood. 
  • "Reproductive Health" - Another phrase heard in the film and with frequency in media and from politicians is the term "reproductive health" to refer to the dismemberment or pulverizing of an enwombed baby. The reality is, a baby that would otherwise continue to live and grow, is terminated—the very antithesis of "health" and a diabolical lie.
  • "Her body" - Although the abortion industry has tried to sell the idea that abortion is ultimately about "her body," the nascent baby in the womb—left out of the abortion propagandist's equation—has his/her own unique DNA, distinct from the mother. Empirically and factually, the baby is not the mother's "body."
For eight years Abby Johnson worked up close and personal with the abortion of some 22,000 babies.  She was also not stuck at Planned Parenthood against her will and had family that consistently encouraged her to leave. But all those euphemisms and all Planned Parenthood's talk about health for vulnerable women serves as a veil, a means by which to deflect the public's attention, to avoid asking the actual question—is the enwombed a life?

Still, we have seen in modern days those who admit that from the moment of conception, the enwombed is by all reasonable measure a human life. Their justification for abortion comes in the the illogical idea that the baby's value is dependent on the mother's desire. If a mother considers herself "not ready" to raise a child or doesn't want to be connected to the father anymore (as was described in the movie about Johnson), the baby's very life loses value. This is to treat a baby the same as any other commodity, where market demand determines value. In this case, the mother is the market. This relativistic and perverse mentality deprives human life of objective worth.

Johnson has spoken at length about the blindness of sin she incurred. One takeaway for our own lives is to be on guard for what ways we might be deluding ourselves, falling for some seductive sales pitch on a particular sin.

One of the sins to which Johnson was blinded in her youth was her having obtained two abortions herself. She suffered terribly from the second, yet still pursued a career fostering abortions. The film especially brings to light the lie especially underlying her second abortion. She had filed for divorce and discovered she was pregnant. She didn't want to be "connected" to that man anymore and the termination of the baby was a "fix" for that problem. Of course, she merely sacrificed her baby for that separation and took on a different cross, knowing she offered no fight for her own child's life and paid someone to end it. This is not an uncommon story. It underscores the importance of treating the conjugal act with the utmost sacredness, and should discourage anyone from engaging in casual sex, and certainly not commit to someone of questionable character which is more difficult to avoid when engaging in sex with that person. But modern phenomena like abortion and contraception imply that one needn't be as careful or choosy with a partner. It's another dimension of abortion's lies.

The film mentions the type of powers that fund Planned Parenthood, explicitly naming George Soros, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet. The support from these multi-billionaires for an organization consistently caught lying and disguising its depraved work goes a long way in explaining its continued existence.

Soros and Gates have given over a combined $32 million to Planned Parenthood in recent years, dwarfed only by Buffet, who issued the abortion provider a deluge of over $230 million. (see LifeSiteNews.) Incoming donations such as these as well as Planned Parenthood's outbound political donations are reasons why many have questioned their reception of taxpayer funds and non-profit status. Their legal intimidation, also shown in the film, are important facts to know when understanding the entity that is Planned Parenthood. With such a concentration of influence from just a few donors, one rightfully must question how much of the organization's survival is due to ideology and paid propaganda. This is especially a fair question when one considers the euphemisms, that Planned Parenthood uses language to describe what they do other than language that actually describes what they do.

Despite such colossal funding, Planned Parenthood still vies for public funds. Politicians who support them are not apt to reveal the flow of income they already enjoy from other sources. They typically hide behind miswordings like "health" to market things like abortion and contraception that are properly defined as non-medicine or poisons.

Such political and corporate funding could also explain why Planned Parenthood has been caught multiple times in outright lies yet fail to incur any consequence of significance. We are witnessing the undeniably naked emperor and are told to look the other way and deny it.

The film seems to avoid Johnson's eventual conversion to Catholicism. It only mentions an earlier stage of her spiritual development when she attended a generally Christian service. There are shots of pro-lifers praying the rosary at times, but nothing overtly Catholic, even though that appears to be central in where Johnson is today. This might make the film more widely appealing to non-Catholics to support the pro-life movement, but it's worth noting that the whole story has a definite Catholic component.

Part of what I remember hearing about Johnson's exodus from Planned Parenthood was that one of the items she took with her when she left was a bowl full of Miraculous Medals left by pro-lifers. She had collected them over time. I think I might have seen a bowl on her desk late in the film that contained them, but it was hard to tell if that was an "Easter Egg" or just another prop. Perhaps a commenter can shed light. But, undoubtedly, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal lent her immaculate gaze to that day when Abby Johnson finally stood for innocent life in the womb.

Unplanned: Behind the Scenes is viewable over at There are a number of fascinating tidbits from this video and the phenomena behind the movie. But I'd like to focus on these three additional takeaways from this mini-film.

