Late last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rose to the defense of the embattled Planned Parenthood organization, which is currently caught up in a fetal tissue and organ harvesting scandal following an undercover investigation by the Center for Medical Progress.
In a letter addressed to Senators Joni Ernst and Roy Blunt, HHS insisted that they know of no breach of the law in the actions taken by Planned Parenthood in its selling of fetal remains. In the letter, Jim Esquea, the HHS’s assistant secretary for legislation, wrote, “We have confirmed that HHS researchers working with fetal tissue obtained the tissue from non-profit organizations that provided assurances to us that they are in compliance with all applicable legal requirements.” Additionally, Mr. Esquea went on to assert, “The use of fetal tissue in medical research has been an instrumental component of our attempts to understand, treat, and cure a number of conditions and diseases that affect millions of Americans.” The letter continues, “In addition, research using cell lines derived from fetal tissue has also played an essential role in the field of vaccine development.”
An overview of the research conducted using fetal tissue, however, reveals its history of failure and harm to patients. Likewise, modern vaccine development has no need of new fetal tissue.
Despite the insistence by HHS, the actions of Planned Parenthood will still undergo further scrutiny. Both Congress and several states have already pledged to investigate these disturbing happenings. As only this morning another video was released, which details the harvesting of an aborted baby’s brain while his heart was still beating, the promise of investigations into Planned Parenthood can only be good for our society. And while the legality of this issue will likely be hotly debated by legal analysts for months to come, it is also important to consider the societal response to the issue.
One of the reasons the issue of Planned Parenthood’s selling of fetal body parts has been so problematic for the organization is the uproar and the outrage that it has raised amongst the public. Numerous protests have risen up across the country calling Congress to defund Planned Parenthood of taxpayer dollars. Planned Parenthood is not used to that level of backlash and bad publicity – even with the minimal mainstream media attention being given to the horrific condemning videos.
Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, abortion has, unfortunately, become part of the fabric of American society. While it may not be openly addressed all the time, it is one of the pervasive social ills that has afflicted the United States for decades. With approximately 57,762,169 abortions performed in the US since 1973, one would be hard-pressed to find someone whose life has not been affected by it.
The result is that Americans have, in some ways, become coarsened against the reality of abortion. The prevalence of abortion within our society has meant that something we once found abhorrent now barely shocks us. Most of us merely turn our head and simply try to ignore it.
Planned Parenthood has thrived because Americans turn their backs on their deadly practice and ignore what comprises the majority of their “services” to pregnant women. It seems, however, that they were unaware that the emotional armor we have built to protect ourselves from such terrible realities would not protect us when faced with the human person being monetized in such a callous and inhumane manner. Out of this arose the backlash that Planned Parenthood is now attempting to squash.
The danger that exists now is not merely that Planned Parenthood will escape any real justice due to their friends in the media or in the Administration, but that we will allow ourselves to become, once again, immune to their actions. That we will steel ourselves against this inhumanity and decide to ignore it as best we can as long as it stays out of our neighborhoods and out of our field of vision is the real danger.
However difficult it is, in order to prevent the United States from continuing in the footsteps of some of our more “progressive” allies – such as the United Kingdom which was found in 2014 to be using fetal remains to generate heat for hospitals – we must retain a sense of horror towards abortion and use it to prevent this sort of injustice from continuing.
Nora Sullivan is an Associate Scholar for the Charlotte Lozier Institute.