The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

The Assault on Planned Parenthood is an Anti-Science Attack by Religious Fundamentalists

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 17, 2015

For the last month a manufactured controversy has raged about the health-care provider Planned Parenthood. Extremists within the supposed “pro-life”/anti-choice (PLAC) movement (you’ll see why I put “pro-life” in quotes soon enough) have waged a thoroughly discredited campaign to deny Planned Parenthood funding because they claim that Planned Parenthood sells baby parts for profit. Yes, you read that right… and that isn’t the only bone-headed and debunked conspiracy theory from the “pro-life”/anti-choice movement. In this post I will argue that not only is the majority of this movement anti-choice and anti-woman, but it is also driven by religious fundamentalism and is anti-scientific as it attempts to impose a narrow, religiously-based worldview on all of us.

The heart of this manufactured controversy is a series of deceptively edited sting videos from a group misleadingly named the Center for Medical Progress purported to show Planned Parenthood doctors/employees selling baby parts for money. Of course, these videos have been thoroughly analyzed and debunked, and numerous investigations into the matter have provided no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. But in addition, the so-called Center for Medical Progress isn’t what they seem; on this last point, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State reveals who is really behind the videos:

…The group behind the manufactured outrage, CMP, is really a front for Live Action, an anti-abortion outfit long associated with the more extreme fringes of the Religious Right. It’s headed by David Daleiden, an associate of Live Action founder Lila Rose; Live Action is responsible for a number of other deceptively edited “stings” that attempted to catch Planned Parenthood staffers engaged in illegal activities.

And Troy Newman, the current president of Operation Rescue, is a CMP board member. Newman once defended Paul Jennings Hill, executed in 2003 for murdering a Pensacola, Fla., abortion provider. Another current Operation Rescue staffer, Cheryl Sullenger, served time in prison for scheming to bomb an abortion clinic in San Diego, Calif. According to watchdog site Media Matters for America (MMFA), Sullenger also corresponded regularly with Scott Roeder, who later murdered Dr. George Tiller for providing abortions. …

So there’s the connection to religious fundamentalism. Of course, one of the more embarrassing things about the religious nature of the PLAC movement is that it’s supposed “pro-life” stance isn’t consistent with the Bible; for example, take a look at numerous sections of the Bible where God apparently condones abortion or how the PLAC movement has attempted to edit the Bible to make it more in line with their ideology.

As for the anti-science side of things, there is evidence aplenty to show how the PLAC ignores and distorts science in an attempt to push its religious dogma. For example, they conveniently ignore the fact that the family planning and birth control services that Planned Parenthood offers significantly reduce the need for abortion in the first place

PP birth control

Not only that, most of the PLAC movement is fervently opposed to the use of birth control; in fact they’ll make crazy and thoroughly false claims that birth control actually increases the need for abortion. But don’t take it from me, take it from a former insider with the PLAC movement who left when she realized they were more about controlling women’s sexuality than anything else:

The Real Solution: Birth Control

But if banning abortion does not decrease abortion rates, what does? Why do some countries have low abortion rates while others have much higher rates? The answer, I found, was simple.

“Both the lowest and highest subregional abortion rates are in Europe, where abortion is generally legal under broad grounds. In Western Europe, the rate is 12 per 1,000 women, while in Eastern Europe it is 43. The discrepancy in rates between the two regions reflects relatively low contraceptive use in Eastern Europe, as well as a high degree of reliance on methods with relatively high user failure rates, such as the condom, withdrawal and the rhythm method.”

As I sat there in the student union reading over my lunch, I found that making birth control widespread and easily accessible is actually the most effective way to decrease the abortion rate. Even as I processed this fact, I knew that the pro-life movement as a whole generally opposes things like comprehensive sex education and making birth control available to teenagers. I knew this because I had lived it, had heard it in pro-life banquet after pro-life banquet, had read it in the literature. The pro-life movement is anti-birth-control. And opposing birth control is pretty much the most ineffective way to decrease abortion rates imaginable. In fact, opposing birth control actually drives the abortion rates up.

