The silence from pro-choice people in response to the recent Planned Parenthood videos is deafening. In this post I explain why they should be furious with the Planned Parenthood too.
My dad Rich is currently receiving treatment for a type of cancer called Mantle Cell Lymphoma, so he needed to put together an advance directive for his health care. Much of the language for his particular advance directive comes from the language National Right to Life includes in their recommended “Will to Live” forms. He named my mom Lisa as his “Health Care Agent,” the person responsible for making decisions in the event that he is incapacitated in some way. If my mom also became incapacitated, that significant responsibility would then fall to Josh, and then to me. Naturally, we carefully read his advance directive and had conversations with him so we could better understand his wishes. (If you believe in God, please keep him in your prayers.)
My parents, Rich and Lisa Brahm
The reason I mention this is that there was a requirement in the advance directive that stood out. In order for it to be legally valid, he had to sign it in the presence of two witnesses, and there are very specific guidelines for who those witnesses can be. In addition to needing to be of sound mind and at least 18 years old, a witness,
– Cannot be a person who was selected to be your health care agent or back-up health care agent;
– Cannot be a person who will knowingly inherit anything from you or otherwise knowingly gain a financial benefit from your death; or
– Cannot be a person who is directly involved in your health care.
This is a great rule, because it helps to protect the patient from others making decisions about his health care out of their own self-interest. Even though my dad named his wife as his health care agent and she could financially gain from his demise, he is not allowed to name her without the approval of two objective witnesses that do not gain.
While there is no way to perfectly protect the patient, I really appreciate this rule because it implicitly acknowledges the dangerous conflict of interest that can exist between a patient and his family. I want that danger to be acknowledged because I want my dad to be treated as an end, not merely as a means to an end. I want all human beings to be treated as ends, not as means to ends. [Tweet that]
That doesn’t mean humans can’t ever be useful to each other. It’s okay to ask your friend to be useful by helping you move; it’s not okay to treat him disrespectfully when he helps you. Treating humans as ends means treating them like they’re valuable in and of themselves, not based on what you can get out of them.
There is a very stark contrast between how careful we are to make sure a cancer patient is treated as an end and how Planned Parenthood treats the unborn.
There are two ways to justify the practice of abortion. The pro-choice person must either 1) Deny the personhood of the unborn, or 2) Argue that abortion is justified killing of human persons on the grounds of bodily autonomy, that a woman’s right to her body trumps the right to live of a human person inside her body. I have come to believe that one of the most common causes of confusion for pro-life advocates is a lack of understanding of bodily rights arguments, which are incredibly common and are the basis of much pro-choice rhetoric (for instance, “my body, my choice”).
I think the only way to defend Planned Parenthood’s selling of fetal organs is to deny that an unborn human in the second trimester is a moral subject, a person, someone who deserves to be treated as an end. In other words, they have to take the first of the two paths I described above; they cannot defend Planned Parenthood via the second path. But many pro-choice people are only comfortable with second trimester abortions because of bodily rights arguments (after all, the later in pregnancy it gets, the harder it gets to deny the personhood of the unborn). It seems like those pro-choice people ought to be coming out in droves condemning Planned Parenthood for selling baby parts, and it’s very puzzling to me that they aren’t.