Recently, Planned Parenthood, the largest pro-choice organization in America, has been accused of illegally selling fetal tissue. By releasing a string of secretly filmed undercover videos, The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) claims to have proof of Planned Parenthood’s illicit sale of fetal tissue for profit.
These videos have sparked outrage from many pro-life Americans, including a number of activists within the church who have called for a government shutdown of the federally funded organization. Revamping the controversy surrounding both stem-cell research and abortion in general, Congress continues to battle over a proper response to the allegations by the CMP. While the Republican Party has pushed towards defunding Planned Parenthood, there is still hesitation by others who are concerned with the reliability of the evidence, as well as the need for the women’s health services Planned Parenthood provides.
According to their mission statement, the CMP as an organization is “dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances,” with the goal of advocating for human dignity within the realm of the medical field. The released videos, which address highly controversial issues and present possibly damning evidence against Planned Parenthood, have American Christians and non-Christians alike alike searching for moral answers.
Many Christians have made their sentiments toward the abortion issue clear. In his article “A Gospel Problem: Thoughts on the Planned Parenthood Scandal,” Reformed theologian Fred Zaspel says, “There is no more hiding the barbarism of abortion,” and he projects Planned Parenthood as the “outstanding leader … of the abortion industry.”
However, other Christians have struggled with a holistic approach to the controversy, condemning the scandal while continuing to acknowledge and remember the successes of this organization beyond the current despondency.
In light of the recent claims against Planned Parenthood, Ron Hamel, former ethicist for the Catholic Health Association, stated that “no guidelines or codes can suffice for any use of fetuses killed in an elective abortion. The Church would see that what Planned Parenthood is doing is a double indignity to human life. There is both a willing destruction of a life and the sale of the fetal tissue.”
This issue has also touched the religious community within Grand Rapids. After the release of the Cardinal Newman Society report on the controversy, Aquinas College, along with six other Catholic colleges, removed website links that indicated connections between the colleges and Planned Parenthood. The Newman Society’s report highlighted 63 working connections between 27 Catholic colleges and Planned Parenthood since May 2011. The identified links provide Planned Parenthood as a health and education resource within the school for students, encouraging volunteer staff, delegating Planned Parenthood representatives to campus, and also work to help host organization events. These colleges were urged by the report to dissolve any relationship with Planned Parenthood, and since then 15 of the 63 identified links have been changed.
Planned Parenthood has continued to deny the allegations by the CMP that they are involved in any illicit activity with the handling of fetal tissue. Taking on the complexity of the controversy, Laurie Zoloth, former president of the American Academy of Religion and current ethicist, acknowledges the moral challenge paired with the horror and insensitivity seen in the CMP’s released videos:
“They need to start with an apology,” Zoloth said. However, Zoloth admitted to the essential contributions by Planned Parenthood to American sexual health, pointing out that the organization is not solely an abortion services provider. The organization operates 59 locally governed centers across the nation, manages roughly 700 health centers in all 50 states and reaches approximately 1.5 million youth and adults annually. Planned Parenthood provides services from cancer screenings to STD informational sessions.
The group also claims to advocate for the improvement of “the sexual and reproductive health and well-being of individuals and families globally.” Committed to being a leader in the reproductive health and rights movement, Planned Parenthood “allows individuals to avoid unintended pregnancies through access to affordable contraception and protect[s] the health of young people by providing them with comprehensive sex education.”