The shocking, undercover videos providing evidence of Planned Parenthood’s trade in baby body parts have produced some positive effects, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore and other pro-life leaders said in a Capitol Hill panel discussion.
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), and his fellow pro-lifers addressed the sanctity of human life issue in light of the Planned Parenthood videos during the ERLC’s second Capitol Conversations event Sept. 23 in Washington. The inaugural Capitol Conversations, which was held in July, focused on same-sex marriage and religious liberty.
The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which released in mid-July the first of what are now 10 videos, showed in its undercover investigation Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs from aborted children. The videos, recorded secretly by hidden camera, also featured Planned Parenthood executives acknowledging their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve organs for sale and use. They also offered evidence of the dissection of a living child outside the womb to procure an organ.
The videos have resulted in crystallization of the abortion issue, a “rejuvenated pro-life movement” and an opportunity for pro-lifers to discuss the controversial subject with those who disagree, Moore told the audience of about 110 people.
“I think what the videos have done is to put on the table what we are really talking about when we are talking about the issue of abortion,” he said. “We’re talking about not some amorphous, abstract question. We’re talking about something that harms vulnerable people, vulnerable women, vulnerable children.
Photo by Latisha Willis
ERLC President Russell Moore (second from right) speaks about the Planned Parenthood videos during Capitol Conversations Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C. Also on the panel are (from left): Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life; Rep. Diane Black, R.-Tenn.; Mollie Hemingway, senior editor of The Federalist; Casey Mattox, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom; and ERLC Executive Vice President Phillip Bethancourt.
“[E]ven more than ever, the pro-life movement is united and wanting to be actively engaged in these issues and to speak persuasively to people who don’t agree with us right now,” Moore said. Conversations among pro-life and pro-choice advocates are occurring on Facebook and at school bus stops as a result, he said.
Casey Mattox, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said the most encouraging result from the videos is “we have this middle group of people now who are at least open to the possibility that maybe there’s something” they need to know about Planned Parenthood.
“What these videos have done is soften the hearts of America, and people are able to hear that information anew and actually be interested in the truth,” he said.
As a result, the pro-life community has been able to “push out a lot of things that we’ve always known,” Maddox told the audience. Those newly learned truths that will last, he said, include: (1) Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms; and (2) hundreds of federally qualified health centers other than those affiliated with Planned Parenthood exist.
The reaction to the videos has been “really encouraging to me,” said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, “first to see that people have reacted in horror, but also I think it has been a tremendous moment for the pro-life movement,” producing unity and progress.
After more than 40 years of legalized abortion, “there has been a deadening of the American conscience,” she said. “And the only reason that abortion persists in our country is we willfully look away.”
Her longtime concern “has been the prospect of having something as horrific as the sale of human organs,” she said, adding “the only thing worse is the prospect of having Americans continue to look away from it.”
The release of the videos has encouraged Rep. Diane Black, R.-Tenn., as well.
When the videos began coming out, Black – a nurse for four decades – said she thought, “Finally, finally the American people are going to see the deception” foisted on young women for more than 40 years: “‘This is just a blob of tissue. This is not a baby.’ Well you don’t get a heart, a lung, a brain, a liver from a blob of tissue. That’s called a baby.
“This is our opportunity to finally have the American people to see the truth of what’s going on, and we can’t stop here,” Black told attendees. “We’ve got to continue to talk about this.”
Black is sponsor of the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, which the House of Representatives approved Sept. 18. Its chances in the Senate appear dim, and President Barack Obama has promised to veto it.
The Senate fell short in an attempt to approve a similar measure in August, when senators voted 53-46 to bring such a bill to the floor. While a majority of senators favored consideration of the proposal, the attempt to invoke cloture, as it is known, fell short of the 60 votes needed to begin debate on the legislation and establish a path to its passage.
The Defund Planned Parenthood Act would place a one-year moratorium on federal money for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates while Congress investigates the organization.
The Sept. 23 panel discussion took place one week before the end of the federal government’s fiscal year amid questions of whether there might be a government shutdown over funding Planned Parenthood.
“I don’t want to shut down the government. I want to shut down Planned Parenthood,” Black told the audience.
Eliminating Planned Parenthood from a continuing resolution would not be especially effective, Black said. The organization – the country’s leading abortion provider – only receives about 20 percent of its budget from discretionary funds, which is all a continuing resolution covers, she said.
“You’re not really defunding the organization by closing down the government over a continuing resolution,” Black said. Also, shutting down the government enables President Obama to decide what is necessary and what is unnecessary in spending, she said.
“I don’t think that helps our cause,” Black said.
She wants to get her bill to the president’s desk, she said, “because by putting it on the president’s desk, you show this president is in love with Planned Parenthood. He doesn’t care about life. He cares about Planned Parenthood.”
Four congressional committees are investigating Planned Parenthood. Among those is the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which will hear from Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards during a Sept. 29 hearing.
The mainstream news media “do not want to talk” about the Planned Parenthood video, said Mollie Hemingway, senior editor of The Federalist.
The media’s coverage has been marked by “reluctance, self-censorship, extreme delay,” as well as “wholesale adoption of Planned Parenthood’s talking points,” she told the audience. When Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina commented on the videos at the Sept. 16 debate, the media accused her of lying, Hemingway said.
The media see this as a story “that would make them question their own assumptions and their own biases,” she said.
It might require years for people to change their view on the abortion issue, Moore said. Pro-lifers need to provide a picture of what it will look like “to be in a world that is post-abortion,” he said. “What that is going to mean is not simply that we don’t have Planned Parenthood clinics but we have the sort of society that cares for vulnerable women, that cares for vulnerable children.”
Pro-life Christians can demonstrate that through adoption, foster care and welcoming pregnant women into their homes, Moore said. “Love is risky.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)