My Dear Fellow Citizens;
The vast majority of you have never heard of me, and for that all of us should be really happy. You don't want someone like me to be famous, and I don't want someone like me to be famous. But I'm worried about us, and I wanted to tell you why, and see if there is anything you think we might be able to do about it.
Honest disagreement is healthy, and I think we ought to sort of welcome it. In most businesses that make things these days, there is plenty of healthy disagreement (the current buzzword for it is "continuous improvement"), and the outcome is most often that things get made faster, or cheaper, or better, or all of the above.
But that's the rub, isn't it? "Honest" disagreement. One of the things I think we lack as a society is the ability to honestly disagree. Before I explain "why," I think I owe you some kind of explanation of "what" I am talking about.
"Honesty," according to m-w.com, is "fairness and straightforwardness of conduct; adherence to the facts." In spite of living in a world where we can measure everything to 3 decimal places, and the content of collected human knowledge in print doubles every year (according to Forbes in 2013), one of the things which has seemed to vanish in public conversation is a reliance on facts rather than opinions or misinformation. Climate Change is one of those things. One side is adamant that in the 4-6 billion years of geologic time, no other circumstances have created warmer temperatures than we have today; the other side finds itself stunned by the several leaps it takes to come to that conclusion, and when they ask some rudimentary question they get accused of being enemies of the planet. What we wind up with is assertions vs. assertions, and neither side is willing to admit the other side's assertions have merit. It's not so much a conversation or even "science" in the historical sense, but rather a contentious fight which has no hope to be resolved.
"Honesty" in that case would admit that both sides still have homework to do, and that the best answer will be reached when both sides have agreed to some basic premises about things like how climate is established, and whether or not its possible to say that the Earth can meaningfully have an average surface temperature when it runs from the extremes of −128.6 °F (1983, Antarctica) and +134 °F (1913, Death Valley). "Honesty" means that we don't get married to solutions until we understand the problems, which is what is really happening in the world insofar as we can discern it. It also means we don't think too much of our own observations because let's face it: even the most jaded among us have not seen everything.
Which brings me to the reason I wanted to talk about honest disagreement: the practice of transferring fetal tissue to third parties by Planned Parenthood, as it has been presented by the Center for Medical Progress in its recent videos. One of the complaints about these videos has been that they are "highly edited;" another is that if we looked at any secret video of surgical procedures they would be equally gross; another is that whatever this is they have recorded and reported, this is perfectly legal under 42 U.S.C. (2010), Title 42, CHAPTER 6A, SUBCHAPTER II, Part H, Sec. 274e, so what is all the fuss about, really?
Working in reverse order, I think the last complaint is the one which is the least-tenable. The existence of every law on the books today, if we are to believe the recent rulings by the Supreme Court, is not a static fact. Indeed, the question of the day seems to be, "ought that really to be legal? or illegal?" If the very definition of marriage -- which has been uncontested in the history of Western Civilization -- is subject to review and subject to change because we discover a moral patch cut from material never before dreamed of by men over the way it works today, then let me suggest to you that every law is, at least, subject to change. Let me put it to you that if 42 U.S.C. (2010), Title 42, CHAPTER 6A, SUBCHAPTER II, Part H, Sec. 274e is the law today (and it is), that doesn't settle the question of whether or not it is actually what the law ought to be. Even if what we have seen in the videos so far (at this writing, 5 have been released) is entirely legal today, after seeing the practical outworking of that law are we really not entitled to ask the question, "is that really what we meant when we codified this?"
Because that is what is at stake here, yes? It is patently barbaric to sell the parts of dead people, and more so to be selling the parts of babies who were killed, by and large, because other birth control methods failed. If @PPFA is not making any money on these transactions, they ought to be able to survive without them. Let's agree that the main question really isn't whether @PPFA is breaking 42 U.S.C. (2010), Title 42, CHAPTER 6A, SUBCHAPTER II, Part H, Sec. 274e, but whether or not the entire idea of this sort of transaction isn't a close cousin to cannibalism and chattel slavery.