  • Providence. Lead actress Ashley Bratcher (whom was warned not to take the role because she would never find work again) discovered that her mother had almost aborted her after already having been post-abortive. Not only was abortion considered, but her mother was literally seconds away from permitting the deed against Ashley, having gone all the way to a "clinic," and was in the room for an abortion before she walked out. This story adds a providential mystique to the film and what it represents.
  • Opposition. Shawn Carney of 40 Days for Life made a prophetic statement which will undoubtedly come true. There will be critics of the film who will avoid confronting the truth it exposes by seeking refuge in more euphemisms, claiming the film is the "anti-Planned Parenthood movie, the anti-abortion movie, the anti-woman movie, the anti-fill-in-the-blank..."
  • Revelation. Writer/Director Cary Solomon told an interesting story about how his father had seen the movie and experienced a conversion on the matter of abortion. He quoted his father as saying, "You've shown us what we didn't want to see." The statement superbly summates the theme of the film, from the power Planned Parenthood wields, to the truth about abortion itself.

Further resources:

Friday, February 12, 2016

Refuting Planned Parenthood on viability and SCOTUS

The "viability" argument goes something like this: "A fetus can't survive on its own outside the womb, therefore, it's not a fully developed human." Therefore, says the Planned Parenthood supporter, abortion is morally acceptable.

For example, we see this from among Planned Parenthood's Arizona advocates, one of whom writes that a woman has the "right not to be forced to give birth and choosing not to carry a non-viable, non human being..."

With the scandal of Planned Parenthood having been caught on film negotiating the sale of infant body parts, such supporters of the organization are perhaps finding themselves having to seek refuge in such shelters as the "viability" argument. (By the way, you can keep abreast of the Center for Medical Progress and David Daleiden's legal battle surrounding Planned Parenthood at Life Legal Defense Foundation.)

So what's wrong with the viability argument?
  • The presence of human life is not dependent on the subject's personal capacity to survive in any particular environment. For example:
    • Even a post-live-birth baby cannot survive without a variety of dependencies and isn't "viable" of his/her own accord. A newborn baby cannot feed him/herself, dress him/herself, protect him/herself, nor a variety of other things that can easily determine that child's fate. Thus, a baby's ability to viably self-preserve is not a logical measure by which the presence of human life is determined.
    • If the PP supporter is referring to a baby's ability to survive outside the womb even with medical assistance, there is another problem. Throughout history, the stage at which a baby has survived outside the womb gets younger and younger. The PP supporter finds him/herself arguing that human life comes into being at a different point, depending on whether that child was born in 2016 or 1916. The same supporter would have to argue that human life comes into being at a different point, depending on whether that child was born in Beverly Hills or the terrains of Somalia. Holders of this view must change their view of when they believe human life to exist by appealing to available medical technology. This is a nonsensical position.
    • If the PP supporter is merely talking about respiration, there are clearly situations in which even an adult human cannot "viably" respire of his/her own accord, such as under water, in outer space, in a dense fire, amid toxic air, or other situations. Point being––ability to respire is not a logical measure by which the presence of human life is determined. It's absurd to say an adult who cannot respire in any given environment is less than human. 
The Supreme Court argument goes something like this: "The Supreme Court determined that a fetus isn't a human being." Thus, says the PP supporter, abortion is morally acceptable.

For example, we see this implied by NARAL Wisconsin, outlining what it believes to be good arguments to tell pro-lifers, including the following statements (emphasis mine): "The Supreme Court has said and I believe that legal personhood begins with birth" and "Embryos are a cluster of cells with the potential to develop into a human life if implanted into a woman's womb and brought to term."

So what's wrong with the Supreme Court argument?
  • The presence of human life is not dependent on any verdict by the Supreme Court of the United States. For example:
    • The Supreme Court itself has reversed its own prior verdicts. In fact, it has done so well over 100 times. Appealing to a source that denies its own immutability is hardly a satisfactory argument.
    • Thus, appealing to the "Supreme Court" results in the nonsensical position that human life began in the womb prior to 1973 but not after 1973. It fails the same test as the "medical technology" fallacy described in the first section above: depending on when a child was born, the court's Roe v. Wade opinion may not even have existed. In fact, prior to 1789, SCOTUS didn't even exist. 
    • As well, the Supreme Court's jurisdiction ends at the United States. Obviously, the majority of the human population is not subject to SCOTUS verdicts. Appealing to a single country's legal verdict as the benchmark for a philosophical argument for all of humanity is self-defeating when the court itself does not claim to govern all humanity. 
    • In an ironic twist, Planned Parenthood doesn't even embrace verdicts of the Supreme Court. For example, in 2014, SCOTUS upheld a federal abortion ban involving second trimester pregnancies.  PP immediately sent out a press release which stated: "Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) denounced the ruling."
It's not difficult to refute arguments built on shaky ground as we can see here. It may be a bigger challenge simply to find a mind willing to permit his/her views to pass scrutiny.

Regarding the matter of abortion, I would suggest the discussion must always be founded on whether or not that which is in the womb is a human life. Biological arguments are effective here. It is no secret that the when a zygote is formed at conception, the baby has a unique DNA, distinct from the mother. Even the government admits this:
The zygote contains all of the genetic information (DNA) needed to become a baby. Half the DNA comes from the mother's egg and half from the father's sperm. Fetal Development, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013) (see more references at Life begins at conception, science teaches, Live Action News)
The NLM is ironically part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services––the government entity that admitted oral contraceptives increase cancer risk in women. And here it admits the unique DNA identity of the enwombed infant from conception.

