Culture

Protesting Planned Parenthood

Not everyone signs on to the culture of death

Hell hath no fury like a culture that has been gravely compromised.

That was the message of an otherwise picture-perfect August Saturday morning. People were gathering across the country outside Planned Parenthood clinics. They were protesting, in a grassroots uprising, the dehumanization on display in the ongoing releases of undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress exposing the abortion industry for what it is: a business centered on death. As we watched Planned Parenthood personnel and partners cavalierly ignoring, over wine, any sense that these babies were living human beings, even casually and jokingly discussing personal financial gain, it was impossible to maintain any euphemisms about “women’s health” and “freedom” in the transparency of evil naked before the light.

The videos have been the source of some criticisms, including New York Times accusations of doctoring; but they remain unquestionably alarms prodding our consciences.

On that beautiful August morning, Americans gathered peacefully outside Planned Parenthood clinics to take a stand against the scenes that have played out. It was inspiring to see families and young people participate, as social media lit up with photos and testimony.

And then a scene from Detroit became instantly infamous: a group identifying themselves as Satanists counter-protested in a mocking scene involving imitation priests and nuns and sour milk. It looked like a scene from a horror film, and it was more disturbing than narrative. It also seemed like a look in a mirror, where real, clear politics had been sacrificed for language that suppresses challenge. The mirror, too, seemed to reflect the sacrifice women and men have made in a perversion of liberation and choice.

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I thought I had forgotten about this dark theater until I watched scenes from the forthcoming movie Risen. “Do you want your next post to be in hell?” Pontius Pilate asks a man under his command.

How many, upon confronting the realities of our current abortion culture, wonder if that is exactly where we’re posted — because, whether the video from Detroit was antics or sacrilege, it was, in fact, hellish. This, too, is the case with the videos of Planned Parenthood officials at work: They forced an encounter with just how dark a business is legal and thriving and celebrated in a country that talks a good game, at least once a year, about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and about common values that create and protect and renew, not destroy and bind.

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“When life is devalued, there is no limit to the ways,” Vicki Thorn, the founder of Project Rachel, recently told me, reflecting on the Planned Parenthood videos.

Project Rachel is about the work of freedom. It is a ministry to those who seek healing after an abortion.

Project Rachel is about the work of freedom. It is a ministry to those who seek healing after an abortion. Heavy on Thorn’s heart are the women and men who have been customers and victims of the abortion industry, who are experiencing tremendous pain as these videos shine a light on doors we’ve largely kept closed in a constant campaign to insist that some great good is being served by a “necessary” evil.

Though we rarely engage with the e-word, lest the slip show.

And while it is quite well known that the Catholic Church does, indeed, use the e-word, less widely known are the arms of mercy it extends. The late — now celebrated as a saint — Pope John Paul II united many ecumenically under his focus on the Gospel’s mandate to protect life, enveloped in a civilization of love.

JP II also specifically invited women to be healed. In his letter titled “The Gospel of Life,” he wrote directly:

I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly.

He continued:

If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.

This is the work Thorn does. “The pain of abortion may come up immediately or many years later when something called a ‘trigger’ incident happens,” she observes. “Many times they are caught off guard when the pain comes to the forefront because it was supposed to have solved a problem. Abortion changes its meaning over a lifetime, and what solved a problem at one point may later be the only child conceived.”

#related#She adds: “I believe that any woman who has had an abortion may at some point have to confront the fact and deal with it. Perhaps using the language of regret is the problem. Many would say they couldn’t see a way out — but now, there is new awareness. Perhaps grief is not always the same as regret.”

“Abortion is not a moral and philosophical debate. It is a heart issue, and that is why it is so inflamed,” Thorn emphasizes.

How can our hearts do anything but break as jarring headlines force us to confront the ideological brutality we insist is women’s empowerment and even health? Ministries like Project Rachel are motherly love at a time when hellfire is devouring hearts and souls.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review Online. She is co-author of the new revised and updated edition of How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice. This column is based on one available exclusively through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.

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