Planned Parenthood’s worldwide contempt for the law

By Rebecca Oas, Ph.D. | August 13, 2015

While Planned Parenthood’s United States affiliate is facing public outrage for selling aborted baby parts for medical research (the Center for Medical Progress released its latest video yesterday), the scandal has been US-focused, due to ongoing questions of what country- and state-level laws may have been violated, and what new legislative safeguards may need to be introduced.

But Planned Parenthood is an international behemoth, and while there is hopeful speculation that the criticism of its broader global operations may be forthcoming, it will require both sustained citizen effort and cooperative government representatives.

Writing earlier this week at the Huffington Post, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Director-General Tewodros Melesse delivers a message that – unlike recent communications from his US-based colleagues – makes no effort to downplay abortion as a vanishingly-small percentage of what his organization does.

To quote Mr. Melesse’s article, “Abortion: It Should Be Your Decision After All”:

“Globally, approximately 85 million women each year will experience an unintended pregnancy.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, that amounts to about 40% of all pregnancies. As I’ve discussed before, the definition for “unintended” is a linguistic Möbius strip: “Unintended pregnancies consist of unplanned births, induced abortions, and miscarriages resulting from unintended pregnancies.” But clearly, what Guttmacher views as an “unintended pregnancy” is far from an unusual occurrence.

“…If those who do not want to continue with a pregnancy are denied their right to an abortion through safe and legal means, they will seek an unsafe abortion.”

Consider the implications of that: Melesse assumes that the law has no deterrent capabilities whatsoever. No attempt to argue the hard cases here, a mere “want” is apparently sufficient to drive one to inexorable lawbreaking. He also alludes to a “right to an abortion” superceding national law, despite the fact that no international right to abortion exists.

“Almost every death and injury as a result of unsafe abortion is preventable through the provision of safe abortion services. That’s why IPPF Member Associations work every day to provide women with safe abortion services when and where the law permits it, and they fight tirelessly to amend laws and policies to enable greater access to safe abortion services.”

When you accept that women faced with crisis pregnancies are incapable of choosing life, and that the law has no ability to encourage that choice, the only thing that remains, according to Melesse, is to provide abortions and “fight tirelessly” to ensure that nothing – not the law, not health workers’ consciences, not moral principles – gets in the way of its provision.

But sometimes changing the law isn’t easy.

“However, until such changes can be achieved, in settings where abortion is highly restricted IPPF is pioneering an innovative evidence-based approach to reducing mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortion.”

It’s tragic that women die from complications of botched abortions, and there are definitely steps that can be taken to prevent this, starting with addressing the circumstances that drive them to seek abortion at all, whether legal or not. But does Melesse really believe that women seeking abortion could be convinced that there’s hope for both themselves and their babies?

We also know that where good quality health care is available, including emergency obstetric care, deaths from botched abortions can be prevented, just as deaths from childbirth complications can be prevented. Is this the kind of evidence that IPPF is looking to put into practice in resource-poor areas?

“The ‘harm reduction model’ is grounded in the idea that even in these settings, women who want to end their pregnancy have the right to accurate and comprehensive information about their options, so that they can make a fully informed choice.

Under these circumstances, health professionals have a clear responsibility to reduce the risks and harms associated with unsafe abortion by providing information, counseling and post-abortion care.”

This sounds relatively benign, if what he means is that in a context where abortion is illegal, women are offered a full range of crisis pregnancy counseling and assistance, including the opportunity to freely choose whether to parent the child or place him or her for adoption.  But where is he going with this?

“Harm reduction can help us work in the most restrictive settings to ensure that women have the information, resources and support to end an unwanted pregnancy safely.”

And there it is. Remember that when he talks about “restrictive settings,” he means places with pro-life laws, not necessarily ones that are resource-deprived. And when he talks about “end[ing] and unwanted pregnancy,” he doesn’t mean through birth, but through abortion – notwithstanding the law, which seems to have no deterrent effect on his organization either.

“While this is an approach that we will continue to use where and when we have to, it is also an approach that we want made redundant.”

Of course he does.

Here in the United States, it remains to be seen whether our national Planned Parenthood affiliate will be charged with crimes under the law for its practice of selling fetal tissue to supplement its revenue.

There have been calls to defund Planned Parenthood in Congress. Pro-life advocates –especially those in wealthy countries – would do well to note that, according to IPPF’s 2014 financial report, “IPPF’s main source of funding is government grants, which account for 72% (2013: 74%) of total income.” The United States contributed $875,000 – and that’s to the international umbrella organization, not the US national affiliate, which has its own global outreach branch.

IPPF has no regard for national pro-life laws, and accepts money from other wealthy governments to lobby to overturn them or else undermine them with their so-called “harm reduction” strategy that amounts to illegal abortion wrapped in semantic ribbons. Or, to put it another way, IPPF is being paid by the government of Sweden to disregard the laws of Nigeria.

The ultimate purpose of Planned Parenthood has been the same for nearly a century, and abortion has always been central to its identity. But its ideology is a lot more pervasive and damaging when driven by government grants, paid for in turn by revenue from taxpayers.  It’s time for some real “harm reduction” – time to stop feeding the monster.