Analysis

Slate’s Will Saletan is desperate to dismiss Planned Parenthood hearings

Dr. Anthony Levatino, with a sopher clamp, explains a D&E abortion

Abortion defenders’ complaints about the Planned Parenthood investigation are getting more outlandish by the week. At Slate, Will Saletan objects that the latest committee hearing “went way beyond Planned Parenthood or late-term abortion. What was on trial was abortion itself”…

Four witnesses, three of them pro-life, had been summoned to testify. The first, Anthony Levatino, was an OB-GYN who used to terminate pregnancies. He described his methods in grisly detail and showed the committee a video in which clinic staffers offered women very late abortions. Under questioning, however, Levatino admitted that these weren’t Planned Parenthood clinics, that he had never worked with Planned Parenthood during his practice, and that he had no evidence of wrongdoing by anyone affiliated with the organization.

This is nonsense. Nobody claimed Levatino was there to recount experiences specific to Planned Parenthood, but to explain the broader subject of late-term abortion: the humanity of its victim, how it’s normally performed, and its lack of medical necessity. Unless Planned Parenthood stopped performing late-term abortions when nobody was looking, of course all this is representative of and applicable to the organization.

The next witness, Susan Thayer, used to run a Planned Parenthood clinic in Iowa. She had filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the organization for firing her. Democrats on the committee challenged her motives, noting that she stood to collect a lot of money if she wins the case. Her testimony seemed sincere.

Saletan doesn’t mention that a whopping 45 audits of Planned Parenthood affiliates have found a combined total of $129.7 million in fraudulent use of tax dollars, or that PP Gulf Coast accepted a $1.4 million fine for Medicaid fraud, lending credence to Thayer’s allegations.

But the only abortion-related complaint she offered against Planned Parenthood was that it provided “webcam” abortions, in which a doctor talks with a woman by remote video and authorizes her to take pills that end her pregnancy. Thayer protested that once a woman takes the pills, she can’t change her mind. She ignored the simpler perspective: If you don’t let the woman take the pills, you’re thwarting her will.

Lots of medical guidelines “thwart a patient’s will,” but guidelines they are. In 2013, the Iowa Board of Medicine banned webcam abortions (though the state Supreme Court overruled them) because they violate FDA protocols requiring mifepristone and misoprostol to be taken under close, in-person supervision by a physician, because the drugs are fraught with medical risks.

The last pro-life witness, Luana Stoltenberg, was a puddle of anguish. She had had three abortions and testified that they had wrecked her life. She blamed clinic employees for downplaying the gravity of the procedure. But when questioned by the Democrats, she admitted that only one of the three abortions occurred at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Hers was a familiar story: I regret my abortion, so nobody else should be allowed to have one.

First, Saletan again says “admitted” but Stoltenberg’s testimony never alleges that her second or third abortions occurred at Planned Parenthood, but what she does say about the organization—that they lied to her about it being a “blob of tissue,” then said “I was no longer their problem” after she called them about post-abortion pain and bleeding—is damning enough (and if he wants more evidence that Planned Parenthood deceives and mistreats women, we’ve got plenty).

Second, it’s not that nobody should be allowed to have one simply because she regretted hers, it’s that nobody should be allowed to have one because of what experiences like hers illustrate: that “it’s solely about my body and nobody else gets hurt” is a lie. It’s an act of violence, Will. That’s a message applicable to all abortions, including the ones at Planned Parenthood.

The witnesses couldn’t hide their broader agenda. “Every abortion results in a dead son or daughter,” said Levatino. “It’s never OK to have an abortion,” said Thayer. Stoltenberg agreed: “Abortion is not health care. It is the taking of an innocent life.”

This complaint presupposes they were trying to hide anything in the first place, when in fact pro-lifers have been open from the start that these videos should be seen as highlighting the evil of abortion itself. What part of “human livers and human brains and human hearts come from human beings that Planned Parenthood KILLED” are Saletan and company not processing? Dear Lord, how many times do we have to shake them and repeat ourselves for it to finally sink in?

As one lawmaker after another erupted in outrage at the very existence of abortion, it became clear that the hearing itself was group therapy. The Planned Parenthood videos and hearings had revealed nothing with which to indict the organization. What was being exposed wasn’t criminal conduct. It was impotence and rage.

“There’s no evidence of criminality” is a complete, shameless lie, and Saletan almost certainly knows it. More importantly, there is nothing scandalous about expressing outrage here. Outrage is the natural, proper, healthy, and human response to being told we should tolerate the mass murder of children.

The committee’s Democrats called Thursday’s proceedings a show hearing, and the Republicans did their best to validate the charge. When the Democrats proposed to strike Levatino’s video presentation from the record, on the grounds that it had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood, the presiding Republican, Rep. Trent Franks, barked: “I wonder if we’re going to be able to strike that video from your memory.”

Again, the video was relevant for the reasons explained at the beginning of this post, but you can watch the video and Live Action’s further coverage on the incident here.

The purpose of the video, as Franks implicitly conceded, was just to make everyone uncomfortable. A few minutes later, Franks drove the point home: “The central question is: Does abortion kill a little baby?”

Yes, Will. That’s the central question. Your reaction to it, though, raises another: how calloused must one’s soul become to watch an extended discussion of killing children and walk away more troubled by those trying to stop it than those committing it?

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