Ethics Hero, Maybe For The Ages: The Center for Medical Progress

As I said with the release of the first surreptitious “sting video” of Planned Parenthood released under auspices of the anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, such videos are, in principle, unethical. However, while the unethical should be used in pursuit of a greater good only with great reluctance, moral certainty and a minimum of harm, there are instances when utilitarianism must apply.

This is one of them.

In the case of abortion, the prospect of saving the lives of millions of unborn is certainly worth the incursion on the ethical values of honesty and respect for privacy implicated by these videos. Indeed, it is worth a great deal more. With the seventh video, released yesterday, the conclusion is unavoidable that we, the public, the nation, and humanity, owe a debt of gratitude to the Center for taking radical action to force  confrontation with the reality of abortion so that there can be a real, open and honest debate  that doesn’t duck the central issue. That issue  is not women’s control over their lives, but the ethics of killing innocent human beings to achieve it.

The latest video, like the earlier ones, compels any fair, emotionally functioning and rational observer to accept the brutality and near complete callousness towards human life that the abortion machine creates and requires. In this respect the seven videos—with more to come— are abortion’s equivalent of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” forcing genteel, moral, good people by their own confident assessment to confront the horrors that have been occurring under their noses with their passive approval. Because they chose not to think about what abortion really involved, just as so many Americans had no idea what  slavery was like until Harriet Beecher Stowe forced them to consider it as more than an abstraction, abortion advocates, passive and active, have an ethical obligation to watch these videos. Those who refuse are admitting that they are incapable of letting facts disturb their ideologies.

The seventh video shows how Planned Parenthood customizes  abortions to ensure that they produce intact fetal remains, which are apparently more valuable than the sum of the parts taken piece by piece.  Thus this is the opposite of breaking up a classic stamp collection, which is usually more lucrative to sell stamp by stamp than all at once. As in the previous videos, Planned Parenthood personnel treat the human fetuses they abort with no more respect than a stamp collection, and no more humanity. It’s a commodity, that’s all. Meat.

Let me interject this, because it is important. The focus on Planned Parenthood as the villain here is misplaced,  unfair, and ultimately self-defeating. Abortion itself, and the culture that accepts and embraces it based on political propaganda and misrepresentation, are the wrongs to address, not the organization that only facilitates conduct that has already been sanctified by ideology, power and law.

I don’t particularly care what happens to the fetuses, or their parts,  after they have been killed. Using them for valuable research mitigates the damage; it doesn’t add to it. I care if Planned Parenthood violates the law, but no more than I care that any organization violates the law. Making that organization the issue is, frankly, stupid, and allows, yet again, the pro-abortion forces to avoid the real ethical dilemmas and conflicts at the heart of the abortion debate.. Look at all the op-eds and defenses of Planned Parenthood bickering about whether “harvesting” is a fair word to use, and how being reimbursed by researchers for fetus parts isn’t the same as selling them. The attacks on Planned Parenthood play into the abortion lobby’s hands, because it allows abortion advocates to steer the subject away from that which is no more defensible under human, ethical and moral principles than Simon Legree killing his human property for the fun of it.

The new video includes images showing what a 19-20 week fetus looks like after it has been aborted and is outside the womb. Any casual and smug abortion advocate needs to look directly at these images and explain why a society should permit this any time a woman’s life plans are threatened by the tiny, helpless, developing human being. Then let’s hear the rationalizations. It’s not really human. It doesn’t think. It can’t process pain. It’s only a potential life. It’s nobody’s business but the mother’s (well, it’s Planned Parenthood’s business too, but never mind, never mind…) The new rationalization, launched as a Planned Parenthood talking point: All medical procedures are icky, and this is no different.

On the ten minute long video #7, Holly O’Donnell, a a former StemExpress procurement tech who appeared in the previous video, describes how she removed the brain of an aborted fetus by cutting through its face.

It had a face, you know.

Appendixes and tonsils don’t have faces.

