In the wake of the revelations concerning Planned Parenthood’s selling of fetal body parts, and the subsequent calls to defund the organization on the federal level, many of its defenders argue that, notwithstanding everything we know, we need Planned Parenthood.
And by “we,” the people making this argument include some who call themselves pro-lifers. They argue that without Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, there would be even more abortions and that the organization provides vital health services to poor women.
Maybe you’ve heard these arguments from your neighbors and even some other Christians. Well, it’s time to expose the arguments for the shams that they are.
And thanks to Ross Douthat of the New York Times who did just that. First, he addressed the claimed link between Planned Parenthood’s provision of contraception and the abortion rates. He acknowledged that the “claim has understandable appeal,” but also runs into what he called “empirical difficulties.”
For starters, “…whether you go state by state in the U.S. or make comparisons across developed countries,” he writes, “there's very little evidence for the kind of correlation between liberal social policies and lower abortion rates” as claimed by Planned Parenthood’s defenders.
In fact, in the United States, “the correlation often runs the other way: Abortion rates are generally lower in (conservative) states that have more abortion restrictions and fewer publicly funded family planning programs, and it’s higher in (liberal) states where public policy is friendlier to Planned Parenthood, comprehensive sex education, public provision of contraception, etc.”
While liberals are fond of pointing out that the out-of-wedlock birth rates are higher in so-called “red” states than “blue” ones, Douthat notes that “it seems to be primarily driven by higher blue-state abortion rates rather than lower blue-state rates of unplanned pregnancies—which is the opposite of what the alleged ‘pro-life’ case for Planned Parenthood would lead one to expect.”
Second, while one can quibble and even argue about the numbers, the fact remains that there’s no solid evidence that eliminating Planned Parenthood’s federal funding will result in an increase of abortions. In fact, since 2010, federal family planning funding has dropped by 13 percent, and during the same period, “the abortion rate has … fallen in almost every state in the union.”
This decline, Douthat tells us, “didn’t happen primarily because fewer women were getting pregnant; it happened because fewer pregnant women decided to have abortions.” And given that, when it comes to already-pregnant women, “Planned Parenthood effectively encourages abortions.” The entire idea that defunding Planned Parenthood would increase abortions collapses under the “empirical difficulties” that Douthat alludes to.
Third, as for the claim that Planned Parenthood provides family planning and other services for women, Douthat is unsparing. This, he says, is “the kind of moral blackmail that moderate liberals keep trying to deploy against pro-lifers to keep money flowing to the nation’s largest purveyor of abortion.”
After all, he reminds us, “It is not the pro-life movement that’s forced Planned Parenthood to unite actual family planning and mass feticide under one institutional umbrella. It is not the Catholic Church…the Mormon Church… the Southern Baptist Convention or the Republican Party that have bundled pap smears, pregnancy tests and HPV vaccines with the kind of grisly business being conducted on those videos.”
Instead, “This is Planned Parenthood’s choice; it is liberalism’s choice; it is the respectable center-left . . . that’s telling pro-life and pro-choice Americans alike that contraceptive access and fetal dismemberment are just a package deal.”
It’s a “package deal” that Christians must reject, even if there were strong evidence of the link between contraceptive services and abortion rates. But given the empirical difficulties, there is no doubt what our answer should be: no deal.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: August 11, 2015