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Letters & Op-Eds - 2015


Planned Parenthood Attack Campaign: Not Letting the Facts Get in the Way of Your Story

Jon O'Brien

17 July 2015

The trick of a carnival huckster is to distract you with the right hand so you don't see what the left hand is doing. The firestorm over the latest attack on healthcare provider Planned Parenthood is a classic example of how you can manufacture outlandish claims hidden by a mirage of genuine care and concern. In response to an attack video released earlier this week by an extreme group of anti-abortion activists, Christopher Hale penned a piece that tries to deceive the reader by claiming that Planned Parenthood did something wrong. In reality, his article is just part of an elaborate smokescreen that the antiabortion movement is using to distract the media and politicians.

Hale's organization, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, is part of an effort to defund and discredit Planned Parenthood. In fact, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good is so hell-bent on making abortion illegal they went so far as to equate a woman's abortion decision with torture and war. Considering this is his organization's starting position, it's hard to believe anything that Hale tells us is objective.

Planned Parenthood provides critical reproductive healthcare services for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our American society--traditionally underserved populations. It is an organization that epitomizes the social good. Hale reveals his inconsistency as he claims to stand up for the "poor, the unemployed, the uninsured, immigrants, the LGBT community" and women, even as he fights to deny them equal access to the healthcare they need--and deserve. As Catholics, we have an obligation to stand up for the conscience rights of all individuals when it comes to personal, private decisions such as abortion. That he seeks to undermine and deny those choices for some of the most vulnerable American women is downright despicable.

The Center for Medical Progress has the same end goal as Hale's organization--and everyone in the rabid antiabortion movement. The Center for Medical Progress made the misleading video in the most explosive manner possible to ensure Planned Parenthood will be targeted by all of the antiabortion candidates as we move towards the next presidential election. The goal is deeply political, and it's not grounded in reality. The truth is: nowhere in the video does a staff member from Planned Parenthood discuss "selling" fetal tissue. Claiming that they did does not make it so, and certainly does not make it truthful. In fact, as a Catholic who cares about the common good, I think it's critical that tissue is donated to help find cures for diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. I believe it's moral, ethical--and downright necessary--when done as part of a patient's wishes and within the legal guidelines.

It is ironic that Christopher Hale is a cofounder of a website called "Millennial." I know his extreme positions on abortion and contraception are not shared by young Catholics today. In fact, recent polling on Catholic Millennials clearly shows that this generation does not stand with Hale, and instead has a much more generous view of women's autonomy and freedom of conscience. For example, only 17 percent of Catholic Millennials believe abortion should be illegal, while a full 82 percent believe it should be legal in at least some cases.

I hope that our political leaders can see past the smoke and mirrors of the Center for Medical Progress, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and their ultraconservative allies. As we look to the next presidential election and beyond, it's critical that Catholics and others who believe in freedom of conscience for all speak up for the women who need abortions and with the providers who care for them. The social justice that drives our Catholic faith expects nothing less of each of us.

This letter was originally published by the Huffington Post.