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Responding to Gail Collins



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Sanctity of life issues have gained a great deal of salience in recent months. There are several reasons for this. They include the Live Action videos exposing misconduct among Planned Parenthood employees, the filthy conditions found in Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion mill, and the push by congressional Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood. Most of the interesting discussions about sanctity of life issues have been found on blogs and opinion journals. The mainstream media for the most part has dug in its heels, cranked up its spin machine, and given supporters of abortion rights a prominent platform to air their tired arguments.

A good example of this is Gail Collins’s Wednesday op-ed in the New York Times. Not surprisingly, she begins her column by attacking Sen. John Kyl’s inaccurate statement that Planned Parenthood  “devotes more than 90 percent of its resources to providing abortions.” If Senator Kyl had altered his statement slightly he would have been correct. After all, 98 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services to pregnant women (abortion, adoption, and prenatal care) are abortion. According to Planned Parenthood’s 2009 report, it performed 332,278 abortions, saw, 7,021 prenatal-care clients, and made 977 adoption referrals.

Collins then becomes the latest in what has become an exceptionally long line of pro-choice commentators to scold the pro-life movement for not being more contraceptive friendly. She criticizes congressional Republicans for not mentioning Planned Parenthood’s contraception services during the recent budgetary debates. However, congressional Republicans were simply being shrewd. To make persuasive arguments about defunding Planned Parenthood they had to emphasize aspects of Planned Parenthood that are the most unpopular — specifically, abortions and allegations of employee misconduct.

Collins then spends the rest of her column portraying the effort to defund Planned Parenthood as part of a stealth strategy by pro-lifers to do away with contraception. Her paranoia here is not well founded. Contrary to what much of the mainstream media seems to think, most pro-lifers realize that contraceptives are here to stay. Most of us also respect the rights of others to make contraceptive choices they feel are appropriate.

However, pro-lifers are rightly concerned about plans to have the government fund and distribute contraceptives. We feel that this will only encourage a more sexualized, promiscuous culture which will never support significant restrictions on abortion. Indeed, pro-lifers realize that in order to successfully provide legal protection for the unborn, the culture must become more chaste. And defunding Planned Parenthood is a small, but important step toward this long term goal.

— Michael New is an Assistant Professor at The University of Alabama and a Fellow at the Witherspoon Institute.



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