With the transition of both houses and the presidency to GOP control, one of the promises that President Trump made seems to be coming to fruition, namely, to defund Planned Parenthood. Let us hope it does because if not it does not bode well for the future of our deal-with-the-devil that we, as pro-life advocates, contracted when we elected President-elect Trump. (I say we even though I did not personally vote for him, because it was the so-called “religious right” which was instrumental in getting him elected.)
The question that is not being asked is what is to replace PP. This is a more pressing concern than most conservatives seem to think. I do not personally know anyone who has used PP for an abortion. I do personally know several women first hand and many more second hand who have used PP for low-cost pap smears, mammogram referrals, and contraceptive services. (I am not addressing contraception in this post. I hold to the Church’s teaching on the immorality of artificial contraception, but I think the social application of that doctrine is nuanced enough to require its own post.) Like it or not, PP does provide services other than abortion, and those services are both valuable and licit. Something must fill the vacuum if it is defunded.
The second problem is the money. Defunding PP will dump that money back into the government budget and I, for one, would like to know where it is going. Perhaps we should consider sending it back into the healthcare system, to subsidize community health centers, rural clinics, or even primary care providers willing to live in out-of-the-way places. If the concern is PP’s provision of abortion, but we can all agree that women’s health services are a priority for everyone, then defunding of PP should not occur without a direct replacement by some provision for providing women’s health services. Whether this should take the form of subsidies of existing clinics, incentivization or insurance subsidies is beyond my competence to say.
When discussing this with PP supporters, unfortunately there is a certain level at which our position is, and must be, intractable. However, their concerns about women’s health are valid, and we ought to do our best to support and respond to those concerns.
I say that at some point our positions are intractable because despite the validity of concern about women’s health, that is not a valid argument for supporting PP or even allowing it to continue. I do not know what percentage of PP’s services are abortions. I have read figures ranging from 90+% to 3% and the truth is probably in the middle somewhere. The Washington Post article linked sheds some light on the slippery statistics both sides use. The number that concerns me is the hard number, 300,000. 327,653, according to the WP. That is the number of abortions performed by PP in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
If you start with the position (as I do) that an unborn fetus is a human being, then this is a staggering number. It means that more than 300,000 human beings are killed legally every year by this organization. That concern trumps whatever other service they may provide.
Naturally, if you do not start with the fetus-as-human position, then you do not necessarily have to take so stark a position. You are free to regard abortion as good, indifferent or unfortunate, and weigh that in balance with all other services that PP provides. You may find that those services outweigh abortion, or you may not. It is essentially up to you.
If, however, the fetus is human, then there really is no alternative. Try to understand that to someone who believes in the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, to suggest that PP’s abortion services should be overlooked because of all the other services they provide is the moral equivalent of suggesting that Germans and Austrians were right to overlook the concentration camps because after all they boosted the economy and provided valuable goods and services. They were wrong, and so are we.
This is my argument for defunding PP. I do not expect to change anyone’s mind, but I do think that it is good for everyone to understand everyone else’s underlying assumptions and the reasoning that comes from them. Again, I acknowledge the necessity of mammograms, pap smears, STI testing and treatments, and other services. I would love to see the federal money from PP going to a non-abortion-providing alternative.