Two days ago, the U.S. Senate saw roughly an even split along party lines regarding the continuation of Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. Two Democratic senators voted to continue with defunding, while one Republican voted against defunding, and Senator Lindsey Graham — whose after-the-fact claims of continued support for the defunding should be disregarded lest he provide a better excuse for his absence, considering the committed attendance of his Republican presidential-competitors (Rubio, Cruz, and Paul) — was the only senator to not vote. Every other senator voted along their party line, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. It could be very easy for conservatives to look at the voting roll and grumble about Democrats not voting their conscience, but rather voting spinelessly with their party. However, what we need to realize is that, for the most part, Republicans voted along party lines as well. We have no real view into which senators were voting with their consciences handy. The split between the expected camps was much too clean for that to be true. This is because the voting topic was the wrong one and much too simple.
Let’s do a thought experiment. Why do you think it is that news coverage, if it has been about the topic of Planned Parenthood at all, stopped being about the content of the videos that started the controversy even before the third video was released, and the discussion of defunding has taken the forefront, instead, in the majority of major news outlets? It’s because the defunding argument is easy to cover. It’s so easy that both parties knew how the vote would end before taking it.
But, why? Because Republicans have chosen a proposition that is nearly as short-sighted as Democratic supporters make it out to be. Democrats and supporters of P.P. have no problem with the “Defund Planned Parenthood” argument, since they are capable of showing how many other things they provide in the name of “women’s reproductive health” and they are secure in their belief that such a move to defund will never be made. They are so comfortable, actually, that they are publicly attacking their opposition as women-haters who don’t care at all for women’s reproductive health. They are playing the victim while simultaneously constructing a falsely dichotomous image of a conservative dragon that looms threateningly at the edge of town, where common folk clutch in fear at their freedoms of sexual expression. With such a set-up, it’s easy for Cecile Richards to step in with a prop sword and declare, “the fight tonight will actually be about denying women access to birth control, cancer screenings, testing, and treatment for many women”, before pledging with a closed fist to her breast, “And we will never let that happen.” And, here’s the kicker, they’re getting away with it.
The Republican party continues to bullishly press for the all-together defunding of PP, without yet offering an alternative for the testing and help that Cecile Richards is correct in warning would also be defunded. PP does not mind addressing this issue on national television because it provides a position of victimhood and a big bad dragon suit that Republicans continue to bungle their way further and further into wearing without addressing the fallacious nature of PP’s “you must support what we do or else you’re a women-hater” argument. Republican senators and congress members, together, could instead propose the defunding of Planned Parenthood’s abortive services, while still supporting the helpful tests that PP claims to perform as well. Better yet, they could organize an alternative agency that supplied these things and actually provided an alternative. And yet, they continue in wanting to set the whole thing on fire and fill the dragon suit out to its strategically crafted proportions, down to the tip of its rubbery tail.
I started this post with the voting stats of the recent Senate vote over this decision because I think that it shows how ineffective the proposal is and the reason it was proposed at all. Many Republican senators may have voted with their conscience, but we cannot know that for sure. What we can know is that the usual Republican position is pro-life because their constituents are usually pro-life. They may have proposed to “defund Planned Parenthood” out of personal conviction, but it is just as possible that the proposal to torch it all is merely an echo of their constituents’ hair trigger outcry. They could simply be proposing something that will leave no unsurity about their devotion to the expected Republican position — playing the part, as it were. This makes an easy, polarizing, talking point that has already drawn sides. But this issue deserves to be more than a mere talking point.
There are other places, weaker places, in the armor of the opposition that would hurt and sincerely set them upon their heels. Notice, instead, how the opposition has left the discussion of the videos’ contents nearly untouched. Attacking a stupidly willing caricature is an easy thing to do. It is difficult to defend, however, and therefore remains unaddressed, the fact that assorted parts of various “specimens” are laughingly addressed as being “all mixed up together in a bag” (9:42) before that mixture, which contains the pieces of “a twin” (10:50), is pulled from a freezer and poured into what looks remarkably like the type of glass, glassware cooking-dish that I use to bake chicken and cook casseroles (11:34).
No one wants to touch that because it makes everyone uncomfortable. We have been trying a roundabout tactic of getting rid of an abortion provider by declaring that they are unlawfully selling the excesses of their business, and the opposition is okay with that because it’s a lot easier than defending against the overwhelming evidence of the nature of abortion, of which video evidence we have not yet seen the end of, and of which the opposition can only argue weak semantics as they always have.
I will say it yet again, that I do not know whether Republican legislators are making their proposal out of personal conviction or personal interest veiled thinly as being representative of our interests. But regardless of which is true, it may be that they do not recognize the PR strength of a morally accommodating view. Perhaps they do not see the useful and laughable dissonance created when opposing arguments claim that “outlawing abortion…WILL NOT stop women from getting rid of unwanted pregnancies — they will simply go back to having these done illegally,” and then turn around and declare that tighter (and tighter) gun control will eliminate the illegal sale of firearms and safeguard the wellbeing of individuals everywhere. Perhaps they do not see the opportunity to ask difficulty-inspiring questions like whether the Gosnell case might have gone differently if, instead of finding a discarded baby arm in the sink, the arm in question had been found in a properly designated glassware
cooking dish. Maybe they fail to see the relevance of questions like, “would it have been okay for those aborted babies to have been used to heat English hospitals if donor consent had been received first?” Most importantly: “if so, at what point should we cease to feel comfortable and draw a line?”
If any of you reading this have written/emailed/called your representative regarding this issue, perhaps a second go at it would be more beneficial if you pointed these things out to them, providing “talking points” that resonate more specifically with the outrage of their constituents. Maybe more progress could be made when congress reconvenes in the future if the question was focused anew on the issue of abortion, which is clearly a tougher position to defend, instead of running the play the other team wants to be run, at which they clearly aren’t batting an eye.