What’s Women’s Health, Anyway?
Looking behind the Planned Parenthood curtain

Karen Handel


HANDEL: Representative Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) has filed a similar bill as well. The legislation, if it passes in the House, would almost certainly stall in the Senate. It’s important to deal in facts rather than rhetoric. That’s where a congressional review makes sense. If Congress can convene a panel to debate the merits of “free” contraception, why not one about an entity that receives nearly $1.5 million a day in government funding? Planned Parenthood says there is no pattern of misuse of funds or other illegal activities, a statement that rings hollow in the face of a video showing Planned Parenthood’s possible involvement in sex trafficking and sex-selective abortions, the death of a young woman following an abortion in a Chicago clinic, and the charter of a Planned Parenthood chapter being revoked for Medicaid overbilling. But, hey, if Planned Parenthood is telling the truth, and there are no issues, and government funding in no way subsidizes its political activities or abortions, why not let the light shine in? Prove us wrong.


LOPEZ: Is there a danger that pro-lifers look like we are bullying Planned Parenthood when we seem to talk so much about it?

HANDEL: Someone has to talk about it because mainstream media cover virtually nothing negative involving Planned Parenthood. Even worse, as was the case with the Komen situation, the bias is sometimes so blatant that the mainstream press might as well be reading Planned Parenthood’s talking points. Abortion-rights proponents have been successful in defining the issues as women’s health and free contraception. The real issue is whether or not any individual has the “right” to end the life of a life. If the pro-life community could refocus the debate on this and discuss it in the right tone, we would make immeasurable progress. The Left and the media know this — that’s why they continue to push the health con. And PP has figured out that “choice” is a losing message.

LOPEZ: What can we do, practically speaking, to improve women’s health in a way that makes abortion unthinkable? Is that what the pro-life goal should be?

HANDEL: A culture in which abortion is unthinkable is the overall goal. Some argue cultural shifts can only be achieved through rules and regulations. Yes, these help, but we need to inspire people to choose life. Fostering a truly pro-life culture isn’t going to happen overnight. Margaret Thatcher used to refer to “relentless incrementalism.” I think that’s where we are. With the reelection of President Obama, a clear setback to the pro-life effort, this needs to be a time of evaluation — thinking through where we go from here and how. Not unlike what the Republican party overall has to do.

LOPEZ: How do we possibly communicate that in a culture where Komen got slapped down?

HANDEL: We communicate by being honest and genuine, reaching out to connect with Americans — not judging those with whom we disagree. We have to create the opportunity for people to change their minds about abortion; an opportunity for people to embrace life. And we need to talk about the issue differently, more compassionately, and be sure we put the right people forward to do the talking. Let me give you an example. Recently I met a young man in his late 20s or early 30s who told me he had been ardently pro-choice. A few months before, he had changed his mind. I asked him why. He said because he heard the heartbeat of his first baby and knew he had been wrong. That’s powerful. That’s our message. That’s our messenger.

We also have to stop the infighting over who is pro-life enough. It seems  unproductive to me to alienate those with whom we agree on 99 percent of the pro-life issues. By ridiculing those who disagree and berating even our own, we allow others to portray us as radical, ruthless, and uncaring. That’s not the way to persuade hearts and minds. That’s not who we are. We carry a most inspiring and hopeful message — one of life — and we need to act like it. The pro-abortion side counts on us to be so focused on fighting each other and alienating potential allies that we’re too weak in messages and numbers to fight them.

LOPEZ: What is on your mind the most as we mark the 40th anniversary of
Roe this month?

HANDEL: A prayer for the millions of babies aborted in the past 40 years and for their mothers, many of whom in their quiet moment of remembrance weep for their loss. And, as disappointing as it was to see our country reelect the most pro-abortion president ever, we have a tremendous opportunity in front of us. Setbacks and defeats have a way of yielding new strength, new leaders, and bolder, smarter action.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.