Ends don't justify the means in fight against Planned Parenthood
Most readers will remember the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials that surfaced last summer. The videos depicted what appeared to be a business transaction between Planned Parenthood leadership and representatives of a biomedical firm attempting to purchase fetal tissue. The firm, however, was fictitious; a ruse created by David Daleidan and Sandra Merritt, two anti-abortion advocates employed by the Center for Medical Progress, in order to obtain the footage used.
Though many anti-abortion advocates called for legislative and investigative action from the government following the release of the videos, the truth about the tapes has proved to be murky. Some forensic experts testified that the videos were manipulated, and that the reality behind the discussion of fetal tissue in the tapes is more complex than Planned Parenthood opponents would suggest. In reality, the unedited videos demonstrate that Planned Parenthood does not sell fetal tissue, but rather collects costs related to the transportation of donated fetal tissue that is used for scientific research. This practice, though controversial, is legal.
What was illegal, according to a randomly selected grand jury in Houston, Texas, were the methods used by Daleiden and Merritt to obtain the footage. This Monday the jury announced an indictment for both employees, charging them for tampering with the governmental record and attempting to purchase human tissue. Both individuals used fake IDs to obtain footage in Planned Parenthood clinics and Daleiden approached Planned Parenthood with the intent to buy fetal tissue. Though Planned Parenthood did not reply to his inquiry, and Daleiden claims his request was for investigative purposes, the attempt is considered a misdemeanor.
What is interesting about this recent decision is that the grand jury had the option to indict Planned Parenthood. Indeed, most pro-life advocates anticipated that the grand jury investigation would lead to punitive action against the non-profit reproductive health organization. Instead, the jurists cleared the organization of any wrongdoing. This finding is a major blow to the Center for Medical Progress, but also points to the complex ethical issues that mark politically-charged points of contention such as abortion.
In light of the jury's decision, pro-life advocates must ask which methods are justifiable in the pursuit of an anti-abortion agenda. Though there is certainly scriptural support for the decision to support life ' God's concern for the underprivileged and defenseless throughout scripture is undeniable ' Christians should not use underhanded means to pursue this goal. Indeed, pro-life advocates must consider whether deception constitutes a disregard for the commandments on ethical behavior that characterize Christian teaching. I would argue that the pursuit of an ethical good through unethical actions delegitimizes the Christian cause, especially in the eyes of political opponents who will not hesitate to expose hypocrisy among Christians.
We must also consider the spiral effects of the campaign launched by the Center for Medical Progress. Some wonder, for example, whether the videos motivated the fatal shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last November, when Robert Lewis Dear killed three and wounded nine innocent bystanders. Most Christians would condemn Dear's blatant disregard for life, but the incident speaks to a case where religious motives were twisted to justify unethical behavior. Reflecting on her ex-husband's actions, Barbara Micheau said that he 'claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic, but does not follow the Bible in his actions.'
The issue of abortion is complex, controversial, and one that continues to build walls between Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Christians. Micheau's words, however, should serve as a guard to all Christians as they strive to imitate Christ in their behavior, regardless of political agenda.