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Planned Parenthood and the Abortion Debate We Won't Have

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Americans, with their tax dollars, are required to pay for countless things they find objectionable. From wars they might oppose to studies they definitely find absurd -- just this week we learned we're funding one to determine why lesbians are disproportionately obese -- it's infuriating to know that we have no say over how the government spends our hard-earned money.

One controversial recipient of government funds, Planned Parenthood, has gone beyond objectionable into the realm of downright unforgivable. A horrific undercover video came to light this week of a Planned Parenthood doctor casually discussing over lunch how she and other affiliated abortionists expertly "crush" babies they are aborting to keep their organs intact for donation (and potentially sale).

I am pro-life. I'm not religious, but I believe that killing babies for convenience is morally wrong, and a society that condones, and in many cases celebrates, the practice has lost its way. But even if you support legal abortion, I have to think it's impossible to watch the now-viral video without recoiling in disgust at the frankness with which Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical research, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, describes the destruction of a life. Frankly, as a new mother -- and a human being with even the slightest sense of common decency -- I found it hard to write this column without getting physically ill.

In the video, Nucatola discusses using ultrasound to know where to crush the fetus with forceps. "We've been very good at getting heart, lung, liver because we know that, so I'm not going to crush that part," she says.

Bioethicist Art Caplan of New York University says altering procedures to get the best tissue is a "big no-no," telling CNN that "your sole concern has to be the mother and her health," not preserving fetal organs.

The legality and the ethics of what Planned Parenthood is doing certainly merits serious scrutiny and a national debate. But the more important conversation that we likely won't have is about the morality of abortion in general, and whether the explicit nature of this video will make us question our embrace of such a grotesque institution.

Along those lines, Planned Parenthood offers a telling defense, insisting now that the donation of fetal tissue is valuable and "lifesaving." That may be true. But if it's such a noble cause then why doesn't Planned Parenthood advertise fetal tissue collection on its website to lure potential abortion customers and brag about its philanthropic contributions?

It likely doesn't openly discuss fetal tissue collection because when people make the connection that the life that's being ended is in fact valuable to someone else they might be less comfortable aborting it. When they are told their unborn child will be crushed and then sold for parts, it makes abortion less a sterile-sounding procedure and more a viscerally violent and morally questionable execution. When a medical doctor discusses the destruction of a baby without even a modicum of respect for its life or the solemnity with which many women opt for an abortion, it would likely scare some away.

But Dr. Nucatola can speak that way because our culture has so aggressively normalized what used to be a lamentable, last, worst option for a woman. In their zeal to make abortion culturally acceptable to a religious and center-right country, abortion supporters removed a necessary and important stigma that should exist so that teenagers weigh the consequences of sex, and so that women think very carefully about taking the life of their unborn child. I am certain many women do, but that's not thanks to Planned Parenthood's cavalier sales pitches.

It's also not thanks to abortion's political proponents. The Democratic Party has moved so far to the left on abortion that it no longer represents mainstream opinion, as was evidenced by Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis' clueless assumption that she could become the governor of her state on a pro-abortion platform.

This poses a problem for Hillary Clinton. When running for Senate she used to brag about how her husband lowered abortion rates while president, and she promoted the need to keep abortion not only legal but safe and rare. That very language has since been dropped from the Democratic platform. So does she agree with her party now that abortion needn't be safe or rare in the interest of making it popular?

We are all implicated in growing the abortion-industrial complex. Planned Parenthood denies that your taxes fund abortions -- and they perform hundreds of thousands of them every year -- but they receive hundreds of millions every year in taxpayer grants and reimbursements. That any of your money supports an organization that treats human life, and specifically the most vulnerable among us, with such little regard should disgust us all.

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