Planned Parenthood, President Obama, and "Too Many" Abortions
By Gerald McDermott and Carol Swain
February 15, 2009
David Nova, a regional Planned Parenthood vice president, recently told the Roanoke Times there are "too many abortions." President Obama has said the same thing. This is odd, when you think about it. If the fetus is simply a blob of tissue, what would be wrong with a lot of abortions? Of course, if these fetuses are really little human beings, then we could understand their worry.
But then why has Planned Parenthood fought so hard against parental notification bills, conscience protection bills, and Medicaid funding restrictions which, according to Professor Michael New and others, have been partly responsible for the dramatic reduction in abortions in the 1990s and since? And why does Planned Parenthood support the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which President Obama vows to sign if it comes to his desk? It would strike down all federal and state abortion restrictions, which would undoubtedly increase the number of abortions in this country. Tom McClusky reports that in each of the seven states with FOCA-like laws, "abortion rates have increased, while the national rate has decreased."
Planned Parenthood applauded President Obama's recent revocation of the "Mexico City Policy," the result of which will send our tax dollars to fund abortions overseas. This has been our new president's most unpopular decision. It's also puzzling, because Obama himself has said he wants fewer abortions.
Nova claims "preventive reproductive health care and education" would reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thus abortions. Yet these are the same things Planned Parenthood has been saying and doing for four decades. They have been offering birth control, sex education and abortions all this time, but in many ways things have gotten only worse. Sexually transmitted diseases are way up, abortions in the black community tragically have skyrocketed, and, as Nova himself says, "teen births are rising."
Therefore we are further puzzled by Nova's request for our tax dollars to fund more of this in Virginia. Readers may be surprised to learn that Planned Parenthood nationally has plenty of money and taxpayers are contributing a large part of it. According to its own 2006-07 annual report, Planned Parenthood took in more than a billion dollars, and boasted a surplus of $80 million. One-third of its income--$336 million-came from government subsidies. Its president received about $1 million in compensation. Why pay more of our own money for practices that don't work and some of which involve what most Americans consider to be immoral?
Nova cited a Johns Hopkins study as proof that abstinence education doesn't work. But this research focused on a very small 1996 sampling of teens (289) who took a pledge but did not receive abstinence education. In contrast, sociologist Stan Weed produced in 2007 a comprehensive survey of more than 100 studies in 30 states studying more than 400,000 adolescents. Dr. Weed concluded that abstinence education programs-as opposed to simply a pledge program which the Johns Hopkins researcher studied-on average delayed the first sexual encounter by over two years, which meant fewer sexual partners and lower pregnancy and STD rates. Teens in these programs had fewer abortions and were more likely to finish high school, go to college, and have fulfilling lives.
Finally, Nova says repeatedly that he and Planned Parenthood want to prevent "unintended" pregnancies. Notice the implication-Roanoke Times readers who were not "intended" by their parents would be better off never to have been born. Perhaps this is the greatest puzzle of the abortion debate: the assumption that we can decide which lives are worth living. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German martyr who fought Nazism, said the greatest damage to human integrity comes when we destroy innocent life by deciding it is not worth living. "Even the most wretched life," he said, "is worth living before God."
----Gerald McDermott is the Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion at Roanoke College, and Carol Swain is Professor of Political Science and Law at Vanderbilt University.
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