Building on the science from a philosophical perspective, we can observe the beginning of the life process with the merger of the egg and sperm (the zygote). And we can observe continuity from that stage until a person passes away. To assign human life's beginning at some other point along the empirical timeline inevitably proves arbitrary, inconsistent, and fails scrutiny. For some examples of these flawed arguments here at TCV, see Replies to Planned Parenthood arguments or Notre Dame professor's flawed argument for abortion.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Reactions to CO Planned Parenthood shooting reactions

EDIT 12/2/15 to add: Witnesses, among others, apparently say the CO shooter initiated his violent actions outside Planned Parenthood and closer to a bank down the road. This contradicts the media's central narrative on this story. In the Nov. 29 Examiner, we read: "the Public Information Officer for the Colorado Springs Police Department 'told reporters that the entire incident started with shooting at the Planned Parenthood facility;' multiple reports conflict with this narrative, including accounts from eye witnesses." For the purposes of the blog post below, the sentiments remains the same, as they are a reaction to reactions about pro-lifers in relation to this tragedy. 
On Friday, November 27, 2015 a man entered a Colorado Planned Parenthood, shooting and killing three and wounding several others. We immediately saw a multitude of pro-life supporters and Christians condemn the act and pray for the victims and against future violence. See here for just a handful of examples.

Also immediately came a geyser of Planned Parenthood and abortion supporters on social media and elsewhere accusing the pro-life movement for causing this act. For instance:
Site Of Planned Parenthood Attack Is A Hub For Anti-Abortion Christians- so not surprised this happened there... ––Martina Navratilova, former professional tennis star and pro-abortion activist, Twitter post on November 29, 2015)
Perhaps Navratilova is unaware that for decades Planned Parenthood facilities nationwide have been the site of Christians praying against abortion, day after day, year after year, and yet violence is all but non-existent.

Another example:
Carly Fiorina and every single one of them has blood on their hands this morning. And these idiots that put out these deceptive videos in the first place... Yeah, it's because of them. … These videos are complete bull---. You get lunatics like this all ginned up. "Oh, they're selling baby parts, and blah blah blah blah…" ––Stephanie Miller, pro-abortion radio host, on her November 30, 2015 show.*
Common folk likewise expressed similar sentiments, often suggesting that pro-life rhetoric is responsible for the shooting. In social posts, the terms "Christian," "hypocrites," and "Planned Parenthood" are often assembled to suggest Christians condone this act.

And, as evidenced by Miller's rant above, often, The Center for Medical Progress is specifically brandished the culprit. The murders occurred "because of them," Miller indicted.

But what is the 800-lb gorilla in the room about these bold accusations against The Center for Medical Progress and other pro-lifers? The avoided questions are such as these: Is what they say true? Does abortion take a human life? Does Planned Parenthood kill enwombed babies and sell their body parts?

In the case of The Center for Medical Progress, what we have is not so much what The Center has said, but what they have revealed Planned Parenthood's own management and affiliates to have said. For example:
We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact. ––Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director for Medical Services, Planned Parenthood

On liver tissue, because that's such an area of demand for us. ... As you probably know, one of the issues with neural tissue, it's so fragile. It's insanely's the hardest thing in the world to ship. ... [T]hey don't want to know where it comes from. I can see that. Where they're like, "We need limbs, but no hands and feet need to be attached." ... Or they want long bones, and they want you to take it all off, like make it so that we don't know what it is. ––Cate Dyer, StemExpress CEO

If we want to pursue this, mutually, I'll talk to Ian and see how he feels about using a less crunchy technique to get more whole specimens. ... When we first started this program, we had a situation, a policy that she would call the day before and how many ten-weekers do you have. She wouldn't come in unless we had a chance for getting tissue that day. ––Dr. Mary Gatter, President, Medical Directors' Council, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Medical Director, Planned Parenthood Pasadena & San Gabriel Valley

We've just been working with people who want particular tissues. Like, a, you know, cardia–– they want cardiac, or they want eyes, or they want neural. ... oh, gonads. Oh my god, gonads. ––Dr. Carolyn Westhoof, Senior Medical Advisor, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
These quotes are, sadly, a small sample and can be found among others at The Center for Medical Progress' Investigative Footage page in video and transcript. And these don't even include the procedural improprieties nor the visual evidence exposed in the videos. Pro-lifers don't have to say Planned Parenthood sells body parts. Planned Parenthood is saying it themselves.

So where does that leave us? Essentially, devout PP supporters are saying, "If The Center for Medical Progress hadn't exposed Planned Parenthood's management admitting to selling babys' body parts, no one would be upset with them!"

Perhaps a final example may help put this in perspective. Imagine a brothel consisting of victims of the sex slave trade. An undercover video exposes the evils occurring within its walls. Then an unstable individual enters the brothel and goes on a murderous rampage, killing several, including police staff on the scene. Would we turn a blind eye to the women and children victimized in the brothel? Would the killer's actions erase or nullify what had happened and what will continue to happen to the women and children victimized in the brothel? Would we focus blame on the undercover videographer for exposing what happened there? It would be irrational to do so.

