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Commentary: Planned Parenthood getting a bad rap

Like you, I’ve heard and read about Planned Parenthood’s supposed glee at selling “baby parts” on a shadowy, dark market. I was shocked, disheartened, bewildered. It all sounds so gruesome and heartless.

A personal reassessment of my beliefs seemed to be in order. Then — mercifully — my momma’s sage advice came back to me: “Consider the source,” she’d always say.

In this case there are two sources; two sides of the story. But first, some background and disclosure.

With every fiber of my being I believe in Planned Parenthood, and I support it politically, socially and financially. Planned Parenthood does more good for basic women’s health and reproductive liberty than any other nonprofit, public service entity I know. But most importantly, Planned Parenthood treats every one of its clients/patients with respect and dignity.

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It provides clients/patients with complete medical information and provides the services the individual patient chooses. Planned Parenthood honors treatment choice with dignity and respect for the person’s private, intimate, personal decisions relating to her or his own health and body.

Each and every day Planned Parenthood provides help to everyday folk at low or no cost to them. There are millions of American women (teens, moms, the elderly) who would have no basic health care without Planned Parenthood.

And, yes — among the hundreds of services provided — Planned Parenthood renders medically approved abortion services to those who seek them. Far from being an “abortion-mill,” abortion procedures are a very small percentage of the daily services delivered and the great majority of those are via medication very early in the gestational period.

Through its educational efforts, Planned Parenthood has greatly reduced the number of unplanned/unwanted pregnancies across the nation. This is key.

Of course, there are two sides. There are many who, based on their own moral, ethical or religious beliefs, abhor the use of contraceptives and the delivery of abortion services. Those personal beliefs are to be treated with respect and dignity. Planned Parenthood treats all beliefs with respect, including those of detractors.

We live in a secular, democratic society; not a pure democracy but a constitutional democracy. The right to chose or refrain from the use of contraceptives, and the right to carry a pregnancy to birth or terminate it, are rights guaranteed to every individual. No one is forced to use contraceptives, and no one is forced to have an abortion.

Yet while purported “pro-life” beliefs of others are treated with respect, on the other side there appears to be no inclination to accord respect and dignity for those with opposing views. The recent YouTube video opens by saying it will tell the viewer about “real-life harvesting and selling of baby parts…" by Planned Parenthood.

How disingenuous and appallingly inflammatory. The content is shocking, yes. The practice as presented appears despicable, I agree. But it’s entirely false. It’s demeaning. It’s hateful.

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The result of an abortion procedure is the dispelling of fetal tissue – not the dispelling of a “baby.” The tissue is, at the same time, extremely valuable for scientific and medical research, as well as for the production of stem cells to be used in medical therapies.

As a society we have come to learn of, and most to accept, organ transplantation. Many of us carry cards granting the removal of needed organs in the event of accidental death. That seems to be a very humane act. In fact the state helps facilitate that donor identification program.

Similarly, abortion patients of Planned Parenthood may elect to donate their discarded fetal tissue to aid science and medicine hoping, I imagine, that tissue may provide relief from suffering or save the life of another. Is there any real difference between organ donation and fetal tissue donation? The only real difference here is the hateful and false imagery of disemboweling a “baby.”

Does money change hands? Yes. Does Planned Parenthood profit? No.

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The proper medical care and handling of scientifically useful excised tissue is technical, precise and relatively expensive. Thus medical facilities and labs pay to reimburse the costs to assure proper care. Again, Planned Parenthood only transfers tissue with the donor’s consent and makes no profit.

To reap scorn and hatred upon Planned Parenthood, and worse, to try to drive it from the community and from fulfilling the medical needs of millions of American women and teens by telling deliberate falsehoods is unconscionable.

Everyone has a right to their own beliefs; but no one has the right to make up stories using hidden cameras and editing to create a false narrative and present it to the community as truth. That’s simply deceit and is unworthy of anything but condemnation.

I believe in and support Planned Parenthood and stand ready to defend its work and its patients to my last breath. Finally, let me disclose that I am a recently appointed member of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino County’s Community Action Fund — but add that the contents of this message are entirely my own.

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I joined the board to, as they say, “put my money (and well as time and conviction) where my mouth is.” As I’ve said, I support Planned Parenthood because it treats all with respect and dignity, and delivers invaluable basic health care to millions to help assure a better quality of life for all. Hopefully you’ll join its noble effort.

Newport Beach resident LYNNE RIDDLE is a retired federal judge.


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