The Fog of Ideology

preborn baby ultrasoundIn light of ongoing revelations emerging from the undercover Planned Parenthood videos, Progressives are doubling down, falling back on their tried and true tactic of conflating “women’s health care” with abortion and suggesting that opposition to the latter constitutes an attack on the former. And much to the chagrin of pro-life Americans, this tactic appears to be working.

An effort to defund Planned Parenthood was successfully blocked by Senate Democrats, with Senator Elizabeth Warren delivering the oratorical coup de grace on behalf of America’s largest abortion provider:

Do you have any idea what year it is? Did you fall down, hit your head, and think you woke up in the 1950’s or the 1890’s? Should we call for a doctor? Because I simply cannot believe that in the year 2015, the United States Senate would be spending its time trying to defund women’s health care centers. You know, on second thought, maybe I shouldn’t be that surprised. The Republicans have had a plan for years to strip away women’s rights to make choices over our own bodies.

She goes on to assert that the current efforts have nothing to do with the “highly edited videos” but are rather the result of a longstanding “Republican scheme” to blast women’s rights back to the stone age through the systematic deprivation of “legal” health care services. This, as Joe Scarborough said on Morning Joe, is a red herring and an insult to the intelligence of thinking people everywhere.

It might be in insult to our intelligence, but unfortunately it is a tactic that has been effective in the past and will likely continue to be effective on the issue of abortion. The bottom line is, abortion has come to be a pillar of Progressive ideology. It is an issue that must be embraced and defended unquestioningly and uncritically.

For this reason, many who are pro-abortion probably won’t even watch the videos, just as virtually none of the senators that blocked the effort to defund Planned Parenthood watched the videos. Supporters of Planned Parenthood cannot in their minds differentiate between a woman taking a birth control pill and a women having an abortion – for them these are merely two kinds of “health care services” to which women are legally entitled.

I recently engaged in a lengthy discussion with a friend who is pro-choice, who for the purposes of this writing I’ll call Joe. Joe had posted a link to Warren’s impassioned defense of Planned Parenthood from the floor of the Senate. “Thank you, voters of Massachusetts, for sending Elizabeth Warren to the Senate,” he wrote.

Not wanting to start a “wall war” with Joe and all of his pro-choice buddies, I sent a private message. “Doesn’t the content of the videos disturb you at all? Doesn’t hearing a doctor rejoice over all the ‘great stuff’ he got from a 12 week old fetus bother him? Doesn’t hearing another abortionist suggest charging ‘by specimen’ to ‘see how much we can get’ make him uneasy? What about seeing a women talk about the strategic crushing of live unborn children in between bites of salad and sips of wine?”

The conversation that followed was fascinating. While admitting that the content “sounds disturbing,” Joe hadn’t watched the videos because he was suspicious of the motives of the organization behind them. “They have an agenda. They are out to destroy Planned Parenthood. They make these sensational videos and try to get people emotional over these issues.” This response illustrates the power of ideology to color a person’s view of reality. To Joe, abortion is a women’s rights issue, period, and anyone that questions it is an enemy of women and of liberty in general.

I asked him why he was so ambivalent about the unborn, when as a Progressive he claims to care about social justice and the dignity of society’s most vulnerable and most disenfranchised members. “We conservatives are supposed to be the callous ones, the Social Darwinists who proclaim an ‘every man for himself’ attitude, who don’t care about the struggles of illegal immigrants, minorities, the urban poor. If Progressives were consistent they would be the greatest champions of the unborn child’s right to life.”

Joe responded that conservatives are the hypocrites for being so concerned about unborn children but ambivalent to the life of children after they are born. “Perhaps when we have social programs that can provide for a quality of life for all children, we won’t need abortion.” I admitted that he had a point. As some pro-lifers have argued, it is inconsistent for those who claim to care about the worth and dignity of every human being to be concerned for the lives of unborn children but less empathetic to the struggles of people after they are born.