Being both opposed to the murder of adults and the murder of babies doesn't make one a hypocrite. It's nonsensical to suggest otherwise. Nonsensical, emotional, irrational rants on social media are one of the hallmarks of our time.  The Christian needn't let another's mad ravings define him/her.

*Attempts to discredit the content of The Center for Medical Progress' videos based on the videos being "edited" are hardly honest, particularly when an accusation is never paired with examples. Lengthy segments of the Planned Parenthood representatives proceed unedited. The words they spoke are in context. Readers can see the videos or transcripts for themselves. Even the Fiorina accusation, mentioned in the above quote by Miller, is an embarrassing attempt to cloak what actually occurs at Planned Parenthood clinics. Essentially, PP supporters reacted to her comments by insisting the baby she described was different than the one whose brain was actually procured. See a breakdown of that matter here.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Replies to Planned Parenthood arguments

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."

Friday, July 17, 2015

Analysis of Planned Parenthood baby body parts scandal

Recently, the Center for Medical Progress released an investigation into Planned Parenthood, provider of approximately one-third of abortions in the United States. Undercover video footage features correspondence between Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Nucatola speaks with men posing as potential buyers of infant body parts for the purposes of medical research.

Excerpts from Nucatola garnering attention include:
Nucatola: I think every provider has had patients who want to donate their tissue, and they absolutely want to accommodate them. They just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as, ‘This clinic is selling tissue, this clinic is making money off of this.’ I know in the Planned Parenthood world they’re very very sensitive to that. And before an affiliate is gonna do that, they need to, obviously, they’re not—some might do it for free—but they want to come to a number that doesn’t look like they’re making money. They want to come to a number that looks like it is a reasonable number for the effort that is allotted on their part. I think with private providers, private clinics, they’ll have much less of a problem with that. 
Buyer: Okay, so, when you are, or the affiliate is determining what that monetary—so that it doesn’t create, raising a question of this is what it’s about, this is the main—what price range, would you—? 
Nucatola: You know, I would throw a number out, I would say it’s probably anywhere from $30 to $100 [per specimen], depending on the facility and what’s involved. It just has to do with space issues, are you sending someone there who’s going to be doing everything, is there shipping involved, is somebody gonna have to take it out. You know, I think everybody just wants, it’s really just about if anyone were ever to ask them, “What do you do for this $60? How can you justify that? Or are you basically just doing something completely egregious, that you should be doing for free.” So it just needs to be justifiable. 
And later, in the interview, Nucatola explains methods of abortion used to accommodate a body part buyer's request:
Buyer: We need liver and we prefer, you know, an actual liver, not a bunch of shredded up— 
Nucatola: Piece of liver. 
Buyer: Yeah. Or especially brain is where it’s actually a big issue, hemispheres need to be intact, it’s a big deal with neural tissue and the progenitors, because those are particularly fragile. If you’ve got that in the back of your mind, if you’re aware of that, technically, how much of a difference can that actually make if you know kind of what’s expected or what we need, versus— 
PP: It makes a huge difference. I’d say a lot of people want liver. And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps. The kind of rate-limiting step of the procedure is the calvarium, the head is basically the biggest part. Most of the other stuff can come out intact. It’s very rare to have a patient that doesn’t have enough dilation to evacuate all the other parts intact.
Buyer: To bring the body cavity out intact and all that? 
Nucatola: Exactly. So then you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact. And with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex, because when it’s vertex presentation, you never have enough dilation at the beginning of the case, unless you have real, huge amount of dilation to deliver an intact calvarium. So if you do it starting from the breech presentation, there’s dilation that happens as the case goes on, and often, the last, you can evacuate an intact calvarium at the end. So I mean there are certainly steps that can be taken to try to ensure— 
Buyer: So they can convert to breach, for example, at the start of the—” 
Nucatola: Exactly, exactly. Under ultrasound guidance, they can just change the presentation.
One of the first questions that comes to mind, what are the ramifications of this matter according to U.S. law? Peter Jesserer Smith, writing for the National Catholic Register, responds to Nucatola's descriptions as such: "much of it may actually be legal." The possibility of legally selling baby body parts concerns the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993 which states:
It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce. (498b)
The phrase "valuable consideration" is said to exclude compensation related to the "transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.'." (498b)

In other words, it is lawful to accept money for donated "human fetal tissue" if that money is applied to the necessary handling and presevation of the "tissue." The question then seems to be whether or not Planned Parenthood, in selling baby body parts, exceeded compensation necessary to handle the body parts.