“‘I want to see something kind of cool,’” O’Donnell says. “And [her supervisor] just taps the heart, and it starts beating! And I’m sitting here and I’m looking at this fetus, and its heart is beating, and I don’t know what to think.”

Cool!

Clarence Darrow gave a famous speech in which he praised John Brown, the mad abolitionist whose deadly rampage raised public consciousness over slavery. The speech, which according to Google I seem to be the only one to quote on the web, concluded:

“The world has long since accepted the results of John Brown’s work. Great as the cost was, all men know that it was worth the price. But even now the idle, carping, and foolish still ask; “Did Brown do right, and would it not better have been done some other way?”…The fruits of John Brown’s life are plain for all to see; while time shall last, men and women, sons and daughters of bondsmen and slaves, will live by the light of freedom, be inspired by the hope of liberty.

The earth needs and will always need its Browns; these poor, sensitive, prophetic souls, feeling the suffering of the world, and taking its sorrows on their burdened backs. It sorely needs the prophets who look far out into the dark, and through the long and painful vigils of the night, wait for the coming day. They wait and watch, while slow and cold and halting, the morning dawns, the sun rises and waxes to the noon, and wanes to the twilight and another night comes on. The radical of today is the conservative of tomorrow, and other martyrs take up the work through other nights, and the dumb and stupid world plants its weary feet upon the slippery sand, soaked by their blood, and the world moves on.”

John Brown was a terrorist. Darrow, our most revered trial lawyer, believed in extreme measures to achieve justice and progressive ends; he even approved of murder when it was the only way, he believed, to conquer a great evil, and nothing was more evil to Darrow than slavery. He believed in terrorism for the right cause. I don’t know where Darrow would have fallen in the abortion debate, but if he opposed it, he would have regarded the use of unethically obtained videos as a tiny ethics price to pay for a sword that might cut the abortion Gordian Knot tied by the Supreme Court in its Roe decision. Darrow would have eagerly defended those who shoot abortion doctors and bomb clinics, I think. He was wrong about John Brown and terrorism, but right about the importance of cutting  Gordian Knots.

John Brown was not the hero that Darrow believed he was, for his violent acts in opposition to slavery could not be squared with any ethical system, including responsible utilitarianism.  In contrast, the surreptitious videos used to, finally, educate Americans about the nature of abortion—especially in light of the mainstream news media’s decades long support for abortion and pro-abortion politicians—are ethically justified, and laudable.

These videos don’t, and shouldn’t, settle the issue, which is much more complicated than slavery, with vital interest on both sides of the scale. At least, however, perhaps for the first time, we may be able to debate the competing interests inherent in abortion while being honest about what abortion is, what support for abortion means, and what the consequences are, both to the aborted, and to our culture’s values.

______________________

Pointer: Professor Jacobson

47 thoughts on “Ethics Hero, Maybe For The Ages: The Center for Medical Progress

      • It’s ‘a clump of cells’ if you want to get rid of it, but ‘He’s busy flexing his arms and legs — movements that you’ll start noticing more and more in the weeks ahead’ and ‘during the exam, you might see your baby moving around or sucking his thumb’* if you want to keep it. The same fetus is either unable to feel anything and is a lump, or described as a moving, reacting smaller version of a newborn…how can they be both? They can’t of course, but shoveling that BS is keeping abortion proponents from confronting exactly what’s going on in these procedures.

        * Description of the state of an 18-week old fetus on Babycenter.com.

  1. “At least, however, perhaps for the first time, we may be able to debate the competing interests inherent in abortion while being honest about what abortion is, what support for abortion means, and what the consequences are, both to the aborted, and to our culture’s values.”

    You are being too optimistic for the pro-abortionists to start being honest.