Pro-life individuals should devote just as much energy and attention to child poverty and hunger and education as they do to the issue of abortion. We should do what we can to ensure that young children are loved and supported.

Of course, as I reminded my friend, it’s easy for two sides to agree that there is a problem. It’s hard to agree on the best solution. Conservatives would point to the family and faith as the best remedies against the kinds of problems plaguing the poor. Progressives see an expanded welfare state as the solution. As usual, politics can be polarizing and is often paralyzing.

Probably the most fascinating thing about our discussion, in the end, was my friend’s unwillingness to critically analyze his own support for abortion. “Abortion is legal and it’s a freedom that women have. Why mess with that?” I responded that there was a time when slavery was legal, when discrimination against women and gays was legal. Does legality necessarily denote morality and justice? Should the abolitionists and suffragettes have just saved themselves a lot of trouble and left things as they were?

He granted that he could “see where I was going” with the argument. He then questioned my use of the term “innocent unborn children” because he said it “anthropomorphized” unborn babies. I replied that yes it does, and rightly so because I happen to believe that unborn children are human beings. “So if, in your mind, and unborn child isn’t human,” I then asked, “when would you say they become so?” To this I got the oft used reply that he was “not qualified” to answer when life begins.

I told him he couldn’t pass the buck, that this question is one that demands critical reflection. You can’t say an unborn baby isn’t human and then refuse to explain why you think that. In response, he said that it probably had something to do with basic cognition and the ability to communicate. I asked him if he then would support the killing of profoundly mentally disabled people who are unable to appreciate their own existence and are barely if at all communicative.

Our conversation was cut short at this point due to the demands of the office and hungry children. I went to the trouble of recounting it, however, because it speaks volumes about the attitude that informs the pro-choice ideology, or any ideology, really. People aren’t quick to expose themselves to things that will undercut or call into question their deeply held beliefs.

My husband once told me, half joking, that the reason he avoids watching undercover videos of animal abuse in factory farms is because he doesn’t want those images in his mind when he’s eating a chicken sandwich. I’m sure this is true for many people who view animals rights organizations as “radical” and “fringe” and “people with an agenda.” They like the fact that meat in America is cheap and plentiful and they would rather not think of the business practices that enable that.

As another example, there were many conservatives in the decade following the Iraq War who avoided watching the various documentaries or reading the books critical of the Bush administration, because they discounted all critics as illegitimate and driven by a blanket hatred of our 43rd president.

With regard to abortion, most self-identified Progressives have uncritically bought into the idea that mothers have a right to kill their unborn children. Abortion is wrapped up in and shrouded by the rhetoric of choice and liberation, and anyone who questions that is automatically discounted as an enemy of women.

Bottom line, as abhorrent as these videos are – as much as they reveal about the truly monstrous ideology animating the minds of many Planned Parenthood officials and staffers – I fear that they won’t have much of an impact in the end because the people who really need to see them are not watching them. As more evidence of explicit profit-seeking and intentional violations of federal law emerges, prosecutions may well happen, but that still won’t get people who are pro-choice to question their views.

Ideology is that powerful. I’m not sure how the pro-life side can change this, but we must never stop advocating for those who are unable to advocate for themselves. Perhaps with enough time and enough prayers, a change in the way our culture and our society values unborn life is possible.

Erica Wanis is a consultant for the John Jay Institute's Center for a Just Society. She resides in Leesburg, VA, with her husband and son.

  • Pax

    such a deep and interesting topic. How does one establish ‘credability’ of a source. We have an obligation to seek truth, but how do we avoid the dangers involved in prying it out from anongst lies. Unfortunately i think Jesus was very purposful in his choice when referring to humans as sheep.
    Sheep follow one another, if a sheep is in the lead and goes over a cliff, many will follow. Sheep have a reputation for being non-too-bright. I am reminded a word a friend of mine uses ‘sheeple’ combining sheep and people. We are all a little bit that way sometime.