This very matter was considered in an interview conducted by Al Kresta of Kresta in the Afternoon radio show on July 14 with David Daleiden, project lead of the Center for Medical Progress' undercover investigation. Kresta asked Daleiden to address the matter of receiving costs associated with the handling of "human fetal tissue" and this is the reply:
Daleiden: The most important thing is that most of those ancillary costs that might come with trying to facilitate human organ donation or a tissue donation–– none of those costs are actually incurred by Planned Parenthood. Because in a situation that you have in Planned Parenthood and StemExpress, for example, StemExpress is an outside, middle-man, biotech company that comes into the Planned Parenthood clinic. They send their technicians into the clinic. The clinics consent the patients. The clinics identify the patients that they want to harvest from. The clinics receive the fetuses in the pathology lab after they've been aborted. The StemExpress technicians do the dissection. They package up the body parts. And they drive over to the FedEx and ship them off across the country at the end of the day. So literally, the only thing that Planned Parenthood is doing is they're opening the front door for them in the morning, or sometimes the back door. And they're carrying the fetus from the operating room to the pathology lab which is across the hallway which is in the back of the clinic. And that's something that they do every day anyway because that's their standard processing of specimens anyway when they're doing abortions. So the Planned Parenthood clinic doesn't have any cost with the tissue procuring. In fact, they're actually saving money already because it's less volume of medical waste that they have to dispose of. And on top of that, the procurement company is paying them 50, 75, 100 dollars per specimen extra. 
At one point in the undercover video, Nucatola communicated that she had "8 cases yesterday." Let's say that is a normative number, and if, as Daleiden asserts, PP incurs zero or negligible handling costs with regard to the fetuses, that would mean a PP clinic could make upwards of $800 per day, and that's if each fetus was only used for one body part. If such is the case, PP would be in violation of federal law. This amount is unnerving if one calculates the thousands of dollars that could be earned in a year, and the added incentive for clinics to steer clients toward abortion. The legality and dollar amounts could also depend on variations between PP affiliate to affiliate, as not all of them may necessarily be arranged in exactly the same way Daleiden describes.

It may also be legally suspect that the PP consent form, acquiring permission from a woman to use her aborted baby for medical research, does not disclose that the clinic receives money for the donated body parts. NIHRA, however, states a doctor must reveal any "physician's interest" in the research process, which may legally be considered to include financial compensation. As quoted above, Nucatola did suggest clinics attempted to "come to a number that doesn’t look like they’re making money." A lengthier quote from Daleiden in the next section expounds on this.

The NC Register article describes what may be a more definitive violation of federal law, which is the alteration of the abortion procedure for the purpose of harvesting body parts. NIHRA states:
[I]n the case of tissue obtained pursuant to an induced abortion-- ... no alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy was made solely for the purposes of obtaining the tissue. (498a)
This law appears to have been violated as we see in Nucatola's words such as:
I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact. And with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex...
These are explicit deviations in the "method" of the procedure for the purpose of harvesting suitable organ specimens. Such deviations could well qualify as illegal "methods."

The NC Register article also identifies one point in Nucatola's statements that potentially describes a partial-birth abortion, which was declared illegal in 2003.

Upon revelation of this undercover video, PP soon released a statement denying any illegalities and that the Center for Medical Progress unethically edited the video. Responding to that during the Kresta interview, Daleiden states the following:
Daleiden: Basically to summarize what was interesting about Planned Parenthood's response through Planned Parenthood's statement is that they make two really key admissions and then they tell three lies afterward. And the two important admissions are that they admit that some of their clinics supply aborted fetal tissue and they admit that there is money involved with supplying aborted fetal tissue.  The three lies that they tell are: Number one, that their patients asked for it and consent for it; Number two, that there is no financial benefit to Planned Parenthood, and; Number three, that there's nothing illegal going on there. Number one, the patients are consenting to donate tissue like we discussed in the previous segment with the consent form. But it's not being disclosed to the patient that there's money involved and that Planned Parenthood receives remuneration for the fetal tissue. So patients are consenting to donate. They are not consenting to selling. Selling is what's actually going on.  Point number two. In the document vault section of our website at we have actually a flyer advertisement from one of the main, real-life purchasers of Planned Parenthood baby parts. They're a company called StemExpress. They're a private LLC, for profit company in northern California that partnered with very many Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. … That flyer advertises four different times to Planned Parenthood clinics the financial benefits that they can receive if they supply fetal tissue. It uses the phrases "financially profitable," "financial profits," "financial benefits to your clinic," and "fiscal growth of your own clinic." And that advertisement to Planned Parenthood clinics includes an endorsement printed on it from another Planned Parenthood medical director.  And so then the third lie that nothing illegal is going on about this. It all hinges on Planned Parenthood's claim that there's no money involved. But that's patently false, because every other source that you can go to, other than their communications director, will prove otherwise.
A female caller in the second hour of Kresta's July 14 show says, "I'm very happy my father's dead because he [did] not live to see this. He would have felt that the Nazis had won. ... Mengele must have taught that doctor [Nucatola]." And the caller's reaction is not unique.

During World War II, Nazi scientists conducted a number of horrific experiments on prisoners in the name of scientific and medical advancement. Victims of the Nazis were subjected to such experiments as high-altitude tests to determine viable altitudes at which pilots could parachute, freezing experiments to determine treatments for hypothermia, as well as subjugation to multiple diseases in the name of finding a cure.
Victims of Dr. Josef Mengele's medical
experiments at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Poland, 1944. (Image courtesy of
 US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

That these prisoners were subjected to such violations of humanity, against their will, is all but universally held as evil. The sober philosopher recognizes the tragic irony of cruelly destroying mass human life in the name of preserving it. How did these scientists justify these crimes?