    • Ignorance has been their saving grace for years. It really brings into context all the anger over ‘graphic’ images of abortions, yes, they were graphic, and perhaps they weren’t always appropriate for the venues they were placed… But the anger always seemed disproportionate to me. It’s because proponents were being dragged kicking and screaming into the light to look at what they were actually supporting. This is similar. But now that we’ve started to get into topics harder to assail, where is the left-biased media? Cricketing.

  2. “Let me interject this, because it is important. The focus on Planned Parenthood as the villain here is misplaced, unfair, and ultimately self-defeating. Abortion itself, and the culture that accepts and embraces it based on political propaganda and misrepresentation, are the wrongs to address, not the organization that only facilitates conduct that has already been sanctified by ideology, power and law.”
    JM- I am mostly right there with you on this post (and that hurts me terribly.. LOL) I am a grown ass man and do things most people cannot do, but the other day I was listening to glen beck describe how a person watched a fetus struggle against a “procedure” and I wept like a ….. well I cried.
    I was going to hit you up on some Trump parallels, but after typing this I don’t even feel like arguing. I am going to go hug my mom……

    • I get Jack’s overall point about about the focus on Planned Parenthood, but I think the focus on Planned Parenthood is fair because it is there that you have an intersection of abortion and public funding.I may be able to throw my hands up in the air and say that there is nothing I can do to stop abortions as a matter of constitutional law, but I can look at these videos and raise holy hell with my representative and senators about federal funding of a company that does THIS.

      -Jut

        • Let me interject this, because it is important. The focus on Planned Parenthood as the villain here is misplaced, unfair, and ultimately self-defeating. Abortion itself, and the culture that accepts and embraces it based on political propaganda and misrepresentation, are the wrongs to address, not the organization that only facilitates conduct that has already been sanctified by ideology, power and law.

          I believe a bit of background is needed here. Nothing in these videos is new or shocking to the Pro-Life community. Member have interviewed and shared stories of regret and coercion from women who sought terminations, smaller investigations have previously revealed the organ procurement practices. Pro-life advocates have shared the atrocious complication and death rates among the women terminating (to which abortion advocates point out that there is a slightly higher rate among pregnancies brought to term…). Members have even gone so far as to publish and protest with grotesque images of deceased children nearly intact except for the knife or vacuum marks, after recovering their bodies from dumpsters (with the intent of burying them in donated cemetery plots).

          Every horrible thing about the abortion industry, and its callous disregard for the children removed from uteri, has been known for decades. Simply, nobody has been paying attention.

          So while it may seem to be a strategic error in isolation to focus on Planned Parenthood and perhaps exaggerate how “illegal” the organ procurement may be, this is simply the latest attempt to draw any attention whatsoever to the ethical quagmire that is abortion on demand. It is too soon to tell if this attempt will be any more successful overall, but certainly some people in power are talking.

  3. Planned parenthood in the case of the 19-20 week aborted fetus were functioning with the morality of nazis watching Jews gassed at Birkenau and viewing the interesting results. This is outrageous!

  4. “That issue is not women’s control over their lives, but the ethics of killing innocent human beings to achieve it.”

    Yes. Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times yes.

    I HATE the willfully misleading narrative, that anyone who is pro-life, simply wants to control women’s bodies. If that were true, why does that desire to control begin and end with abortion? I don’t particularly like tattoos, eyebrow piercings, or those weird inside-the-earlobe hoops, so if I REALLY wanted to control women’s bodies, why aren’t I out there trying to stop those practices? I’m single (go figure!); if I really wanted to control women’s bodies, wouldn’t I be out there trying to MAKE women date me?

    Wouldn’t anyone, if presented with the opportunity to prevent that Ohio mother from killing her 3 kids, done everything they could to do so? Would they then be accused of “controlling a woman’s body”?

    NO! Because individual liberty becomes much more limited when it has a detrimental effect on another person’s liberty. Stopping an adult from seriously harming a child is not about a desire to control another adult’s body; it’s about trying to protect a person who is unable to protect themselves. Pro-lifers believe the unborn is such a person. This is not hard to figure out.

