Fetal Tissue Research and Defunding Planned Parenthood

With the new Trump administration there is a push to defund Planned Parenthood (PP).  This is now a hot issue.  An article in Forbes Magazine by Matthew Herper, dated August 12, 2015, titled The New England Journal of Medicine Fact-Checks the Republican Debate, the journal’s editors attack the pro-life Republican platform and especially the defunding of PP.   The article points out that the NEJM is a noted leftist organization: “its not news that the New England Journal tends to be left-leaning.”  This article and the piece below by Alta Charo are worth reading because they discuss important issues which are easily misunderstood by the general population and need a vigorous debate.

The opinion piece by Alta Charo, titled Fetal Tissue Fallout, makes some important points that need to be discussed and debated.  Charo argues that it is morally wrong to oppose fetal tissue research because, she claims, it does not increase abortions, and it provides massive dividends that save lives. Charo is a lawyer and a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin, according to the Herper article.  I wonder why a lawyer is writing an editorial in a medical journal. Could it be that the best doctors are embarrassed to do it, or perhaps they could not find one to do it? Just asking!

I agree, there is a strong argument to be made for fetal tissue research, however, the killing of an innocent human being is never moral under any circumstances.  This is a first order issue.  What is legal is not always moral; abortion is one such example. My argument is not against fetal tissue research, it’s against the killing of an innocent human being.  Fetal tissue research is not a hot button issue with the pro-life cause; I don’t know anyone who opposes it.  Has any Republican made any statement against fetal tissue research?  I’ve never heard one yet.  What we oppose is the killing of an innocent human life, not fetal tissue research.  Let’s look at it this way.  Let’s say I’m a scientist and you have a condition that may lead me to discover a cure for a certain disease, but in order for me to get what I must have for my research, I need to kill you first and then rummage through your cadaver for my research.  Would this be acceptable? Let’s further say that I find a cure for a certain condition, would this, then, lead us to conclude we can kill living human beings in order to find cures?  When we treat human life as disposable, we lose any sense of human dignity; we’re no different from animals.

Another question is whether fetal tissue can only be obtained from aborted babies. How many fetuses die in birth, or soon thereafter or from accidents.  How about still-born babies?  In the United States there are 25,000 babies  still-born per year; nearly 68 per day.  Are aborted babies the only way to get fetal tissue? Charo’s argument fails completely. As for using aborted babies for fetal tissue research, I agree there is an argument to be made, but I will leave this specific issue for another time.  Let ‘s continue with some of her other claims:

Charo argues that fetal research is not only a right but a duty.  The article blasts those who oppose fetal tissue research.  “Morality and conscience have been cited to justify not only health care professionals’ refusal to provide certain legal medical services to their patients but even obstruction of others’ fulfillment of that duty.  She does not say it, but I assume from her tone here that she puts all abortion opponents in the same basket as opponents of fetal tissue research.  Charo makes the claim that fetal research “will in no way actually affect the number of fetuses that are aborted or brought to term.”  She provides no proof or back-up for this claim.  How does she know this?  A claim such as this violates the Universal Principle of Reason. According to this principle, anything arbitrarily asserted without evidence can be arbitrarily denied without evidence.* In addition, what difference does it make whether it affects the number of abortions or not? So what? This does not support her argument.

Charo’s article blasts the researcher who exposed the sale of fetal body parts from aborted babies by PP.  She makes this statement: “The current uproar was invited when an antiabortion activist, posing as a biomedical research company representative, captured on video – which he then edited in the most misleading way possible – discussions by Planned Parenthood physicians.”  Here we go again.  How does Charo justify making this statement?  Another arbitrary  asserted claim. How does editing the video affect the content or make it misleading?  She provides no examples.  Were the people on the video fed what they said as in a movie script? There was probably dozens of hours of video, of course it had to be edited.  How does the editing change what we see PP executives saying?  Here is one of these videos, how does editing change what you see and hear in it?  A claim arbitrarily made and arbitrarily deniable.

I could not get past page one without encountering so many subjective allegations without any evidence. The bottom paragraph of page one says this: “Planned Parenthood services – more than 95% of which involve such things as contraception and screening for sexually transmitted diseases, rather than abortion.”  This is a very misleading statistic.  How did they calculate it?  When I took statistics in college the instructor had a saying, “statistics don’t lie but liars can figure.”  Here are some facts: Planned Parenthood does 30% of the nation’s abortions – over 320,000 per year.  They receive over $500 million in tax payer funds from the government each year.  Planned Parenthood claims that only 3% of their services are for abortions. Click here for an article debunking this.  In addition, the Washington Post, no conservative newspaper, added another piece debunking this 3% myth.  Click here for the article.

*Ten Universal Principles; A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues, Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D, Ignatius Press, 2011, pp 7&16: