The Atlantic published an article titled “Sex Ed Without the Sex” this past week by writer Olga Khazen. In that article, Khazen traced current sexual education practices in the city of Odessa, Texas. Odessa represents the widely used ideology of current sex ed courses throughout the United States, which is laden with conservative, Phyllis Schlafly-esque teachings. At this time, only 13 states require sex ed lessons to include medically accurate facts, while less than half actually require sex ed to be taught in school.
On Friday, November 27th, a man named Robert Lewis Dear Jr. entered a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with a semiautomatic rifle. He killed three people: a police officer and two civilians. After hours of a violent standoff with the police, Dear was eventually brought into custody. Though mass shootings have garnered much public discussion recently (after news surfaced that we have had more than one mass shooting per day in 2015), the Planned Parenthood shooting has received a particularly high amount of media attention.
There are several ethical components brought forth by the shooting. Two notable ones are: 1) Should society blame violence on an atmosphere of verbal hostility? 2) Should society view Planned Parenthood as the face of abortion?
Many have argued, like Washington Post Columnist Ruth Marcus, that, “Republicans deserve some blame for the Planned Parenthood shooting.” Marcus argues that, “words- extreme language and overheated representations- have consequences” and that the heated rhetoric that she argues come from some pro-life Republicans inspired Robert Dear’s attack on Planned Parenthood. Father Frank Pravone, the national director of Priests for Life, rejected this accusation in his Op-Ed for Fox News that the pro-life movement would support any violent action. He argues that though the pro-life community consistently condemns all attacks at abortion facilities, they still receive most of the blame. He also rejects the accusation that describing abortion as “child killing” is creating a climate of violence. It is his belief that abortion is murder and to change his language would be abandoning his lifelong attempt to protect unborn babies.
This argument over language leads to the next question. Is the focus on Planned Parenthood as the face of the abortion issue legitimate? Both pro-choice and pro-life advocates seem to have an interest in deflating and inflating, respectively, the importance of Planned Parenthood in regards to abortion services. For example, Planned Parenthood reports that only 3% of their services provided are abortions and have been widely criticized for distorting their numbers to arrive at this number. Similarly, some pro-life advocates responded with a claim that 94% of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services are abortions, a claim that is similarly criticized. However, a third party fact checker, Politifact, says the most accurate statistic is that an estimated 12% of Planned Parenthood customers receive abortion. Do these examples of inflating/deflating Planned Parenthood’s abortion services show that we have a tendency to alter the truth to benefit a specific political agenda?
Can language incite violence? If it does, is it ethical to place limitations on language? How do we address our tendency as people to distort facts in order to benefit politically?
Last Friday, the House of Representatives, largely led by Republicans, passed a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood. This means that Planned Parenthood would no longer be able to receive funding from the government. Though the bill is expected to die in the Senate, house Republicans are considering forcing a government shutdown over the issue.
Long marked by intense and polarizing opinions, the abortion debate has found its latest controversy. The topic in focus? Fetal tissue donation, in which researchers pay abortion providers for tissue samples from aborted fetuses. Two videos, both published by the Center for Medical Progress, an organization backed by pro-life group Live Action, have brought the issue to the forefront of public debate. In the first widely-circulated video, a Planned Parenthood employee discusses prices for fetal tissue samples, in addition to describing the abortion procedure in explicit detail. A second video, also depicting a conversation about buying fetal tissues for research, shows one Planned Parenthood employee joking that she wanted “a Lamborghini” as compensation.