A video released this week by a pro-life outfit calling themselves “The Center for Medical Progress” has caused a firestorm in America’s culture wars. The anti-abortion campaigners secretly filmed Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s director of medical research, discussing the abortion provider’s fetal organ donation program.
No matter what a person’s views on abortion, the sensational sections of the video were gruesome. Nucatola describes “crushing” the fetus in ways that keep its internal organs intact in order to satisfy researchers’ desire for obtaining hearts, lungs and livers from unborn babies.
“I’d say a lot of people want liver,” Nucatola says while nibbling on her salad. “And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps.” Then she casually describes the abortion process: “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”
Planned Parenthood was quick to defend their practices. Spokesman Eric Ferrero explained, “At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health-care provider does — with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards … in some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.”
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards launched a YouTube video attacking the Center for Medical Progress, claiming that the debate was only about the legitimacy of organ donation, and accusing the anti-abortion campaigners of being opposed to “life saving research.” Pro-life campaigners point out that they are not opposed to organ donation, but to intentionally dismembering unborn children in order to harvest the organs.
While Richards heartily denies that Planned Parenthood profits from harvesting fetal organs, on the video Nucatola admits that some clinics want to do more than break even financially, and the Center for Medical Progress has posted an ad from a company called StemExpress which entices clinics with the “fiscal benefits” and “financial profits” of tissue donation.
Quite apart from the morality of abortion itself, we now have to face the fact that “fetal tissue” is being harvested for medical research, and that somewhere along the line money is changing hands as part of the deal. Selling human body parts is against the law. Are Planned Parenthood clinics simply “re-imbursed” for transportation of the specimens? Are they innocently “helping families who wish to donate tissue?” Many are doubtful.
Either way, the killing of unborn children and harvesting their organs for medical research sounds too much like the laboratories of Josef Mengele. The fact that the mainstream culture justifies the practice with practical, utilitarian, and sentimental arguments feels uncomfortably like the work of Joseph Goebbels. If you are not chilled by the comparison, you should be.
Our culture would not be in this situation without a philosophy that endorsed it. The simple truth behind the “re-imbursement” for the livers, hearts, and lungs of dismembered unborn children is that we consider unborn children as less than human. They are commodities to be bought and sold. Nor is our buying and selling of children limited to “re-imbursement” for fetal organs.
Girls from Eastern Europe who are kidnapped and forced into sex slavery are bought and sold. Boys who work in Asian sweatshops producing cheap consumer goods are being bought and sold. Rich childless couples who can afford in vitro fertilization are buying babies, and women who rent out their wombs as surrogates are selling them. Biotechnicians who assist them are the pimps in the trade. Boys and girls working in the pornography industry are being bought and sold, and child prostitution across the world buys and sells children as commercial commodities.
Planned Parenthood’s harvesting of fetal organs for “re-imbursement” is a tragic symbol of a much deeper malaise. It doesn’t take much imagination to see in the crushed and discarded corpses of children whose organs have been harvested, a human race and the whole created world ripped up, raped, harvested, crushed, and discarded by the insatiable god called greed.
At the heart of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, is a plea for us to find a new way. The whole created order is threatened when we view one another and the natural world as nothing more than a commodity to be exploited. So the Pope writes:
“This sister [the natural world] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.”
Like his predecessor, Pope Francis blames the “dictatorship of relativism” which uses merciless utilitarianism as one of its tools:
“The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage. In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted?”
G.K. Chesterton said, “Every argument is a theological argument.” The dignity of each human being is rooted in the fact that we are created in God’s image, and it is only when we come to experience and accept the dignity and majesty of God that we will be able to glimpse that same glory in his creation, in the poor, the vulnerable, the exploited, the elderly, and the unborn.