Anti-choice zealots murdered abortion care providers long before doctored “undercover” videos misled the media into covering the question of whether Planned Parenthood “sold” baby parts. It doesn’t, and never did. Yet alleged Colorado Springs shooter Robert Lewis Dear used the phrase “no more baby parts” after the police arrested him for killing three people and wounding six others in an attack on the local Planned Parenthood clinic the day after Thanksgiving. How do we make sense of that?
We don’t know whether the video-inspired controversy caused Dear to take up arms against the clinic. But it allowed Republicans to wave the flag of righteousness even as they (belatedly) condemned the violence. And it showed the way anti-choice forces have responded to losing the debate over abortion: As polls consistently show Americans believe abortion should be legal, opponents have shifted their focus from making it illegal to restricting access to it. Now they’re demonizing the people who provide the access in the ugliest of ways.
To most Americans Planned Parenthood is a respected women’s healthcare provider, one that offers cancer screenings, STD and HIV testing, and contraception along with abortion (which makes up roughly 3 percent of its healthcare services.) Abortion foes think of it as an abortion factory–and since the misleadingly edited Center for Medical Progress videos, one that profits from the “sale” of “baby parts,” rather than accepting reimbursement for preserving fetal tissue that’s been essential to medical research and advances in treating chicken pox, rubella, and polio.
You’ve got to give the right-wing group credit: The argument made by its phony videos represents the ultimate way to demonize an opponent: Planned Parenthood doesn’t just blithely murder infants; it does so for money.
Let’s remember who’s behind the so-called Center for Medical Progress, which sponsored the “sting” operation. Its director is David Daleiden, a long time anti-abortion activist with ties to the movement’s violent fringe. Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, is one of its three board members. Newman has praised the murder of abortion providers as “justifiable defensive action” and has argued that the United States should “execute abortionists…for their crimes.” Just 10 days ago Senator Ted Cruz celebrated his endorsement by Newman, whom he called the “activist behind Planned Parenthood videos.”
The videos didn’t hurt Planned Parenthood’s reputation with the general public. Polls show its respect held steady, or even climbed a bit, in the wake of the ginned-up controversy. But they gave anti-choice forces a new line of argument, and a new level of righteousness. By insisting that the group makes money selling “baby parts,” the video’s dishonest producers took opinions about its services out of the realm of religious or philosophical dispute over when life begins. This debate pits good against evil. Sadly, the media covered the CMP videos as a genuine controversy, long past the point when their deceptive editing had already been well-proven.