Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Douthat unmasks the moral cowardice of PP defenders

By Thomas V. Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 06, 2015

Two weeks after his excellent op-ed "Looking Away from Abortion," Ross Douthat has delivered another blow to moral cowardice. In his latest NYT blog piece, "There Is No Pro-Life Case for Planned Parenthood," Douthat takes on the argument that defunding Planned Parenthood is counterproductive even for pro-lifers, because the organization's family planning services do much to reduce abortions.

To sum up the statistical case Douthat makes against that claim: Abortion rates tend to be higher, not lower, in liberal states with supposedly abortion-reducing policies (support for Planned Parenthood, sex education, "free" contraception, etc.). More than that, the national decline in abortions over the past couple of decades has correlated with a decrease in federal funding for those things.

Neither does the data support the claim that the reduction in abortions is still due to a reduction in unplanned pregnancies—because while there was an increase in unplanned pregnancies from the 1990s to the Great Recession, abortions declined greatly during that same period. 

Aside from being factually wrong, the argument is disingenuous. Douthat asks moderate liberals who are uncomfortable with abortion yet want to support Planned Parenthood's other services:

If all these other services are such a great, crucial, and (allegedly) abortion-reducing good, why do you, center-left journalist, want them perpetually held hostage to the possibility of public outrage over the crushing of tiny bodies in the womb? If a publicly-funded institution does one set of things you really like, and another thing that makes you morally uncomfortable, why are you constantly attacking that organization’s critics and telling them that they just have to live with the combination, instead of urging the organization itself to refocus on the non-lethal, non-dismembering portions of its business?


It is not the pro-life movement that’s forced Planned Parenthood to unite actual family planning and mass feticide under one institutional umbrella. It is not the Catholic Church or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or the Southern Baptist Convention or the Republican Party that have bundled pap smears and pregnancy tests and HPV vaccines with the kind of grisly business being conducted on those videos. This is Planned Parenthood’s choice; it is liberalism’s choice; it is the respectable center-left of Dana Milbank and Ruth Marcus and Will Saletan that’s telling pro-life and pro-choice Americans alike that contraceptive access and fetal dismemberment are just a package deal, that if you want to fund an institution that makes contraception widely available then you just have to live with those “it's another boy!” fetal corpses in said institution’s freezer, that’s just the price of women’s health care and contraceptive access, and who are you to complain about paying it, since after all the abortion arm of Planned Parenthood is actually pretty profitable and doesn’t need your tax dollars?

Thomas V. Mirus is Director of Podcasts for, hosts The Catholic Culture Podcast, and co-hosts Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast. See full bio.

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