As I mulled this over, I realized how very obvious it was. The cause of abortions is unwanted pregnancies. If you get rid of unwanted pregnancies the number of people who seek abortions will drop like a rock. Simply banning abortion leaves women stuck with unwanted pregnancies. Banning abortion doesn’t make those pregnancies wanted. Many women in a situation like that will be willing to do anything to end that pregnancy, even if it means trying to induce their own abortions (say, with a coat hanger or by drinking chemicals) or seeking out illegal abortions. I realized that the real way to reduce abortion rates, then, was to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. And the way to do that is with birth control, which reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies by allowing women to control when and if they become pregnant. …

Beyond opposing birth control, the PLAC movement is also anti-scientific in the sense of their opposition to Planned Parenthood having any relation to fetal tissue research. Despite the noise and gross rhetoric coming from the PLAC, what is happening is that sometimes, with the consent of the patient, Planned Parenthood will donate fetal tissue to research organizations for the purposes of finding medical cures. Fortunately, while some in the PLAC movement are calling for such research to be outlawed, the record is clear that even many of their political allies support such research, and the scientific community is rallying around protecting the vital, life-saving work.

Last, but not least, is the inherent hypocrisy of the supposed “pro-life” side of the PLAC movement (hence the quotes). If the PLAC were really about “saving the unborn”, the following facts show how empty and vacuous are their real intentions. First, they do not care to advocate for any research into saving zygotes from miscarriages (what can arguably be called a “natural abortion”); again, from a former PLAC insider:

… A few months after reading Sarah’s article I came upon one by Fred Clark. In it, he argues that if those who oppose abortion really believe that every fertilized egg is a person we ought to see 5K fundraisers to save these zygotes. This is very much like what I said above, except that the focus here is whether the 50% of all zygotes – 50% of all fertilized eggs – that die before pregnancy even begins could be saved. Fred suggests that if the pro-life movement really is about saving unborn babies, and if those in the pro-life movement really do believe that life begins at fertilization, then pro-lifers really ought to be extremely concerned about finding a way to save all of these lives. But they’re not. …

… Reading Fred’s article compounded what I had felt reading Sarah’s article. The pro-life movement is not about “saving unborn babies.” It can’t be. As someone who as a child and teen really did believe that life – personhood – began at fertilization, and who really was in it to “save unborn babies,” this is baffling. If I had known all this, I would have been all for this sort of research. I would have been all for sexually active women using the pill to cut down on “deaths.” But I didn’t know any of this. The adults of the anti-abortion movement, though, and certainly the leaders, they surely must know these things. This isn’t rocket science, after all. They must know these things, and yet they are doing nothing.

And if that isn’t enough, there’s this another, utterly damning fact: if “human life begins at conception” and “all [human] life is sacred”, then why isn’t the PLAC doing anything to save all the frozen embryos left over after in-vitro fertilization sessions? I would argue that the answer is disturbingly simple: the PLAC movement isn’t truly “pro-life” as it proclaims, it’s about controlling women’s sexuality…

… The disparity between how the law treats abortion patients and IVF patients reveals an ugly truth about abortion restrictions: that they are often less about protecting life than about controlling women’s bodies. Both IVF and abortion involve the destruction of fertilized eggs that could potentially develop into people. But only abortion concerns women who have had sex that they don’t want to lead to childbirth. Abortion restrictions use unwanted pregnancy as a punishment for “irresponsible sex” and remind women of the consequences of being unchaste: If you didn’t want to endure a mandatory vaginal ultrasound , you shouldn’t have had sex in the first place. …

Fortunately, despite the manufactured outrage on the part of the PLAC movement and its political allies, there is reason to hope. As I’ve stated, upon closer analysis the arguments and the methods of the PLAC movement are utterly falling apart. In addition, contributions to Planned Parenthood have skyrocketed and poll after poll show that far more Americans approve of the work done by Planned Parenthood than those who oppose it. Last, but not least, political support for a government shutdown over this issue is losing steam in Congress, and the Obama administration is investigating potentially illegal denial of funds to Planned Parenthood.

So, apparently the forces of reason, rationality, and science are fighting back vigorously. Whether you personally support or oppose abortion, I think one thing we can agree on is that distorting science, sensationalizing, and lying is a poor substitute for reasoned discourse.