    But rather than argue the situation on its merits, it’s much easier to demonize your opponent, with blatant exaggerations, intentionally misinforming those who are still in the process of figuring out what they believe and support.

    I hate very, very few people. But I really HATE people who engage in that sort of dishonest “thinking”.

  5. Planned Parenthood and their legions of defenders and enablers are spending millions of dollars and going all-out to defend themselves right now. 100% percent of their arguments fall into two categories:

    1. “The videos are out of context” (A complete lie. They’re edited, but you can watch the unedited footage and it doesn’t change at thing.)

    2. A variety of arguments also used to defend slavery in the 1800s.

    Very reminiscent of the critics of Uncle Tom’s cabin, who whined that it was a fictional account, that Stowe was a fanatic and zealot (generally how they painted all abolitionists, sound familiar?) and that slavery was best for Blacks and poor people.

    • Leo Tolstoy, no ethics slouch himself, called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” the best novel in the world at the time. For Tolstoy ethics was the measuring stick for determining the best.

      • It was really a remarkable achievement, and I believe a divinely inspired event (that and Lincoln’s increasing conviction that bloodshed to end slavery via civil war was a necessary evil to atone for America’s crimes.) This at a time when America’s famed and talented transcendental poets were flaking around in the wilderness, failing to confront the issue of slavery, and generally being a useless bunch of proto-hippies.

  6. Jack:

    “Then let’s hear the rationalizations. It’s not really human.”

    This is a terrible rationalization because it is obviously factually incorrect. No one who puts a second of actual thought into the idea could say that a fetus is not human; of course it is human.

    “It doesn’t think.”

    This, however, strikes me as less of a rationalization and more of a reason. Is it wrong to kill a human who doesn’t think? Who literally produces no thought? If so, why? If one is not sentient, how can one be said to have rights? If rights don’t come from consciousness, what do they come from? DNA? And if a non-sentient human does have the right to life, how is that right weighed against the right of a sentient human to bodily autonomy? Doesn’t the sentient human get more of a say?

    These are legitimate questions, but you cast them aside as mere rationalizations. You say here and elsewhere that abortion is complicated and involves moral conflicts, but I haven’t seen you be clear about what you mean by that–correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression you opposed abortion in all circumstances except saving the life of the mother. That’s not complicated, that’s actually very clear-cut. What are the complications involved that you would not chalk up to mere rationalizations?

    “It can’t process pain.”

    This is a bad rationalization; it extends from the fetus’ inability to produce thought, but in and of itself it’s not convincing. If one thinks but doesn’t feel pain, one still obviously has the right to life.

    “It’s only a potential life.”

    Terrible for the same reason as the first rationalization. No one with a gram of scientific knowledge believes a fetus isn’t human or isn’t alive.

    “It’s nobody’s business but the mother’s”

    Bad rationalization if you accept the premise that the fetus has rights, not so bad if you don’t accept that premise.

    • They are all rationalizations. Why? Because they are “justifications” devised after the determination that abortion is necessary and desirable to eliminate the need to deal with the fact that a separate individual, not “a part of the woman’s body” has its life snuffed out by thge process of abortion. Because pro-abortion advocates don’t want to accept or deal with that fact—it’s all about a choice, you see, and allowing or preventing that choice, and that’s all—they must develop rationalizations–lies—to make them feel that what is wrong is right.

      “Is it wrong to kill a human who doesn’t think?”

      It’s wrong to kill a human being, period.

      “Who literally produces no thought?”

      Didhonest rationalization.The issue with a brain dead human, who is legally dead already, occurs because the individual will NEVER produce any thought. If it is not killed, an unborn child will. So this is an opportunistic rationalization: quick, kill it before it thinks, and then we can’t.

      “If so, why? If one is not sentient, how can one be said to have rights?”
      As I said. The Constitution says nothing about brain activity. The issue is life, and growing life means eventual sentience.

      “If rights don’t come from consciousness, what do they come from?”

