The fact that the citizens of several states have not only elected large pro-life majorities to their legislative chambers but have celebrated the passage of laws that protect the unborn starting at around six weeks of gestation has sent Planned Parenthood into histrionic overdrive.
Besides social media and elaborate top-down organizing of “grass-roots” demonstrations, the corporation has sent out their president, Dr. Leana Wen, on a media blitz campaign. Her constant message is that abortion—unregulated and untrammeled by any consideration of the rights of the fetus— is indispensable to American women’s health and that limiting abortion in any way is a misogynistic attack.
Planned Parenthood is sure that in Dr. Wen as spokesperson they have a winner on their hands. But as a woman and a doctor myself, I think the corporation is wrong to put so much faith in anyone’s ability to paper over Planned Parenthood’s greatest weakness in their crusade to be recognized as disinterested champions of women’s rights: the inescapable misogyny of abortion.
Planned Parenthood’s banner is painted with the colors of women’s rights and “reproductive freedom.” These are stirring concepts—rights and freedom—that ring loudly in the American imagination. But the company’s bread and butter, it’s raison d’être, is abortion. Abortion acts as the final guarantor of sexual liberation. In other words, for sex to be freed from its natural result (children) and the responsibility this imposes on the mothers and fathers that engender them, contraception must be back-stopped by abortion. But abortion is a painful and humiliating procedure endured only by women.
It does not escape our notice, as women, that the only ones being freed from the consequences of “free sex” through an abortion at Planned Parenthood are men! Abortion is a costly consequence for women. Expensive to procure (both medical and surgical abortions cost at least $500.00 at my local Planned Parenthood), physically painful and humiliating, as well as psychologically and spiritually destructive—an abortion equals a lot of loss for women. Yes, the corporation sells the absence of all the cares and duties that come with bringing a child into the world. But many women know that those duties are sweetened by the lasting rewards of parenting a son or daughter, and the loss of that potential happiness can be the cause of crippling regret for women.
The ones that get off scot-free, then, with the aid of Planned Parenthood, are not women who undergo the procedure, but the men that put them in that mortifying situation. You could say, with justice, that the greatest champion of irresponsible, undependable men in the United States is Planned Parenthood.
And they would like to be even better at this. The corporation is heavily subsidized by taxpayers through state and federal programs, yet lobbies unceasingly for more money. According to them, even the responsibility of paying for the procedures should be taken off the fathers’ shoulders. Planned Parenthood sells this to Americans as “reducing barriers to access.”
Dr. Wen is a much more sympathetic figure than Cecile Richards, with an accessible “nice-woman-next door” appearance and a friendly demeanor. As a physician, she can speak with the authority of her profession on the definition of “health” and “healthcare,” and the way these apply to women. She is a woman of color, and an emergency room physician who once treated a woman suffering from complications of a botched abortion, as we have heard many times.
But proving to American women that abortion, through all nine months of pregnancy and for any reason at all, is a great good, is just too heavy a lift for any woman. The cost of abortion is high, and it is women who are paying through the nose: the female fetuses with their lives and the mothers with their money, physical pain and remorse. Go ahead and send Dr. Wen to all the talk shows, Planned Parenthood, but don’t count on her being able to hide the truth from us.
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie practices Radiology in the Miami area and is a Policy Advisor for The Catholic Association.