Lastly, I would argue that to be pro-active against this sort of nonsense we should all be more politically active, and we should demand that our elected leaders are held to account for their non-scientific views; a good resource for this is the Science Debate initiative. Then, vote. Then, pay attention to whether or not those leaders are sticking with good science or pushing a non-scientific, religiously-driven agenda. And hold them accountable.

Now get out there and fight.

6 Responses to “The Assault on Planned Parenthood is an Anti-Science Attack by Religious Fundamentalists”

  1. […] The Assault on Planned Parenthood is an Anti-Science Attack by Religious Fundamentalists […]

  2. […] The Assault on Planned Parenthood is an Anti-Science Attack by Religious Fundamentalists […]

  3. Woody said

    As I recently mentioned on ‘The Atheist Oasis’ and ‘Spirituality is no Excuse’, the long slimy tentacles of religion reach easily into our modern world, usually disguised to create a totally different impression than religious interference. There has been so much and I fear there will be more.

    Good post, all the best,
    Woody

  4. Woody said

    I just then caught some of FOX news. The issue of planned parenthood came up (as it has so many times lately according to my girlfriend).
    Another video of an apparent employee of the organization was talking about an incident where she was required to apply the scalpel and end the life of a late term abortion.
    I haven’t stressed myself overly about the unsightly medical scenes involved with some occupations. For example, at most hospitals there is a storage unit for remains, amputated limbs, the excess flesh that did not survive the operation process and so on. I’ve heard a drunk surgeon speaking of unsightly physical aspects of the job before, completely unrelated to abortion. Lucky these comments never made it on to a liberal news program, the uproar would have been deafening and an number a human rights activists and feminists would have been in town for a week.
    What bothered me so much was that when a guest to the news show spoke that a number of states had already investigated the videos and found them to be fraudulent right-wing porn (so to speak), the scene was ended with no further investigation into her claim.
    This comment is not about left or right or even philosophy, it’s about my distress at how researched discoveries and honestly conclusive facts are ignored by the media in preference to their own angle of political bullshit.
    I just had to get that out of my system, thanks for letting me vent, mattusmaximus.

    All the best,
    Woody

  5. J.R.D. said

    People. Come on now. PROPAGANDA! Ending charge is ” Now get out there and fight”? What the fu*k? Wake up everyone. Any extreme is a negative. Who would argue science to religion if one was not in existence to compare the other? What about black from white and vice versa? The oppositions and extreme sides are always there to see and if you so desire, to choose and join. Choose not nor judge not but fight? How will our spirits and the energy from the earth gather and coalesce to higher states of union and perfect understanding of all forms, material or not; when the cyclical born-choose-fight-die mind set still rages on and fools people into believing in another’s beliefs? This hurts my heart. Break the cycle people of this material realm. Anyone selling you a side to choose and fight with them is also selling himself short by using you as a backer and anchor for a trivial meaningless act of time and knowledge loss in an attempt to hopefully prove to himself of being just and valid and glorious in their brave side choosing fight sequence. MAN, WOMAN, CHILD, KNOW THYSELVES! And seriously, does anyone really believe that the first book printed on the Guttenberg press was not in all actuality even more stories and propaganda that was gathered and forced on the masses by the ones in monetary power at the time and era of which they ruled? So sad😦 When the day of each comes and they sluff off this skin and mask that they have held onto and held in such high esteem; oh boy. No Starbucks and walmart nor Mercedes will pull you out of the sheer terror of seeing the great abyss for the first time and watching the dance of light and the force chasing it through the aether; yet in the same void; judging you and seeing how much light is left in your spirit or if its all dead and dark and should be refilled and released yet again, or turned towards the oblivion from which no energy ever returns.😦 J.R.D. Ive tried to help in such a little way here today. Please earth and people of whichever title you give yourselves; go forever and always towards your own light or dark if you yourself has chose it. YOUR LOVE IS YOUR WILL AND WILL BE YOUR LOVE. *sigh. microwaved 7-11burrito is done. gtg. I tried.😦 nom. Nom.

  6. […] The Assault on Planned Parenthood is an Anti-Science Attack by Religious Fundamentalists […]

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