Commentary Abortion

Abortion Is a Necessary Social Good; Edited Videos and False Accusations Don’t Change That

Andrea Grimes

I still believe that all people deserve access to the comprehensive reproductive health care that is right for them and their families, regardless of the edited videos being released by anti-choice organizations.

See more of our coverage on the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.

On Sunday, I woke up believing that all people deserve access to the comprehensive reproductive health care that is right for them and their families.

On Monday, I woke up believing that all people deserve access to the comprehensive reproductive health care that is right for them and their families.

On Tuesday, I woke up believing that all people deserve access to the comprehensive reproductive health care that is right for them and their families.

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And then an agenda-driven organization calling itself the Center for Medical Progress released an edited undercover video showing Planned Parenthood’s senior medical director talking in sometimes graphic detail about distributing donated fetal tissue from abortion procedures to medical researchers.

When I woke up on Wednesday?

I still believed that all people deserve access to the comprehensive reproductive health care that is right for them and their families.

The heavily edited video has been hailed by right-wing anti-choice groups as definitive proof that Planned Parenthood coerces pregnant people into getting abortions in order to fill its overflowing coffers with blood money. Neither the eight-minute cut released on Tuesday nor the longer two-hour full version shows any such thing, but that appears to be of little consequence to those who have been primed to believe the worst about Planned Parenthood.

But apart from making unsupported claims about Planned Parenthood as an organization, what these videos also fail to do is shake my fundamental belief that legal abortion care is a necessary social good, and that people who choose abortion can be trusted to make the right decisions about their own reproductive futures.

These videos, deceptively edited and produced by anti-choice extremists who deliberately lied and engaged in egregious social manipulation to obtain their footage—without consent—are meant to make us feel uncomfortable and squeamish. And it’s understandable that we do. Talking about medical procedures in detail is foreign to the vast majority of us, and surgery of any kind is literally a bloody business.

But it is vital, especially if this so-called Center For Medical Progress group releases more of these deliberately misleading videos, that we center our discussion on the people—women, trans men, non-binary folks, and their families and loved ones—who will need access to legal abortion care no matter what Planned Parenthood, or any other medical provider, does with fetal tissue.

It is certainly tempting, in a grotesque sort of way, to focus primarily on the medical logistics of the pregnancy termination procedures and tissue donation measures discussed in the attack videos. That is precisely what the video’s producers, and anti-choice supporters, would almost certainly love for us to do. They would love to see the national conversation turn entirely to fetal fetishization, to imagine somehow that there is no grown human, with dreams and desires and families and friends, in the procedure room—just an evil doctor and a dismembered “baby.”

It’s an effective psychological ruse if your ultimate goal is to make abortion care illegal. And to be sure, that’s what’s happening here. Anti-choice groups don’t want Planned Parenthood to change its tissue donation policies; they want Planned Parenthood to stop providing abortion care immediately and go out of business entirely.

And in just a few days, they have been tremendously successful at manipulating opportunistic politicians into doing their bidding on this matter: already Louisiana, Texas, Ohio, and the federal government are promising “investigations” into Planned Parenthood. You can be assured that those “investigations” will be done with the express intent of closing legal abortion facilities.

And we well know that making abortion illegal and inaccessible doesn’t end abortion, but rather forces desperate people to do desperate—and perhaps dangerous—things to end their pregnancies, or forces them to carry unwanted, unplanned, or unsustainable pregnancies to term against their will. In a country with a rising maternal mortality rate, that’s a particularly grim prospect. But anti-choice groups, and the politicians who play into their lies and manipulations, are happy to use pregnant people as pawns for their religio-political ends, with nary a thought for the real-world consequences of what it means to do the kind of social, physical, and psychological harm for which they advocate.

The alternative to legal abortion is not no abortion. It’s illegal abortion or forced pregnancy. And how Planned Parenthood handles its tissue donations—for which providers get express permission from their patients—changes nothing about the need for legal abortion, and the need for a robust social safety net that empowers people to make family planning decisions that they can feel confident and comfortable about.

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