"Growing up, Mom always told me, 'The answer to life is yes.'"
That was Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, speaking and Barnard College's commencement last month.
Richards is the daughter of a former Texas governor, the late Ann Richards, and in her speech Cecile Richards went on to praise another feminist icon, Margaret Sanger, the mother of Planned Parenthood. In describing the "movement" Sanger gave birth to, Richards left out its eugenics-based origins and its current dark side, which give a dark irony to her life-affirming message above.
A new report from Live Action, a group that has been doing undercover investigations of Planned Parenthood clinics for six years, addresses those issues and more. Planned Parenthood clinics "committed 327,166 abortions -- about a third of the national total," from 2011-12, the report says.
The report notes Planned Parenthood's insistence on campaigning against just about every possible law that might curtail "abortion rights" in the least -- including bans on sex-selective abortions and waiting periods for the procedure. Live Action also makes the case that Planned Parenthood's ideological commitment to abortion and contraception for women and girls of all ages seems to blind the organization to the difference between "choice" and exploitation when it comes to sexually active minors.
Around the time of Richards' commencement speech, Toni Braxton, the singer of the '90s hit "Unbreak my Heart," released a memoir by that title. If you remember the song, you can recall the audible depth of her pain and despair as she sings.
So, too, in her life. Braxton describes becoming pregnant unexpectedly. She was taking an acne drug at the time, which had a warning label describing possible birth defects. She admits that while she took that "medical" excuse for an abortion, she also said she would have had the abortion even if the medication had not been a factor, describing it as a matter of "convenience." When she gave birth to a son with autism years later, she thought the autism must be punishment from God.
Braxton wrote: "In my heart, I believed I had taken a life -- an action that I thought God might one day punish me for ... My initial rage was quickly followed by another strong emotion: guilt. I knew I'd taken a life ... I believed God's payback was to give my son autism."
This is the kind of pain and regret that is out there, even though society is trying its best to ignore it. Which is no small reason why, when Pope Francis recently canonized two recent popes, John Paul II and John XXIII, he did so on Divine Mercy Sunday. Because hearts need to know that there is healing out there. Our culture, too, in the throes of severe alienation, desperately needs to be a culture of encouragement that holds motherhood as a sacred honor, something that we celebrate and support.
In her Barnard speech, Richards declared her message to the young female graduates to be: "Life as an activist, troublemaker, agitator is a tremendous option and one I highly recommend."
As the recent social media concern for a group of kidnapped girls in Nigeria makes clear, we do feel for those who are suffering, and, in a particular way, for girls and women. Amidst boasting of shattering glass ceilings, though, hearts are broken and lives are ended in the name of not just "women's freedom," but also "women's health."
At one point in her commencement address, Richards said: "The world can be tough. It can be unjust ... Each one of you has the power to do something about it. You get to build the world you want to live in."
Richards and Planned Parenthood have extraordinary power over the political process in the United States. That power can be used for good -- to make the world a little more just, a little more tender -- if those who have been so stubbornly wedded to the abortion ideology considered the unnecessary pain that it inflicts, and lifted us out of this culture of death, destruction and broken hearts.