Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Scenes From The Culture War

I'll break from my blogging hiatus to comment on a few culture-war related news events.

First, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced it is ending its partnership with Planned Parenthood, launching a great deal of outrage.

A couple quick hits first:


  • Given how many people seem to celebrate Planned Parenthood, it is surprising that they would be so dependent on the government and groups like Komen for funding, to the point where one group ending a partnership threatens their ability to provide vital services for poor women, which they claim to be so much about.  One would think that an organization that has amassed such goodwill would be awash in donations.  Yet, it seems Planned Parenthood is always on the edge where if one state withdraws a bit of funding, they will have no choice but to let poor women die of cancer.

    Unless, of course, it's not really about providing vital services to the poor, but in getting as many people as possible to associate themselves with Planned Parenthood, all their services, and ultimately abortion.  I did Race for the Cure, which is good, and they donate to Planned Parenthood, so they must be OK, and Planned Parenthood performs abortions, so maybe abortions aren't so bad.....
  • If people really are only concerned about providing health services to poor women, it seems to me they should be furious at Planned Parenthood for continuing to perform abortions, and putting their ability to do so at the mercy of societal acceptance of something as contentious as abortion.  It would seem that providing cancer screenings, and defending one's funding from the pro-life movement are two separate activities, and organizations would be more effective at concentrating on one than in working on both.
  • For all the talk about how this decision seems sentences poor women to death from cancer, I was thinking I had missed the part of the announcement where Komen said they were going to burn the money they would have donated to charity.  As Rachel Larimore notes, it would have been better if Komen had also announced how they planned to replace the services that had been provided through its partnership with PP.  But I haven't seen anything suggesting that PP was uniquely positioned to provide these services, and that other organizations not entangled in the abortion debate aren't willing and able to step into the gap.  So count me unconvinced that this decision means that more poor women will see an early grave.
One more thing I wanted to address is the puzzlement some people seem to feel about pro-life people's opposition to Planned Parenthood.  I'm not talking about those who don't even try to understand, and just assign them the worst possible motives. (yes, it's surely "cowardice" to take on what Komen's taken on the last couple days). But people who seem to honestly struggle with why those who consider abortion to be the killing of innocent human life would have anything but warm feelings for the largest provider of abortions.

And insofar as access to contraception and other family-planning services reduces the demand for abortion, Planned Parenthood also prevents abortion. In my view, it is an important part of civil society. Even from a pro-life position, I would think it qualifies: being pro-life is a coherent moral position, and not one that necessarily implies a lack of concern for women's health. So I really don't understand why Planned Parenthood gets so much grief from the right. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that I understand what the complaints are, but I'm not really convinced.

I think non pro-life people think that pro-life people regard abortion as something akin to unemployment or population.  Something that's bad, but probably a secondary symptom of other societal ills, and it would be better to address those than to attack this symptom directly.  A high level of unemployment is bad, but that doesn't mean it is morally to fire someone.  If a company fires 5 people but hires 10 others, that is on net a good thing.

Pro-life people (or at least people who are pro-life like I am) see abortion as something more akin to slavery, or Jim Crow segregation.  I'm not saying that's the most useful way to describe it  when making arguments to others who are unconvinced, but is how we feel about in our bones.  So supporting an the organization that is the leading provider of abortions, consistently lobbies against abortion restrictions, but engages in other activities that may on net reduce the number of abortions would be as absurd to a pro-lifer as an anti-segregationist supporting a business a whites-only business that patronized a black-owned suppliers.  Perhaps, on net, its actions were beneficial to blacks, but it was publicly and prominently on the wrong side on a fundamental issue of justice.

For more on why this pro-lifer does't instantly give three cheers to all organizations and programs claiming to reduce the number of abortions, see here.

Finally, it's interesting to compare the reaction to a private organization deciding not to partner with an organization that is the leading practitioner of something a significant minority of the population considers the killing of innocent children, to the reaction of the government ordering the Catholic Church to provide coverage for something it considers immoral.
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