Refashioning the meaning of words to fit political purposes is in vogue.
This is perhaps nowhere more apparent than when proponents of “the right to choose” insist that “women’s autonomy” is protected by the “constitutional right to privacy” because of the “intimate nature of personal health-care decisions.”
They are speaking, inevitably, about abortion. But they rarely, if ever, can bring themselves to say the word. That’s why Leana Wen — the new president of Planned Parenthood, with her singularly unconvincing veneer of naiveté — has taken the helm and launched the institution’s “new vision,” summed up by the slogan “This Is Health Care.”
But it isn’t, of course. You know that, and I know that, and Wen knows that. And that’s why she has to lie.
No one, after all, wishes to be a loud public champion for the right to end the life of an unborn human being, which is, indisputably, what abortion does. That’s an easy right to take issue with. It is much more difficult to explain why the government should be able to interfere with women’s private medical decisions or, better yet, stand between them and the health care they need.
With this formula, Planned Parenthood has found a political winner. “Health care” provides a very useful front for the hundreds of thousands of abortions that the organization performs each year — 321,384, as of the group’s last annual accounting. And that’s why Wen, taking the reins from Cecile Richards, who led the group for more than a decade, is soldiering on with the former chief’s sanitized vision.
This is health care. Hand over our half a billion dollars and move right along. Nothing to see here.
Millions of women rely on Planned Parenthood for routine services, these smiling executives insist in every interview, never forced to confront the reality that federally qualified clinics across the country outnumber their own facilities 20 to 1. If they must speak the word “abortion,” they assure us that this faceless procedure is only 3 percent of the group’s work. And, after all, why shouldn’t it be available? It’s only health care.
But even in our Orwellian age of reupholstering language for the sake of preserving the privilege of tossing away the unwanted unborn, we all know that health care doesn’t kill. Sometimes technology fails us, and very often the sick die, in spite of the best efforts of doctors and progress. As any doctor will tell you, true medicine never aims to end a life.
This is health care, they say. But health care for whom?
A recent ThinkProgress interview with Wen informed readers that Planned Parenthood’s new strategy is “deceptively simple.” For perhaps the first time, ThinkProgress hits the nail on the head. Wen and her whitewashing warriors have rebranded killing as health care because no one — not even these zealous defenders of reproductive rights — wants to openly cheer for death. But what kind of monster, they wonder, wouldn’t want women to have access to health care?
So now abortion is health care, and Planned Parenthood’s social-media gurus hammer home the message with frequent tweets repeating the refrain, as if by sheer incantation we may be brainwashed into agreeing.
It’s a canny strategy, and so far, it seems to be working. The trouble for Planned Parenthood is that reality isn’t on their side, and science can be kept at bay for only so long. Human beings have long debated the morality of early abortions and litigated the difference between late-term abortion and infanticide. Reasonable people can disagree over the ethics at stake in the competing rights of maternal bodily autonomy and the filial right to life. Only a person with a deadened conscience can truly believe that the abortion debate is a matter of health care.
Setting a broken bone is health care. Prescribing allergy medication is health care. Performing open-heart surgery is health care. Lethally injecting a living, entirely unique human being and suctioning it from its mother’s womb piece by piece is not health care. To say otherwise is total delusion or utmost evil.
There’s a reason why defenders of abortion rights refuse to define their terms. If they call abortion what it is, they will lose. Many people will speak up for women’s autonomy. Many more will defend the right to access health care. No one wants to justify killing unborn human beings.
Not even Planned Parenthood will do that.