Monday, April 18, 2011

Planned Parenthood Debate Continues: Two Catholic Statements Taking Different Sides

The debate about Planned Parenthood continues.  I've summarized my own position as a Catholic in this particular debate.  (And for commentary worth reading, see here, here, and here).  Two more recent essays present two very different, and opposed, approaches to the Planned Parenthood debate, both from Catholic standpoints.

Writing last week in National Catholic Reporter, Phyllis Zagano argues that Planned Parenthood is "the nation's largest abortionist" and has roots in the racist eugenics of Margaret Sanger, which targets minority women.  As a Catholic, Zagano does not want her tax dollars supporting the organization.

At Religion Dispatches, Jon O'Brien asks, by contrast, where the Catholic conscience is, when it comes to Planned Parenthood.  O'Brien argues that, given how many key services Planned Parenthood provides to prevent unwanted pregnancies, those opposed to abortion ought logically to be defending the organization--not colluding in the attempt of conservative political leaders to shut down much-needed medical services for poor women.  As he notes, the attack on Planned Parenthood ignores the preferential option for the poor in Catholic social teaching, which calls on us to give particular attention to the effect of political and economic decisions on the poor and marginal.

Quite a few respondents to Zagano's NCR article suggest she has her facts wrong and is basing her moral judgment on misinformation about Planned Parenthood and what it does.  For those interested in seeing a dissection of some of the prevailing myths about the organization (e.g., federal tax dollars support abortions through PP, 90% of PP services are abortions, etc.), I recommend Claire Coleman's article about five myths re: Planned Parenthood in last Friday's Washington Post.

And for valuable commentary noting that the real goal of the political and religious right is not merely to stop abortion but also to thwart the access of as many women as possible to contraception, see Amanda Marcotte at AlterNet.  As Marcotte notes, the attempt of the religious and political right to block access to contraception affects low-income women, in particular.

As I note in my piece offering my own moral analysis of the Planned Parenthood debate, it seems crystal clear to me that anyone who wants to make abortion a less attractive option for many women, particularly those on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, needs to support the provision of top-notch healthcare to everyone--but to those at the bottom of society above all.  And it's also crystal clear to me that this top-notch healthcare must include access to contraception.

I find it rather difficult to believe in the pro-life ethic promoted by some of my fellow Catholics, when it simultaneously attacks contraception--and when it targets low-income women.  Nothing about that attack strikes me as conspicuously pro-life.  Or as sincere about really wanting to address the root causes of abortion.  As Alan McCornick points out at his Hepzibah site, the opposition of the Catholic magisterium to contraception reflects a "pre-modern framework" that refuses to take into account the graced experience and insights of millions of people of faith, both Catholic and Protestant, who do not view human sexuality in the biologistic, solely-for-procreation way that the magisterium wishes to maintain.  All the more reason that the leaders of the Catholic church in association with fundamentalists of the religious right coalition should not be permitted to impose their peculiar religion-based views on society at large . . . .

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