It's the Abortion, Stupid
If there’s one thing Republicans established at this week’s Planned Parenthood hearing, it is that the organization’s CEO, Cecile Richards, makes more than $500,000 — and probably deserves a raise.
Judging by the hearing, the only thing more painful than watching Republicans not do anything about Planned Parenthood is watching them try to do something about Planned Parenthood. They gave every sign of being underprepared and overmatched. They were like a team of paralegals squaring off with an accomplished mob lawyer.
Give her this: Richards is extremely skilled at defending the indefensible, which is her job. The slave trade, another enormity of American national life once accepted by a swath of the country, surely would have benefited from such an on-message, unflappable, morally-oblivious advocate.
If there’s a lesson from the congressional hearing, it is that any serious Republican effort to dent Planned Parenthood’s shockingly positive public image must focus on the abhorrent acts at the center of the group’s work. Niggling criticisms are too easily deflected, and play into the hands of the organization’s apologists.
Richards basically got away with murder, a core competency of her organization. She dodged awkward questions, reverted at every opportunity to her message that millions of women depend on Planned Parenthood for health care, and relied on Democrats on the committee to provide air cover with complaints of “insensitive” questioning and rank “misogyny.”
Richards did have to admit that Planned Parenthood doesn’t provide mammograms. She waved this off as something she has never claimed, but she did talk of women losing access to mammograms in 2011, and regardless, it is not an incidental falsehood. President Barack Obama has said it more than once, and as recently as this past July, Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley suggested mammograms are the bulk of what Planned Parenthood does.
The mammogram line is so important because the detection of breast cancer is obviously much more sympathetic than the abortion of babies.
This is the point of Planned Parenthood’s highly misleading statistic that abortion is only three percent of what it does, a number Richards held onto with grim determination. The key to the figure is that Planned Parenthood counts everything it does, small or large, whether a pregnancy test or an abortion, as an equally consequential “service.” This is an absurd accounting that attempts to launder its abortions in other routine services.
At the end of the day, the organization’s real vulnerability is those abortions and the grotesque disregard for human decency that attends them, captured in the Center for Medical Progress videos. Richards struggled most when discussing this reality. Pressed on why she apologized for what Planned Parenthood official Deborah Nucatola was caught discussing in one video, Richards would only say that Nucatola erred in having “a clinical discussion in a nonclinical setting.” She didn’t dare say aloud that the “clinical discussion” involved manipulating abortions so as to best preserve the baby’s organs for sale.
When late-term abortions came up, Richards maintained that Planned Parenthood doesn’t perform abortions past viability. But as the National Right to Life Committee points out, “Planned Parenthood clinics advertise and perform abortions well into the second trimester, even up to 24 weeks,” while research says about a quarter of infants born at 22 weeks survive.
Richards professed to have never heard of a baby surviving an abortion, even though survivors have testified before Congress. She said a baby born alive after an attempted abortion should get medical care — a significant concession, given that people on her side of the abortion debate, including Barack Obama in Illinois, have previously opposed legislation to protect born-alive infants.
Once upon a time in America, people believed that the Negro had no rights we were bound to respect. Today, Cecile Richards and her allies believe the same about human life in the womb. If Republicans consider this one of the great moral questions of our time — and they should — they need to up their game.
© 2015 King Features Syndicate