In thinking through this question, it has already been presented by some advocates (most notably: USAToday and the New York Times) that the problem here is really that someone who is not a doctor who watches these videos is simply grossed out by the skin and blood, and also by the sort of "shop talk" employed when discussing these things by those who do them. The reply goes something like this: if you listened to a heart surgeon talk about angioplasty or a brain surgeon talk about minimally invasive endonasal endoscopic surgery and then watched a video of them doing it, it would also probably gross you out. That doesn't make what they are doing immoral in any way.
There's something rather stoic and self-denigrating in that answer, right? It sounds like the person is saying, "of course I was grossed out by that video. I would be grossed out to watch a video of child birth also, but I'm not trying to make that illegal." The contrast, of course, is that when child birth occurs, we are left with a baby who is a person and has a voice. We are left with someone who is all need and no means, and (in most cases) needs all the love her parents can muster. With what we have seen in these videos -- and I'm going to refrain from describing these things to seek to give the other side the optimal benefit of the doubt -- it is literally the opposite of child birth, and the opposite of motherly and fatherly love. The problem turns out to be that the only voice these boys and girls and twins have is not a parent's voice, but one which is clearly trying to get a good price for what is left since there is no crying.
I think the people presenting the "moral gross out" argument understand what they are feeling when they watch these videos. I think they simply do not understand why they are feeling it. It is as if they cannot imagine that what they have witnessed in these videos can happen in the real world, and that what must have really happened had to be something far more clinical, and sterile, and therapeutic. Doctors are not monsters, after all, and who would, in their right mind, want to replicate the mistakes of those in the past we know for sure were moral villains who used people as medical samples rather than as patients and fellows in the image of God the same way we are?
They are doctors, after all, and they must know what is best.
This is why I think the first objection I listed is given, and why people cling to it. We respect doctors. When we think of science making life better, most of us don't think of GE engineers or NASA scientists: we think of our family physicians, and our specialists, and nurses and support staff they have who treat us with care and respect even when we have, for the last 5 years, needed to lose 10 lbs to stay healthy and we have failed. They stick with us, and we trust them to give us medicine for ourselves and our children. So to say in defense of Doctors, "we need to take the videos with a grain of salt because they are edited," sounds to the one saying it and the one who hears it like a defense of family medicine and general practice. This is America, and Doctors in America are not in it for the money. Certainly Doctors who are in it for women's reproductive health cannot be in it for the money -- they are in it for the sake of making sure the next generation has wives and mothers who are happy, healthy, and not oppressed by children they did not plan for.
Yet somehow the reason for all of these arguments is frankly that they must not be "defunded." Think about that for a second, because the point of the argument gets really clear here. The argument is that somehow, if after reviewing these videos, we find that what was done was illegal (or ought to be), and it is full of a moral offense which is unspeakable, and this was not amplified by clever editing, what we should not do is prevent women from getting mammograms and pap smears.
The argument from the side which is morally vexed over these videos is this: "If Planned Parenthood conducts abortions and then sells the parts of the babies destroyed for money, our government should not subsidize @PPFA." And because other organizations can and do all the other things @PPFA says its does without making abortions and selling baby parts, we think the funding should go elsewhere. We are not against other diagnostic procedures; we are not against science or medicine or women. We are rather offended that someone calls the way they extract a baby from the womb for the sake of reclaiming its parts for sale a "less crunchy technique."
We are in favor, as it turns out, of an honest discussion about what is happening at Planned Parenthood and at the companies and schools which are buying things from Planned Parenthood. We may ask whether or not the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services publishes the Nuremberg Code for an ethical reason, or if it is merely part of the history of medicine. And in an honest discussion, both sides need to be able to say in good faith, "there are things we agree on, and there are limits to what our side understands. If you will also admit these things, let's find out whether we can come to a consensus about how to proceed." I suspect we disagree on a lot less than either side would reflexively admit if we start with the premise that we ourselves are going to behave honestly about the facts, and you should, too.
With that, I am going to duck back into obscurity and see if there are any takers for an honest discussion about whether or not the product of an abortion -- which, if we believe those who are doing them, are merely tissue, never wanted, always dangerous, and rarely viable -- turns out to be the parts of an unborn baby, and if those parts should ever have a cash value no matter how they were obtained. I think that discussion will be far more profitable than accusing people like me of wanting to enslave and oppress women on the same day he is taking his wife to her annual exams.
Think about it, and please get back to me. I'm interested in what comes next from honest people, and I still believe that America is full of honest people.