Two videos have been released in the last week—with more to come—by the Center for Medical Progress which show Planned Parenthood representatives negotiating prices for the sale of fetal remains. “Reimbursement”, is what master of euphemism Planned Parenthood is calling it. But of course, when you express a desire to profit from such an endeavour, whether it be “doing a little better than break[ing] even” or enough to buy a Lamborghini, that’s called selling. The media have been running cover, of course, and while the news is trending on social media, the typical description of the videos is that they only “appear to show” Planned Parenthood officials selling “fetal tissue” (baby parts). That’s putting it mildly…so mildly in fact, it amounts to saying, “video appears to show exactly what you see when you watch it.” But none of this should be surprising to anyone who’s read Evangelium Vitae. How did it come to this? Pope Saint John Paul II explains.
Why is selling human remains a problem?
“Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator”. (Gaudium et spes n. 27, quoted in Evangelium Vitae n. 3, emphases added)
Planned Parenthood has said it’s just “tissue”.
“…evident [is] the tendency to disguise certain crimes against life in its early or final stages by using innocuous medical terms which distract attention from the fact that what is involved is the right to life of an actual human person.” (11) “Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as ‘interruption of pregnancy’, which tends to hide abortion’s true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion.” (58)
Why would they use misleading language?
“Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience. But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.” (58)
In the videos, they talk about prices for specific intact organs…
“Within this same cultural climate, the body is no longer perceived as a properly personal reality, a sign and place of relations with others, with God and with the world. It is reduced to pure materiality: it is simply a complex of organs, functions and energies to be used according to the sole criteria of pleasure and efficiency…others are considered not for what they ‘are’, but for what they ‘have, do and produce’. This is the supremacy of the strong over the weak…for no reason can [human beings] be made subject to other men and almost reduced to the level of a thing.” (23)
Does this bear any resemblance to anything else in history?
“…eugenic abortion, [has become] justified in public opinion on the basis of a mentality…which accepts life only under certain conditions and rejects it when it is affected by any limitation, handicap or illness…In this way, we revert to a state of barbarism which one hoped had been left behind forever.” (14)
Isn’t this just an example of Christians playing politics to promote the agenda of a particular political party?
“Christian Tradition…is clear and unanimous, from the beginning up to our own day, in describing abortion as a particularly grave moral disorder…Throughout Christianity’s two thousand year history, this same doctrine has been constantly taught by the Fathers of the Church and by her Pastors and Doctors. Even scientific and philosophical discussions about the precise moment of the infusion of the spiritual soul have never given rise to any hesitation about the moral condemnation of abortion.” (61)
Why then do Christians seem especially concerned about this?
“Although faith provides special light and strength, this question arises in every human conscience which seeks the truth and which cares about the future of humanity. Life certainly has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers. The value at stake is one which every human being can grasp by the light of reason; thus it necessarily concerns everyone.” (101)
But what if it is legal?
“One of the specific characteristics of present-day attacks on human life — as has already been said several times — consists in the trend to demand a legal justification for them, as if they were rights which the State, at least under certain conditions, must acknowledge as belonging to citizens. Consequently, there is a tendency to claim that it should be possible to exercise these rights with the safe and free assistance of doctors and medical personnel…no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.” (68, 62)
What about the media? Why haven’t I heard more about this?
“Nor can it be denied that the mass media are often implicated in this conspiracy, by lending credit to that culture which presents recourse to contraception, sterilization, abortion and even euthanasia as a mark of progress and a victory of freedom, while depicting as enemies of freedom and progress those positions which are unreservedly pro-life.” (17) “An important and serious responsibility belongs to those involved in the mass media, who are called to ensure that the messages which they so effectively transmit will support the culture of life.” (98)
Doesn’t Planned Parenthood just provide health care? And the companies that purchase the remains, aren’t they just doing good research?
“Causing death” can never be considered a form of medical treatment, even when the intention is solely to comply with the patient’s request. Rather, it runs completely counter to the health-care profession, which is meant to be an impassioned and unflinching affirmation of life. Bio-medical research too, a field which promises great benefits for humanity, must always reject experimentation, research or applications which disregard the inviolable dignity of the human being, and thus cease to be at the service of people and become instead means which, under the guise of helping people, actually harm them.” (89)
Aren’t doctors just doing their job?
“A unique responsibility belongs to health-care personnel: doctors, pharmacists, nurses, chaplains, men and women religious, administrators and volunteers. Their profession calls for them to be guardians and servants of human life. In today’s cultural and social context, in which science and the practice of medicine risk losing sight of their inherent ethical dimension, health-care professionals can be strongly tempted at times to become manipulators of life, or even agents of death. In the face of this temptation their responsibility today is greatly increased.” (89) “In this way the very nature of the medical profession is distorted and contradicted, and the dignity of those who practise it is degraded.” (4)
I’ve seen a lot in the news about assisted suicide, as well. Is there any correlation?
“[There is] a cultural climate which fails to perceive any meaning or value in suffering, but rather considers suffering the epitome of evil, to be eliminated at all costs. This is especially the case in the absence of a religious outlook which could help to provide a positive understanding of the mystery of suffering. On a more general level, there exists in contemporary culture a certain Promethean attitude which leads people to think that they can control life and death by taking the decisions about them into their own hands. What really happens in this case is that the individual is overcome and crushed by a death deprived of any prospect of meaning or hope. We see a tragic expression of all this in the spread of euthanasia — disguised and surreptitious, or practised openly and even legally. (15)
“[Also at work is] a notion of freedom which exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them…it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of ‘the strong’ against the weak who have no choice but to submit.” (19)
What does this mean for society?
“A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.” (101)
What’s perhaps the most disturbing part of all this?
“The end result of this is tragic: not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to be born or in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing, but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself, darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning, is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life.” (4)
Where do we go from here?
“The first and fundamental step towards this cultural transformation consists in forming consciences with regard to the incomparable and inviolable worth of every human life. It is of the greatest importance to re-establish the essential connection between life and freedom. […] It is therefore essential that man should acknowledge his inherent condition as a creature to whom God has granted being and life as a gift and a duty….Where God is denied and people live as though he did not exist, or his commandments are not taken into account, the dignity of the human person and the inviolability of human life also end up being rejected or compromised.” (95)