A series of videos about Planned Parenthood released by the Center for Medical Progress, an organization concerned with preserving human dignity, have renewed the interest in the issue of abortion.
The Center for Medical Progress’ series of investigative videos released to the public beginning in July 2015 shows Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue to StemExpress, a biotech firm and provider of human-derived research specimens.
In some videos, individuals with the Center for Medical Progress disguised themselves as a research company looking to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood. In other videos, the Center’s individuals disguised themselves as an abortion provider looking to sell tissue to StemExpress.
Nine videos were released as of released Sept. 1. Many Christians, including members of the Cedarville community, are outraged by what the videos show.
“There are innocent human beings who can’t defend themselves being oppressed, and their lives (are being) taken from them,” said Jon Wood, vice president for student life and Christian ministries at Cedarville. “As believers in Christ, we know that every human being possesses dignity, because we know that we are created by God, and if we do not engage the issue, then we’re ignoring what we know is important to God.”
Around the country, there have been many protests against Planned Parenthood. The pro-life coalition, Protest PP, named Aug. 22, 2015, the National Day of Protest. More than 78,500 people protested at various locations across the U.S., as well as in the Netherlands, Honduras and Ireland, on that day.
During Cedarville’s Fall Bible Conference in August, students, faculty and staff raised more than $17,000 for the Miami Valley Women’s Center. Students for Life, a new organization on campus, joined Dayton Right to Life in protest Sept. 5 at a Planned Parenthood facility in Dayton.
“Having an opinion is useless unless you’re willing to put some actions behind it,” said Stephanie Long, senior chemistry major and leader of Students for Life.
Dennis Sullivan, advisor of Students for Life and director of Cedarville’s Center for Bioethics, has spoken to a variety of news outlets about the content and implications of the Planned Parenthood videos. He said the way the doctors discuss the body parts they desire to obtain has shocked people.
“What surprises me is that people could talk about choice, but when you actually hear abortion being described – and we’re talking about intact kidneys, livers, hearts and lungs – suddenly people – lay people – get real upset because they no longer think of it as the products of conception or just material in the womb,” Sullivan said. “When you start talking about parts, it sounds like they’re from an actual baby.”
Federal law allows fees in the transfer of fetal tissue for research. But according to the National Institute of Health Revitalization Act of 1993, these fees must only be used for “transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.”
The punishment for selling or purchasing fetal tissue is up to $500,000 and 10 years in prison.
Sullivan said it’s debated as to whether what Planned Parenthood is doing is legal.
Even if what is described in these videos is legal, do we really want our tax dollars going towards this type of activity?
Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in one of the released videos that sometimes Planned Parenthood doesn’t mind if it does more than break even.
“If they (Planned Parenthood affiliates) can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that. Really their bottom line is, they want to break even,” Nucatola said in the video. “Every penny they save is just pennies they give to another patient – to provide a service the patient wouldn’t get.”
After the videos were released, StemExpress cut its partnership with Planned Parenthood. The company also sued the Center for Medical Progress and got a restraining order issued prohibiting the Center from releasing more videos. Judge Joanne O’Donnell, a superior court judge in California lifted the restraining order, citing the Center for Medical Progress’ First Amendment rights.
Congress voted 53-46 against defunding Planned Parenthood on Aug. 3. Sixty votes were needed to move forward with the legislation.
But Sullivan said there are many states still working to defund the organization.
“It may be that PPFA will be defunded in a majority of states, making the federal law moot,” he wrote in an email.
According to The Hill newspaper and FOX News, another chance to defund Planned Parenthood at the federal level may come later this month in a spending bill intended to prevent a government shutdown.
Concerned Women for America (CWA) is a public policy women’s organization advocating for biblical and family values, one of which is the sanctitiy of life.
Hannah Wegman, a 2013 Cedarville graduate and project writer/coordinator for CWA, said Christians should not be afraid to advocate for pro-life in the political arena.
From a Christian standpoint, I think a lot of us stay out of the politics of things, but it’s so important that we speak up for God’s truth.
CWA is currently working with Congress to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions in the U.S. after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Wegman said Christians should call their government representatives to support this kind of legislation.
“While we want abortion ended, this 20-week ban is a great step in the right direction,” she said.
Wegman said Christians can also get involved by praying for government officials and the unborn, voting for a president who values life, and becoming educated about the abortion issue.
Like Wegman, Sullivan said he believes supporting legislation that limits abortion is an effective way to fight the issue.
Sullivan testified in May 2015 before a committee in the Ohio House of Representatives for a bill titled, “The Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act.” This bill would ban abortions that are done solely because an unborn child has recieved a Down Syndrome diagnosis.
“We should support bills like that to further limit abortion, and so we’re going to chip away at abortion,” Sullivan said. “I believe we should incrementally chip away. There are some absolutists who believe we should ban all abortion right now, and that’s just not practical.”
Although Sullivan is pro-life, he said there are ethical issues beyond pro-life/pro-choice in what the released Planned Parenthood videos show.
He said the way Planned Parenthood manipulates the position of the fetus to preserve body parts, which are then offered to StemExpress, is wrong, because doctors are supposed to focus on what patients request to be done – in this case, an abortion.
“When you go to the doctor, you always expect the doctor to do what he or she says she was going to do. So if you have appendicitis and you go to a surgeon, you expect that surgeon to take out your appendix and not do anything else,” Sullivan said. “But when you go to the doctor for an abortion, you expect the doctor to perform an abortion and not do anything else.”
Arthur Caplan, a pro-choice bioethicist at New York University, shared the same sentiment about doctors changing the procedure.
“In abortion the primary goal is to give the safest abortion possible. Your sole concern has to be the mother and her health,” Caplan told CNN.
Wood said he believes Christians have a responsibility to become advocates after watching the videos.
“We have to be advocates and make sure the truth is known about abortion. We cannot let it continue as the silent holocaust that it has,” Wood said. “We have to love the innocent enough to make sure their story is known.”
Jen Taggart is a junior journalism major and off-campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys writing, listening to music and fueling her chocolate addiction.