In the book The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremburg Code, authors George Annas and Michael Grodin identify 12 arguments made by Nazi scientists in defense of their actions. Argument #10 reads as follows:
Sometimes it is necessary to tolerate a lesser evil, the killing of some, to achieve a greater good, the saving of many. That the experiments were useful, the defense claimed, was evident by the use of the data derived from Nazi human experimentation by the United States and Britain in the war against Japan. (p. 133)
This argumentation is similar to those who now appeal to the "research" benefits garnered from the harvested body parts of aborted babies, as trafficked by the likes of PP (although many defendants of abortion for research deny it as an evil of any kind). Even PP-friendly media headlines have played this angle. This past week, the Washington Post actually altered their headline. It originally read "Undercover video shows Planned Parenthood exec discussing organ harvesting" but was changed to the more benign: "Undercover video shows Planned Parenthood official discussing fetal organs used for research."

The question comes down to this: If that which is in the womb is a human life,* then abortion, as well as the harvesting of that life's body parts for human experimentation, is murderous and horrific. And if that which is in the womb is a human life, then we are indeed living amidst the echo of Nazi concentration camps and human experimentation against unwilling victims, even if that reality is more difficult to see.

Our moral sensibilities recognize the violation done to an unwilling victim in these tragic events. Again, if that which is in the womb is a human life, the "consent form" used by PP is tantamount to asking Person A for consent to harvest the organs of Person B. The victim in question has granted no consent. The victim has been declared expendable in the name of science by someone else. (And, it should not be ignored that cures and medical advancements have been and will continue to be made in great strides without the mutilation and destruction of human victims.)

Furthermore, if that which is in the womb is a human life, as the Church and many allied souls recognize, then the victims of abortion have exceeded 57,000,000 since Roe vs. Wade in 1973. How can even the Nazi scientist, who would argue that the killing of "some" is worthy to save the "many," justify veritable infanticide and subsequent organ harvesting for human experimentation.

Related to this, the Catechism, in the section on abortion, offers what I think is valuable insight:
2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation: "The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights...belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."  –– "The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined.
The tragedy of abortion and organ trafficking for research (or the Nazi human experiments) is at least twofold. First, the victim is violated in the most capital sense. Second, when these persons are classified as expendable subjects, the entire system of humanity incurs a seismic shift of injustice, effectively denying the equal dignity of all persons.

Staying abreast of the latest news on this issue may require active searching, as the media has not shown a historic propensity to expose that which validates Christian thought.From a legal perspective, time will tell whether or not PP and/or any of its affiliates will be found guilty of criminal wrongdoing. As the weeks pass, expect further details regarding PP nationally, as well as other individual PP clinics, which may be absolved or further incriminated in illegal organ trafficking or abortion violations. What will be PP's defense? Will they claim Nucatola exaggerated at times to land a sale? Will further incriminating facts surface?

Certainly, from a moral perspective, the spiritual crime of abortion has multiplied to an unnerving total. And the matter of dismembering aborted babies serves as a visible icon of the amputation of human consideration from the situation. Many prayers are warranted for this situation and all involved.

EDIT (7/21/15) TO ADD:
A second undercover video was released July 21, 2015 by the Center for Medical Progress. This video contains interview footage with Dr. Mary Gatter, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s for-profit Medical Directors’ Council.

The legal matters of altering the method, as well as profits, again, surface in this interview. At one point, Gatter begins a negotiation by tossing out the figure of "$75 a specimen." The buyer rejoins with, "That’s way too low." And Gatter admits:
I was going to say $50, because I know places that did $50, too. But see we don’t, we’re not in it for the money, and we don’t want to be in a position of being accused of selling tissue, and stuff like that.
Her claim about not being in it for the money could either be taken honestly or cynically. If honestly, PP should be able to substantiate the per-"specimen" dollar amount, that PP incurs that cost to handle the specimen. According to Daleiden's assertions above, PP incurs no such costs. If we are to take Gatter's words cynically, perhaps she is acting as a salesman, convincing the buyer that she is not out to overcharge them. As well, the cynical view would ask why there is a negotiation at all, if PP is not in it for the money. Later in the transcript, she also indicates she will increase the cost based on what her peers charge:
Well let me agree to find out what other affiliates in California are getting, and if they’re getting substantially more, then we can discuss it then.
And, as Nucatola states in the prior video, the goal is to make sure PP "doesn't look like they're making money."

As speculated above, a PP affiliate can collect tens of thousands of dollars per year from these sales. For their part, the Center for Medical Progress speculates a yield of over $86,000 for one affiliate. Whereas $30-$100 here or there may be easier to disguise than larger quantities, the sum total over time can prove lucrative. The accounting side of this matter appears quite pertinent to the investigation.

