Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A response to Scott Dibble regarding Planned Parenthood

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, argues for continued taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood in the Star Tribune. Mainly he offers standard abortion industry talking points. (Read about why Planned Parenthood should be denied funding here and here.)

Dibble claims that "the vast majority of family-planning clinics' funding is for essential health services (any abortions performed are funded separately)." But the money Planned Parenthood receives is fungible, so even if it doesn't directly pay for abortions, it supports the work of abortion and without question results in an increased number of abortions (statistics bear this out). A disturbing 98 percent of Planned Parenthood's pregnant clients receive abortions, as opposed to prenatal care or adoption referrals.

Photo of Senator Dibble
Scott Dibble
Dibble writes, "[C]onservative legislators [by defunding Planned Parenthood] are trying to put family planning, low-cost contraception, STD testing and treatment, and cervical cancer screenings out of reach for low-income women." That is simply false. Health care for low-income women can be provided (probably better) by other facilities -- including more than a thousand federally qualified health centers that offer cancer screenings, contraception and STD testing. Planned Parenthood is not a significant primary care provider: it provides "primary care" to only 0.66 percent of its clients, a percentage that has been decreasing in recent years.

In any case, it's not at all clear that Planned Parenthood -- a "non-profit" awash in money -- needs taxpayer dollars to offer its non-abortion services. (Given its known corruption and poor stewardship of taxpayer funds, Planned Parenthood certainly does not deserve them.)

In his piece, Sen. Dibble also seems to provide an indirect defense of abortion (although the permissibility and legality of abortion are not at issue in the Planned Parenthood funding debate). He invokes his "Catholic commitment to social justice" and says women must be able to "live a life of dignity and self-determination and to freely exercise their own decisions as moral agents." He later writes:
As Catholics, we are called to weigh moral decisions using the scale of our individual conscience, and to respect other people's right to do the same.

The recession has brought home the reality that any one of us can lose what we have and, like "the least among us," could come to rely on the goodwill of our community.

Are we also going to take away the right of some to make their own decisions about health care and family planning according to their conscience?

Good Friday is a time of somber reflection, a time to consider our call as Catholics to greater social justice and a reminder that the moral test of our state and country comes in how we treat our poor.

Ensuring family-planning services remain accessible to all fulfills the dictates of our faith.
Does any of this work as a justification for killing innocent human beings? Clearly, one may not kill a toddler in order to "freely exercise her own decision as a moral agent." And while I respect everyone's right to "weigh moral decisions using the scale of our individual conscience," I don't think we should allow people to kill their five-year-old children.

I'm sure Dibble doesn't think that either. The question is whether killing unborn human beings -- as opposed to toddlers and five-year-olds -- is permissible. Dibble offers no reason to think it is. That is, he offers no reason to think that the Catholic faith of which he ironically boasts is entirely wrong about this central moral teaching.

Sen. Dibble is rightly concerned about poverty. But to attempt to use the issue of poverty (wrongly and misleadingly) to dismiss all concern for the unborn -- a class of innocent human beings systematically and barbarically killed for the convenience of others (truly, "the least among us") -- is tragic and heartbreaking. It certainly does not fulfill "the dictates of our faith."