      Life.

        • A community that has no reverence or respect for its own members is doomed. Ethics, first and foremost, aims at survival. The Golden Rule says that we should give other human lives the same consideration we would expect. Human Life 1. Absolutism declares that human life is the one value that can not be exchanged for another objective, Human life 2. Utiltarianism requires a balancing, and since survival has the highest value, the only scenario where human life might have a lower value is when another human life is at risk. This culture is built on the foundation that life is a prime directive. I’m not concerned with other cultures that don’t value life. That’s their problem.

          What a crazy question.

    • ““It’s only a potential life.”

      Terrible for the same reason as the first rationalization. No one with a gram of scientific knowledge believes a fetus isn’t human or isn’t alive.”

      You do realize that the rationalization you approve of that “It doesn’t think” is really just this rationalization: “It’s only a potentially thinking thing”, given the fact that left to develop with no expected complications he/she WILL think.

      So you’ve really invalidated your own preferred rationalization.

      • I’m not following, tex. “It’s only a potentially thinking thing” is true. “It’s only a potential life” is not. The fact that if left to develop on its own it will develop thinking ability is only relevant to me in the sense that I can concede the fetus has rights. But I will always put the rights of thinking people above the rights of potentially thinking people. There are a ton of ethicists who have argued that rights

        • I wish we could edit comments. The above should read:

          There are a ton of ethicists who think that rights come from consciousness. Their arguments deserve more than just calling them “rationalizations” without actually engaging with them on the merits.

          • There are lot of lousy ethicists who are hostage to rationalizations or girlfriends that intimidate them. A growing fetus is no more merely “potentially sentient” than a child is a “potential teen,” or someone who is alive today is only potentially alive tomorrow. In all such cases, we presume that the passage of time will deliver the next stage, not that it won’t.

            Unless, of course, we want to justify killing.

      • I don’t care for semantic games, but yes, it’s a baby. I consider the term fetus to simply be more specific than “baby,” but baby is accurate.

        • Oh wait, I remember you, you’re the one who ultimately couldn’t concede that your definition of “thought” = rights compels admission of rights pretty much at conception, as one of other esteemed commentators here educated you that neural activity begins within 2 weeks of conception.

          So naturally you’d have the honesty to admit what the image above is.

          The image is mostly for the benefit of people (and they exist on these forums) who think abortions are hunky dory literally up until the head pops out of the vagina.

          • I conceded that my terms were inaccurate. Neural activity alone isn’t consciousness. There is little doubt among scientists that consciousness does not develop until about 24-28 weeks.

            For this reason I oppose late-term abortions. But I’m always going to put the rights of a conscious human being above those of a human being who has never had consciousness.

  7. I always said that although my personal gut feeling is that it’s wrong, I saw no logical reason why the law or the general public should tell any individual woman whether she could do it or not.

    But not now.

    What finally tripped the switch for me was the organ harvesting thing. They’re harvesting human organs from aborted fetuses. Intact, functioning human organs. And where do human organs come from? HUMANS.

    The conclusion is inescapable. Abortion ends human lives.

    So I’m thinking that abortion should only be legal in cases where the pregnancy itself is the result of a crime in which killing the perpetrator in self-defense would be justified. Rape or a case where bringing a baby to term would cause the mother’s death. That’s about it.

    • “So I’m thinking that abortion should only be legal in cases where the pregnancy itself is the result of a crime in which killing the perpetrator in self-defense would be justified. Rape or a case where bringing a baby to term would cause the mother’s death. That’s about it.”

      So punishing an innocent party that happened to be the unwilling “by-product” of a crime is some sort of justice-by-proxy?

      Huh?

      Victims of rape, who conceive, are in a really crappy situation, and this is one in which I see no issue with State support just as soon as every last dime is squeezed out of the rapist within practicality. However, permitting the killing of the baby who had no hand in the crime itself shouldn’t be considered as part of in post crime mitigation.

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