As for methodological red flags in this second video, Gatter candidly explains the legal concern of altering the procedure for the purpose of procuring intact body parts. The exchange goes as follows:

Buyer: The intact specimens, I wanted to touch on that. What I was trying to say is if the 10 to 12 week specimens, end of the 1st trimester, if those are pretty intact specimens, that’s something we can work with.
Gatter: So that’s an interesting concept. Let me explain to you a little bit of a problem, which may not be a big problem, if our usual technique is suction, at 10 to 12 weeks, and we switch to using an IPAS or something with less suction, and increase the odds that it will come out as an intact specimen, then we’re kind of violating the protocol that says to the patient,“We’re not doing anything different in our care of you.” Now to me, that’s kind of a specious little argument and I wouldn’t object to asking Ian, who’s our surgeon who does the cases, to use an IPAS at that gestational age in order to increase the odds that he’s going to get an intact specimen, but I do need to throw it out there as a concern. Because the patient is signing something and we’re signing something saying that we’re not changing anything with the way we’re managing you, just because we agree to give tissue. You’ve heard that before. 
Buyer: Yes. It’s touchy. How do you feel about that? 
Gatter: I think they’re both totally appropriate techniques, there’s no difference in pain involved, I don’t think the patients would care one iota. So yeah, I’m not making a fuss about that.

Later, Gatter admits:
[T]here are people who would argue that by using the IPAS instead of the machine, you’re slightly increasing the length of the procedure, you’re increasing the pain of the procedure...
You may notice that Gatter earlier said there is "no difference in pain involved" in the alternate procedure, yet here admits others say doctors using the alternate procedure are "increasing the pain." On this matter, Gatter ultimately implies she will defer to a doctor, Ian Tilley, on whether or not they will violate the patient agreement by changing the abortion method to which the client-mother agrees:
And then, if we want to pursue this, mutually, I talk to Ian and see how he feels about using a “less crunchy” technique to get more whole specimens.

*Just to clarify, I don't say "if that which is in the womb is a human life" to suggest the matter is unclear. I use this verbiage as a thought exercise, to invite even skeptics to confront the crux of the issue. I fully embrace the Church's and other philsophers', scientists', and religious persons' views that life begins––at the beginning. Thus, can a skeptic at least understand the perspective of a thoughtful pro-lifer, which reflects philosophical and quantifiable measures of the existence of life.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Update on Indiana vs. Planned Parenthood

Following is an update to the 2011 story involving the state of Indiana's attempt to withhold Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood (PP) of Indiana. PP argues that Indiana cannot exclude it from federal Medicaid funds.

Since that time, a district judge blocked the state's attempt to withhold those funds. This past Tuesday, October 23, a ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago supported that decision and argued that Indiana must give Medicaid dollars to PP.

The circuit court's opinion can be read here (PDF). The circuit court judges were Diane Sykes (who wrote the opinion), Richard Cudahy, and Michael Kanne. 

The opinion explains the matter thusly:
Under § 1396a(a)(23) state Medicaid plans “must” allow beneficiaries to obtain medical care from “any institution, agency, . . . or person, qualified to perform the service.” This is individual-rights language, stated in mandatory terms, and interpreting the right does not strain judicial competence.
That means anyone qualified to perform a medical service covered by Medicaid must receive federal  Medicaid funds, according to the circuit court's opinion.


However, the court's own analysis of the case may not adhere to that criteria. First, let's look at the rationale for why PP is considered a "qualified" provider, as well as the definition of "qualified" the court claims to be following (emphasis mine):
Although Indiana has broad authority to exclude unqualified providers from its Medicaid program, the State does not have plenary authority to exclude a class of providers for any reason—more particularly, for a reason unrelated to provider qualifications. In this context, “qualified” means fit to provide the necessary medical services—that is, capable of performing the needed medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal, and ethical manner. The defunding law excludes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services, violatingits patients’ statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice.
We now read ahead to the court's dismissal, for example, of two of Indiana's arguments from precedent that they can view PP as an unqualified provider. Here is the first, retold in the the circuit court opinion (emphasis mine):
Indiana also points to 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7(b)(14), which allows states to exclude providers who are in default on their student-loan payments, and from this provision makes another argument by implication: If the states may refuse to subsidize student-loan delinquents with Medicaid dollars, then they must have the authority to “avoid indirect financing” of any “non-Medicaid” conduct. But like § 1396a(p)(1), this statute merely stipulates a particular ground for excluding a Medicaid provider; it does not imply that the states may establish any rule of exclusion and declare it a provider “qualification” for purposes of § 1396a(a)(23). That would make the free-choice-of-provider requirement a nullity.
And the second (emphasis mine):
Nor does Guzman v. Shewry, 552 F.3d 941 (9th Cir. 2009), help Indiana’s case. There, a provider was suspended from California’s Medicaid program based on a pending criminal investigation. He claimed that federal law occupies the entire field of regulation pertaining to Medicaid and therefore preempted the state’s disciplinary measure. The Ninth Circuit rejected this argument, relying in part on 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7(b)(5), which provides that the states may suspend or exclude providers from participating in Medicaid “for reasons bearing on the individual’s or entity’s professional competence, professional performance, or financial integrity.” The court remarked that this provision presupposes state regulatory authority over provider qualifications. Guzman, 552 F.3d at 949. 
Here we have two examples of precedent provided by Indiana's attorneys. Both were examples of Medicaid funds legally being withheld from an entity apart from that entity's competence to perform medical services. Remember, the 7th Circuit Court on Tuesday insisted:
“qualified” means fit to provide the necessary medical services—that is, capable of performing the needed medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal, and ethical manner. 
Both examples presented by Indiana demonstrate that competency to perform a particular medical service can be trumped by factors unrelated to those medical services. I did not see the 7th Circuit Court address that aspect of Indiana's argument. And yet, in its opinion, the 7th Circuit Court specifically ruled against Indiana because it supposedly disqualified PP for reasons other than it's ability to perform certain medical services:
The [State of Indiana's] defunding law excludes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services, violating its patients’ statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice.
The 7th Circuit Court's opinion here is worded such that there are no reasons to withhold Medicaid funding from any entity capable of performing certain medical services. Yet, Indiana's lawyers produced several examples (such as the 2 described above) that demonstrate that is not ultimately the decisive factor. A doctor behind on student loans can still legitimately perform medical services. In the example in which there was a criminal investigation on the provider, the 7th Circuit Court considered it okay to suspend their Medicaid dollars even though there was no guilt at the time the funds were withheld. As well, one of the reasons the 7th Circuit Court supported that opinion is because of the question of the "financial integrity" of a provider. We'll take another look at that aspect of PP's financial statements in a moment.

