Unpacking Planned Parenthood


Let’s see if I can make some sense out of the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood’s selling of “fetal tissue,” or, as some call it, the selling of “baby parts.” They’re the same! Doesn’t seem that difficult to me.

If you aren’t so entrenched in the dogma that mandates beliefs and outcomes, dogma rooted in predictable views that each side preaches and expects their comrades to follow lock-step all the way over a cliff, then it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to figure this out as well.

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1062px-Constitution_signaturesA Woman’s Right
It should be clear that every woman has the “unalienable right” to control her own body. For that matter, every person has an unalienable right to control their own body. It is important to note that the right to control your own body has nothing to do with the Constitution, so don’t get into arguing the constitutionality of your rights or further into the weeds about case law. Such arguments are artificial. They’re straw-men.

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Discussing your constitutional rights as applied to you controlling your body is merely a ploy to allow judges and attorneys to make money by arguing over things about which they have no business. It also allows politicians and media to constantly agitate the issue. Remember, it’s not in the economic or political interests of politicians or media to solve the problem of abortion or to come to any rational conclusions about it.

Understanding Our Rights
Let’s reacquaint ourselves with the origin of our “unalienable rights” and what these rights have to do with the origins of the Bill of Rights and, in today’s incessant vernacular, the origin of our “Constitutional rights.” I’ve previously defined and discussed these rights in my post “I Wish Liberals Would Act Like Liberals“:

  • A real liberal is one who believes in a liberal democracy and is cognizant of this fact: our unalienable rights are not given to us by our Constitution or by our courts.
  • A real liberal is one who believes in the individual’s rights over the power of the State,never allowing the State to infringe on or abridge our unalienable rights; irrespective of any governmental or court interpretation of our constitutional rights.
  • A real liberal is one who is vigilant in barring our government from regressing into barbaric authoritarian forms from the past; authoritarian forms which control the individual and dictate individual and institutional behaviors.
  • A real liberal is one who defends those unalienable rights that allow for the evolution of civilization.

Where the rub comes in, where the Constitution becomes relevant to the discussion, is when a person who is controlling their own body infringes on the ability of another human being to control their own body. And, in the cases of minorities or those unable to protect themselves from the infringements of others, such protections are guaranteed by our Constitution. At a certain gestation point, this is the case for fetuses, for the unborn.

abortion_debateThe Conundrum for Women
We know from debating the abortion issue for the past 40 years that it is about a “woman’s right to choose” — that is, to control her own body, which may include having sex or not, using birth control or not, having a baby or not and having an abortion or not. It is not about a “woman’s right to terminate another life.” We just have to figure out what life means in the “life” context.

As an aside, if you believe that it is a woman’s right to terminate another life, then it is possible you don’t understand the consequences that declaration. Let’s think that through, too.

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At some point, we, as a society, have to agree on what life is and when it begins. Hopefully we can do that, to a certain extent, within this column.

louise_brownConnecting Abortion to Science: The “Test Tube Baby”
I’m sure some women who may not care if they terminate a pregnancy in its seventh or eighth month. For most people, however, such a decision is grueling, if not unfathomable. This is a real challenge for women. Men have to deal with it, of course, but clearly not in the same way. There are few less desirable positions to be placed on human beings.

It’s also important to remember how the ethics of abortion — and the science — evolved in the last few decades, and how it complicates this very personal decision-making process.

In 1953, there was a “transient biochemical pregnancy” on a frog. It was the beginning of what we call in-vitro fertilization, in which mature eggs are collected from a female’s ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. By 1959, it was proven — with a rabbit — that a fertilized egg could be transferred to a uterus and could then result in a birth.

In 1960, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first oral contraceptive. In 1965, the Supreme Court ruled that married couples could legally use birth control under a Constitutional right to privacy. In 1973, the first human pregnancy was achieved through a biochemical process; it only lasted a few days. That same year, an attempt to perform an in-vitro fertilization would have taken place had the chairman of a university department not intervened at the last moment. Thus, the ethical controversy over science and the sanctity of human life grew new dimensions.

It was also during this moment in science — literally, when our definition of human civilization was being reshaped — that the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that a woman had a Constitutional right to abort a pregnancy. As Justice Blackmun wrote:

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…We forthwith acknowledge our awareness of the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy, of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires. One’s philosophy, one’s experiences, one’s exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one’s religious training, one’s attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one’s thinking and conclusions about abortion….

