Planned Parenthood is having a terrible few weeks.
It began with the news that on the same day that the movie Unplanned was released on DVD, it shot up to become the #1 selling DVD on Amazon. Apparently, sales haven’t slowed down much since. Over a week later, Unplanned is still sitting right next to Avengers: Endgame on Amazon’s “Best Sellers” list. In case you don’t know (and you should!), Unplanned tells the true story of Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood clinic manager who became pro-life. The movie exposes both the truth about abortion (that it kills a living human being) and Planned Parenthood (that it never met an abortion it didn’t like). How inspiring to see this comparatively low budget pro-life film holding its own against blockbuster films that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make. As it turns out, the public doesn’t just want glitzy popcorn entertainment: they are hungry for films that tackle serious topics and promote the pro-life and pro-family worldview. Hollywood, take note.
Then, Planned Parenthood announced that due to new rules promulgated by the Trump administration, they would be foregoing $60 million in taxpayer funding. Under the new rules, clinics receiving Title X funding cannot refer for abortions. However, rather than abiding by this rule, Planned Parenthood announced they would withdraw from Title X altogether. ABC News reports that abortion clinics around the country, including Planned Parenthood clinics, are worried about being able to keep their doors open in the wake of the loss of funding. Good! Killing babies and authentic reproductive health have nothing to do with one another. Planned Parenthood’s PR machine went into overdrive in the wake of the decision, bombarding people with the notion that somehow this new rule will harm poor women, who won’t be able to get the care they need. Nonsense. In reality, there are myriad community health clinics all across the country that perform all the other services that Planned Parenthood does, except for killing babies. Many of them are woefully underfunded, in large part because Planned Parenthood’s well-oiled lobbying and marketing machine sucks up most of the money.
Then came perhaps the biggest blow of all, at least to Planned Parenthood’s public image: a jury in Arizona ordered Planned Parenthood to pay $3 million to a former clinic manager who had exposed all manner of malfeasance going on at Planned Parenthood clinics. Mayra Rodriguez had worked for the organization for 17 years and had run three different clinics. In other words, she knew what was going on behind the walls of Planned Parenthood. She was fired from her job after she raised concerns about the fact that an unusual number of women were experiencing complications after having abortions at the hands of one particular abortionist. She also complained that the doctor was falsifying medical records, that the clinic failed to report a case of statutory rape, and about poor procedures for handling narcotics, among other things. Rodriguez is now working with And Then There Were None, the pro-life organization founded by Abby Johnson to help abortion clinic workers to leave their jobs and to embrace the pro-life position.
Power to Change the Culture
In case it need be said, developments like these don’t just “happen.” Each one of them came about as the result of weeks, or even years of hard work and savvy strategizing on the part of various pro-life groups and individuals. Each one of them is a testament to the growing sophistication, commitment, investment and influence of the pro-life movement.
Planned Parenthood is not alone in having a rough time these days. The whole pro-abortion movement in the United States is on the defensive. I’ve noticed a significant change in tone in a lot of the pro-abortion rhetoric in the past couple of years. The pro-abortion movement has always claimed that reproductive rights are “under attack,” and that people need to donate to them in order to stop the “anti-choice” fanatics from undermining “women’s rights.” Lately, however, I’ve started to notice that this urgency, and even fear, no longer sounds like a fundraising strategy. Pro-abortion activists are legitimately worried that they’re losing.
As well as they might. As one liberal publication put it recently: “For America, it seems, this is a year of reckoning on the issue of abortion.” The article continues, “In the past few months, a slew of states have passed restrictive abortion laws, with the explicit intent to have them challenged in front of the Supreme Court.” It also does the heart good to read the recent headline in the New York Times, “‘This Is a Wave’: Inside the Network of Anti-Abortion Activists Winning Across the Country.” The article itself begins, “State after state is passing sweeping abortion restrictions this year…”
But it’s not just the growing number of pro-life laws that are changing the landscape on this issue. These laws are coming about as the result of the experience and hard work of a growing body of shrewd pro-life lawyers, legislatively-focused organizations, and pro-life lawmakers. But even as these types of pro-life individuals and groups are grinding away at the often thankless and unseen work of paving the way for pro-life state and federal laws, a huge army of pro-life individuals are chipping away at the Culture of Death in their own ways, both big and little.
Looking at the modern pro-life movement makes me think of St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.” The glut of pro-life laws being put forward is inspiring. But there’s no way we’d be able to pass pro-life laws if it weren’t for the crack troops of the Culture of Life: the volunteers at the thousands of pregnancy help centers across the country providing love and concrete help to women in trouble; the thousands of prayerful protesters outside abortion clinics; the groups working on college campuses to change the minds of the next generation; the pro-life media organizations; the Knights of Columbus councils that fund pro-life initiatives; organizations committed to helping post-abortive women heal; organizations committed to helping abortion workers leave their jobs and repent; parish-level pro-life groups…and on and on.
Each one of these groups is necessary. And every one of these groups is constituted of individuals who felt God’s call to do something about the massacre of the innocents and responded. There is a need for some form of concrete pro-life witness or activism in every single one of our lives. For the busy stay-at-home mom, it might just be a matter of witnessing to her own children about the sanctity of life by the love she shows them, and the gratitude with which she welcomes new life. For the working father, it might just be a matter of budgeting a portion of his pay to go to the local pregnancy help center, or offering up a weekly holy hour for the end of abortion.
Or it might be more than that. It might be opening your heart to adopt an unwanted child, or to fostering some of the many children who our culture tells us are “unwanted” and probably better off aborted. It might be putting a roof over the head of a pregnant woman desperate for a place to stay while she figures out the next steps in her life. Or it might be starting that pro-life council at your parish, or taking a shot at launching that big pro-life idea that’s been on your heart for years.
What there’s no excuse for, is doing nothing. If you’re grateful about the visible pro-life progress that’s being made these days, don’t give in to the temptation to relax. This progress would never have been possible had it not been for the handful of dedicated pro-life pioneers in the early 1970s who courageously forged the way for us and without the small and unseen sacrifices of pro-life citizens like you. Rather than relaxing, renew your resolution to do more, providing further energy to this great push in favor of the sanctity of life.