More from the 7th Circuit opinion:
It is true that Medicaid regulations permit the states to establish “reasonable standards relating to the qualifications of providers.”  42 C.F.R. § 431.51(c)(2). But Indiana claims plenary authority to exclude Medicaid providers for any reason, as long as it furthers a legitimate state interest—here, the State’s interest in avoiding indirect subsidization of abortion. This sweeping claim conflicts with the unambiguous language of § 1396a(a)(23) and finds no support in related Medicaid statutes and regulations. 
The opinion went on from that paragraph to reiterate that "qualified" means competent to perform the medical services in question. The opinion reiterates that standard over and over. In other words, the state can establish "reasonable standards" relating to what is a "qualified" provider––the 7th Circuit Court insists Indiana's criteria is unreasonable on the grounds that PP is able to perform certain procedures covered by Medicaid. Yet the court was willing to suspend that standard altogether as we saw in the examples of the cases on student loans or a pending investigation, as well as other cases presented by Indiana to the courts.


Recall from The Catholic Voyager's previous coverage on this case, the state of Indiana submitted to the district court the following argument that PP has not demonstrated that it separates Medicaid funds from abortion services:
PPIN’s audited financial statements for 2009 and 2010 give rise to a reasonable inference that it commingles Medicaid reimbursements with other revenues it receives. ... financial statements provide no record that PPIN [Planned Parenthood of Indiana] makes any effort either to segregate Medicaid reimbursements from other unrestricted revenue sources or to allocate the costs of its various lines of business, whether abortion, family planning, cancer screenings, or other services. ... Medicaid, as a revenue line, is shown with other unrestricted sources of income ... This indicates that, while PPIN may not receive Medicaid reimbursements related directly to abortions (as federal and state laws generally prohibit), the Medicaid reimbursements it does receive for other services are pooled or commingled with other monies it receives and thus help pay for total operational costs.
In other words, PP uses Medicaid funds to pay for total operational costs, which of course includes abortion services not covered by Medicaid dollars. The only comment on this matter I saw from the 7th Circuit Court opinion reads as follows:
Planned Parenthood also performs abortions. The organization uses private funding to support its abortion services and takes steps to ensure that public and private funds are not commingled.
That's it. There is no substantiation that PP prevents Medicaid dollars from going to abortion services other than a cursory statement that it does so. The claim begs the question. The circuit court's opinion is filled with supporting documentation and analysis except on this point. What of the PP's audited financial statements as described by the state of Indiana during the district hearing?

It may be telling, however, that the circuit court's opinion elsewhere implies that Medicaid dollars do indirectly pay for PP's abortion services. Recall this earlier quote: 
But Indiana claims plenary authority to exclude Medicaid providers for any reason, as long as it furthers a legitimate state interest—here, the State’s interest in avoiding indirect subsidization of abortion.
The circuit court's opinion describes the matter, in their own words, as Indiana avoiding "indirect subsidization of abortion." The court's opinion is not qualifying the statement as Indiana's "perception" only, but rather describing the situation as it exists.

So on the one hand, the court dismissively claimed PP separates use public funds from abortion services, and on the other, indicates that PP uses public funds indirectly to subsidize abortion.

Elsewhere, the 7th Circuit Court's opinion suggests the same thing:
The point [of defunding PP] is to eliminate the indirect subsidization of abortion....Act 1210 aims to prevent the indirect subsidization of abortion...
In rebutting this argument, the court does not challenge Indiana's assertion that PP is using public funds to subsidize abortion. It rather seems to admit the claim as fact. Instead, the court insists repeatedly that PP must be funded simply because it is capable of performing other covered medical services.

After reading through the opinion, I was thus left vexed. It seemed that Indiana's strongest argument against funding PP was dismissed with no rebuttal, with no detailed explanation. Instead, the peripheral criteria of PP's "capability" to perform other funds appeared to be inconsistently described as the basis by which a provider must receive Medicaid funds.