The investigative videos regarding Planned Parenthood's involvement in the marketing of human organs and tissue obtained from aborted babies are gravely disturbing and unsettling. The matter emphasizes the truth of Pope Francis’ assertion that abortion is the product of a "throwaway culture" and that, in his words, "Things have a price and can be sold, but people have a dignity; they are worth far more than things and are above price." Issuing a strong statement on behalf of the Bishops of the United States, Cardinal Seán O'Malley, the Chairman of the Committee on Pro-life Activities stated: "The recent news stories concerning Planned Parenthood direct our attention to larger issues involving many institutions in our society. The first is abortion itself: a direct attack on human life in its most vulnerable condition. The second is now the standard practice of obtaining fetal organs and tissues through abortion. Both actions fail to respect the humanity and dignity of human life. This fact should be the center of attention in the present public controversy."
The matters dealt with in the videos all stem from the evil which is part of the taking of a helpless life in an abortion. Once it is conceded, as has happened in our nation in the Supreme Court decision of Roe V Wade, that abortion is permitted and legal, a slippery slope of lack of respect for life quickly opens up which leads to an acceptance of a growing lack of respect for life at all stages. There is the acceptance of the untenable position that abortion is not only permitted but a justified action which is a right. This so-called right to an abortion has become more protected than an innocent life and has reinforced the way for the positing of other so-called rights over life such as euthanasia. All life is sacred and no one has the right to take another life except in the case of self-defense which is judged by rigorous moral principles. This is the reason for the Church's opposition to the death penalty as, in our society, the defense it offers is far better effected in other humane ways. Just as we do not have a right to take a life, we also do not have the right to ignore the legitimate needs of others such as the poor, vulnerable, homeless and the immigrant.
The discovery of Planned Parenthood's use of fetal organs in a manner in which they are sold to medical researchers and providers is another downward spiral in the evil which results from abortion. Planned Parenthood's willingness to traffic in fetal tissue from abortion and to alter abortion methods, not for any reason related to women's health, but to obtain more intact organs, goes against the most basic principles of respect for a child and is shocking to many Americans. The graphic nature of the videos point out the reality that a fetus is truly a recognizable human person. The manipulation of the fetus and the harvesting of its tissue and organs for the purpose of sale seem incredulous and truly emphasize the evil of abortion from another perspective. It also emphasizes the reality that those who are performing abortions realize they are dealing with human life. It is furthermore unacceptable to engage in the sale of body organs for the purpose of profit, whatever its reason may be, and such is a federal crime.
Unfortunately, an attempt by the Senate to defund Planned Parenthood of its federal funds failed on Monday, August 3. The bill failed to meet a 60 vote threshold with 53 senators in favor of the defunding and 46 opposed. Cardinal O'Malley, on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to the Senate urging the defunding of Planned Parenthood which performs over a third of all abortions within our country and receives over half billion taxpayer dollars a year. Such information in itself is quite distressing and calls upon the need for all of us to inform our elected officials that such funding is abhorrent.
Funding that goes to agencies which promote abortions could go to many services which provide alternatives to abortion and assistance to women in difficult pregnancy situations. Catholic Charities agencies and pregnancy health centers have helped countless pregnant women find life affirming alternatives to abortion. Catholic hospitals and other health facilities are second to none in providing quality healthcare for women. In our Diocese of Palm Beach, Birthline/Lifeline provides excellent care and assistance to women in determining how to properly deal with their pregnancies. We have an excellent post abortion healing ministry, Project Rachel, which assists many women who have undergone abortion so that they may be treated in a compassionate and understanding manner in dealing with the trauma present in their lives. Our Office of Pro-life Activity, under the direction of Catholic Charities, can point out many services within the confines of the Diocese of Palm Beach that truly are ready to assist women in difficult circumstances.
As believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we proclaim the sacredness and dignity of life at every stage. The present situation revealed at Planned Parenthood indicates that we still have a very long way to go in overcoming the primordial evil of abortion and the manipulative persuasion it brings to other moral issues. We need to realize ever more fervently the words of Pope Francis, that "Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who even before He was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world's rejection." We recommit ourselves to, in the words of St. Pope John Paul II, "a culture of life," and we reject "a culture of death," which frighteningly continues to ferment in our society.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
August 21, 2015