By Amanda Christmann
There is a war being waged over women’s bodies and choices, and women are not fighting it.
We are simply pawns in a twisted game in which doctored videos have become “fact,” so-called biblical virtues have become a reasonable foundation for state and federal law, and those screaming loudest for individual rights when it comes to reasonable measures to control firearms are also calling foul when women are the ones who dare to exercise our own judgment about our bodies and our lives.
The war on abortion has been raging for the last century or so, but as the head-on attack against women’s right to choose for themselves (whether or not they have the capacity and support to parent a child) has failed time and again. The often well-meaning anti-choice faction is now taking on a new strategy: attacking Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest family planning and women’s (and men’s) health organization in the country.
Most recently, heavily edited hidden camera videos released by the Center for Medical Progress have been that are purported to show officials from Planned Parenthood, discussing the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses.
Let’s talk about this.
Selling Fetal Tissue?
Human tissue has tremendous value in research. In fact, it is so valuable that, in 1993, Congress passed the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act to allow for the donation of fetal tissue. At the time, Congress recognized that aborted tissue was important enough to add, right at the top in Section A, Subsection 2:
“Human fetal tissue may be used in research carried out under paragraph (1) regardless of whether the tissue is obtained pursuant to a spontaneous or induced abortion or pursuant to a stillbirth.”
Fetal tissue has been used in research regularly since the 1930s, and may have been instrumental in the development of the polio vaccine. Today, it is being used to find cures and treatments for diseases like AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, Ebola and Muscular Dystrophy.
By law, women whose fetal tissue is used must sign consent forms to allow for donation, and they can’t get an abortion specifically for the purpose of donating tissue. The law also allows medical facilities to collect “reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.” This applies to Planned Parenthood, which charges anywhere from $30 to $100 for donation programs it engages in and in only five states, as well as hospitals and medical facilities across the country. This is an amount deemed reasonable by many medical experts since the videos were released.
Incidentally, but not insignificantly, fetal tissue procured by hospitals and medical centers that result from miscarriage is also used in research, and similar fees apply. Exactly why those fees, which are generally undisclosed yet most likely markedly similar, are not being challenged by abortion opponents is not clear.
And let’s talk about the other elephant in the room.
In Center for Medical Progress videos, Planned Parenthood officials appear—let’s just say—cold and detached when discussing fetal tissue. It’s shocking, no?
For those of us who don’t spend our days working with the human body and all of its wonders and flaws, it is difficult to understand how clinical and removed medical professionals or those in the field can be. Yet, if you were to hang out in the break room of about any hospital or doctor’s office in the country you’re likely to encounter the same type of candor.
This compartmentalization is not limited to medical professionals; emergency workers, police officers, news reporters, and many other people who deal with both light and dark sides of life develop a shell between their emotions and their reality. No doubt, they, too, could sip coffee and talk life and death with the same affect.
Ask Your Lawmaker What’s Right for You
The fact that fetal tissue is used in research is not necessarily what is in question; rather, how that tissue was obtained is perhaps the crux of the issue. Interestingly enough, that has already been debated and decided—in 1973.
The U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld a woman’s Constitutional right to obtain an abortion based on individual rights protected by the 9th and 14th Amendments in Roe v. Wade.
For those who didn’t learn about those two amendments in history class (they are seldom taught), here’s how they apply:
The 14th Amendment has several sections, but the applicable one in Roe v. Wade is a section known as the Due Process Clause. In a nutshell, the court decided that even women obtaining abortions have a right to privacy. At the time of the ruling, Texas had criminalized abortions, except for when the life of the mother was threatened. The 1973 decision told the Texas legislature, and that of every other state, that exactly why a woman wanted or needed to obtain an abortion was none of their business, and they couldn’t pick and choose when it was okay.
The 9th Amendment basically says that there are certain rights that are not covered by the Bill of Rights that are still protected. In his Supreme Court decision, Justice Blackmun noted that abortion was “resorted to without scruple” in Greek times and during the Roman Era. In other words, abortion has been around a long time, and is something that—within reasonable limits (which are already in place)—should remain a personal choice.
Speaking of free will, interestingly enough, well-meaning Christian church-goers are among the loudest groups demanding criminalization of abortion. Pro-life advocates often use verses about murder as fuel for their argument.
Abortion has been around since before Christ was born—mostly in the form of eating or drinking dangerous herbs, a process still being used in many countries. Yet abortion is never expressly forbidden in the Bible. Of all the things that are covered in the Bible, doesn’t it seem a little odd that disallowing abortion or equating it with murder was left out?
Timing is Everything
Of all the questions being raised about the Planned Parenthood videos, one query few people are asking is why now? Fetal tissue has been procured post-abortion and post-miscarriage for decades. Why is this particular debate being brought up right now?
Let’s take a look at what is happening in our country.
- Race relations are a huge topic.
- Funding for education is at an all-time low in many states.
- More people are incarcerated in our country per capita than in any other country in the world.
- Poverty is being criminalized.
- Social programs are being cut.
- Our middle class is disappearing.
- Economies worldwide are collapsing, and many economists are predicting global financial collapse in coming months.
- The environment is under steady attack by outdated policies and unregulated pollution.
- People fear for their lives in movie theaters, schools, and churches.
- Corporate interests are overtaking human interests and needs, and many of us are buying into the propaganda that is allowing it to happen.
So many things.
I’m no conspiracy theorist, but it is not a far leap to suggest that perhaps it is in the best interest of those with certain political ideology to introduce a red herring or two into the picture. What better debate to stand behind than one that appears, on the surface, to be a battle of good versus evil?
The battle over the legality of abortion has already been fought and determined. In jeopardy in this debate is the estimated $500 million in public funds that goes to Planned Parenthood for family planning services. According to Planned Parenthood’s heavily regulated and widely distributed financial records, none of those funds go toward abortion. Instead, they go to vital services like birth control, education, and medical care for over 4.6 million men and women (and teens) worldwide each year.
These services prevent abortions from being needed. Rescinding these funds would be completely counterproductive in every way, for everyone.
The very topic of abortion plays on the emotions of all involved. Those who label themselves as conservative often cite moral and religious beliefs, and the idea that all life is sacred, in their pro-life arguments.
Oddly enough, so do pro-choice liberals. Very few people, if anyone, would label themselves as “pro-abortion.”
The truth is, there is a choice, and that choice has been decided. In my own life, I did not choose abortion, but I will stand up for the right of other women to decide for themselves what is best in their lives.
No one bears the brunt of pregnancy or holds the financial and emotional responsibility for raising children like women themselves. No one knows their individual circumstances like each of them does.
It is not a decision for lawmakers to decide. It is not a decision for someone else’s church to decide. It is not a decision for you or me to decide. No one else should be allowed to make decisions about a woman and the trajectory her life must take.
It is a choice she must make for herself, and choosing is each woman’s right.
Amanda Christmann is a freelance writer and editor for Women For One, and she travels the world as a human rights advocate and activist, particularly on issues that involve human trafficking and women’s empowerment. She is an avid cyclist and mom to three boys, two dogs, and two sassy cats.
Editor: Dana Gornall