My son and I were talking in the car the other day. He is 12 years old and a fine young man. The parents of his friends want their children to hang out with him because they trust him. His nickname amongst his friends is Safety Patrol. I told my son that he should feel good that his hard work on his character has built a solid reputation.
I then warned him about something that defenders of Planned Parenthood certainly ought to know. A lifetime of hard work and public service can be destroyed by a few seconds of bad decision-making. If you do something bad enough, then you will always be remembered for the one bad thing that you did and not the lifetime of good. That is the way the world works, and it is fair.
One of the most oft repeated defenses of Planned Parenthood is that abortion only represents 3% of what they do. The claim is misleading (see here for an explanation as to why and here for a funny video that covers it as well, and here for criticism from Slate), but what if it were true. What if we looked past the fact that 1/3 of the income of Planned Parenthood is generated by abortion and accepted at face value this claim as accurate. Abortions make up only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does and the rest of their time is spent offering productive services.
So what? This argument is ridiculous and would be openly rejected by all reasonable people if it were offered for almost any other institution in our country except for Planned Parenthood, the Teflon Don of non-profits. It is not and never has been a question of how balanced the percentage of what you do is with good things versus bad. In every case, whether individual, corporation, or non-profit the only relevant question is “How bad is the bad thing that you did?”
We see with absolutely clarity how silly this claim is when we all accept that a given action is grossly immoral. John Wayne Gacy worked to raise money for charities in his various communities, was politically active, was a high ranking member of his local Jaycees, and dressed as a clown to entertain children at local events and parties. He also brutally raped and murdered at least 33 young men whom he proceeded to bury under his house and in his yard. No one anywhere has ever suggested we consider all the good he did, because his evil actions were of such a nature that it overshadowed any positive contributions he made to his community.
We don’t have to go to that extreme. Three percent of a 24-hour day is roughly 43 minutes. What if your neighbor meticulously cared for his lawn, contributed to the homeowners’ association, led charitable efforts, and worked hard at a job that inarguably improved the community. For 23 hours and 17 minutes every day he was a model citizen, but for 43 minutes he viciously abused his wife and children. Again, no one would defend him based on the quality of his behavior over 97% of his life. The 3% of abuse is so obviously evil and condemnable that it would be the sole criteria by which he is judged, and it ought to be.
Right about now the defenders of Planned Parenthood will object that abortion is not the same as serial murder or child and spousal abuse. And now we see that the defender that uses this argument is making the first mistake that most people make when discussing the issue of abortion. They presuppose the truth of the position they defend without argument. I agree that abortion is unlike the two examples I offered IF…if the unborn are not full members of the human family. IF that is the case, then abortion is unlike the moral evils previously discussed and whether it represents 3% or 12% or even 100% of what Planned Parenthood does is completely beside the point. However, that position must be established by argument. It cannot be assumed.
If they are fully human, then the practice of abortion, whether legal or not (see here), is the unjust destruction of innocent human life. It belongs in the category of things that you are rightly judged for based entirely on your participation in such a moral evil, even if it only makes up a small percentage of what you do.
This doesn't even take into account the act of allegedly illegally selling fetal body parts to research facilities, which ought to shut them down no matter how small a fraction of what they do it is.
Which brings us back to the central question of the abortion issue. What are the unborn?
Post Script: The Supreme Court has consistently affirmed that it is impossible to know what the moral status of the unborn is with certainty. I reject that argument, but suppose it is true. Then it is just as likely that those who believe that Planned Parenthood unjustly destroys over 300,000 innocent human lives every year are right as it is those who reject the humanity of the unborn are right. If that is the case, then no U.S. citizen should be compelled to contribute to an organization through federal funding that is just as likely leading our nation in state sponsored homicide, as it is that they are doing nothing morally wrong.