In 1977, the world’s first “Test Tube Baby” — Louise Brown — was conceived through in-vitro fertilization and born on July 25, 1978.

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Growing Human Tissue…Growing Humans
By 2000, scientists who previously couldn’t get their work published in the field of tissue engineering were pioneering the process of growing human tissues in a lab. And in 2015, researchers worldwide are pursuing the day when replacement tissues and organs will be readily available (custom-made, if you will). The first “neo-organ” tissue exists right now: engineered skin.

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Soon, there will be lab-grown cartilage, bone, blood vessels, cardiac valves, muscle tissue, and custom-made hearts, livers, breasts, corneas, kidneys, bone marrow and bladders. Ultimately, the growing of entire humans outside the human body will occur once access to nutrients and waste removal are all figured out. It is also expected that as an extension of the current use of surrogate mothering, unwanted pregnancies won’t have to be terminated through abortion only, but by removing a fetus from a donor uterus and placed into a recipient uterus, thus saving that fetus — that unwanted baby. I call it an “unwanted baby” because I believe a woman never decides to terminate a pregnancy just because they don’t want to be burdened with raising a fetus. It is about not wanting to raise a baby.

And it is at this point that a “woman’s right to choose” the life of a fetus seems no longer germane to the discussion. For once an egg is fertilized outside a human body, once it can become a viable life gestating either in another human body or outside a human body, the option of a woman (or a man) independently or unilaterally making the decision or “choice” to terminate that life becomes not so simple. Roe v. Wade — the protected right of a woman to “choose an abortion” — still applies. That is to say: a woman will still be able to have an abortion. The question is whether it will by destroying the fetal tissue that becomes a baby. One of the lingering issues of this scenario, therefore, is this: What about those doing research with fetal tissue?

Don't walk away, René.
Don’t walk away, Rene.

What’s Descartes Got To Do With It?
In an earlier column, and in a book I wrote a number of years ago, I noted that Unalienable Rights are ours by the sheer fact that we are human, that we exist. That simple concept so brilliantly dictated by Rene Descartes — I think, therefore, I am — helped our Founding Fathers articulate their philosophy, resulting in those Unalienable Rights, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights. Possessing self-awareness, the ability to think, grants to us those Unalienable rights as a species. I mention this because some believe that those without self-awareness are not endowed with Unalienable rights; which is the case with our assessment of most other life forms on Earth.

Because of Descartes and other philosophers, Western societies extend, without question, this concept of Unalienable rights to all in our species. Without this concept, the value of human life would be worthless and would mimic those cultures that believe in the authoritarian right to dictate behavior, thought and life. Without the extension of these rights to all within the species, those individuals who might exist in a comatose state, or born with half a brain, or happen to be the Kardashians, or vegetative quadriplegics, and all the fetuses of the future would be at risk. The right to the pursuit of life would be in jeopardy for all.

A New World: Human Controlled Evolution of the Human Species
I hope the extreme irony of man’s ability to make and destroy human life isn’t lost on any of us. What we witnessed during the 20th century and continue to witness in the bio- and nano-technology Fourth Wave revolution of the 21st century is the controlled modeling of human civilization, the end of the evolutionary randomness of humanity that has existed as long as hominids have existed. All this through terminating unwanted fetuses and creating wanted babies.

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The thing that bothers me most about the politics surrounding abortion is watching the distorted reasoning of some people and how their bias further distorts public debate in politics and media.

When confronted with the horrors of a church shooting in South Carolina, we, as a civil society, listen to how a group of beautiful Americans, relatives of the slaughtered, forgive the act of a crazed, hateful, racist man. We support their objection to the display of a rebel flag. Influenced by their belief in the beauty and sanctity of life, the foundation of our civilization, we take communal actions to support their wishes: a euphony after decades of back and forth discourse about a flag. How could we have been so hurtful, so stupid for so long?

Likewise: how can we support our country’s foundational views yet not extend those same considerations to those loving Americans who also believe in the beauty and sanctity of life when it comes to destroying the fetal tissue that turns into a human being? Wonderful people have asked us to be sympathetic to their cause, a cause that helps to distinguish our enlightened society from the brutal and archaic ways of others. Will we do so?