Did Planned Parenthood Just Endanger Abortion Rights?

A lobbyist fails to distinguish between abortion and infanticide. The rest of us must.

Let’s just declare this up front: Alisa LaPolt Snow gave the wrong answer.

Let’s also stipulate that Snow, a lobbyist representing the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, was in a challenging situation when she testified before the Florida legislature last week. It was a hearing that took place as the same time abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell went on trial in Philadelphia—charged with murdering babies born alive in his clinic—and the Gosnell example was clearly on the mind of legislators.

The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, reports what happened:

“So, um, it is just really hard for me to even ask you this question because I’m almost in disbelief,” said Rep. Jim Boyd. “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?”

“We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician,” said Planned Parenthood lobbyist Snow.

Again, that’s the wrong answer. The right answer? You try to save the baby. Period.

I say this not because I’m a pro-life zealot, but because I’m like a lot of Americans—instinctively uncomfortable with abortion, morally, while at the same time believing that reproductive rights are an essential element of any woman’s freedom. I’m pro-choice, but I’m not always comfortable with that label. (It’s a position that’s admittedly too wishy-washy for both my pro-life and pro-choice friends.) And Snow’s answer threatens the moral balancing act needed to arrive at that conclusion.

For me—and for many people, I suspect—abortion is one thing: a procedure that happens because a woman is deciding what is happening to and inside her own body. On the very rare occasion an abortion procedure results in a live birth, though, that woman’s body is no longer directly implicated in the choices being made.* A new person has arrived on the scene. And that person, a living, breathing baby, deserves a doctor’s care.

*She can breastfeed and care for the child; unlike pregnancy itself, there is no biological requirement to so.

Most people understand these distinctions. It’s why Gosnell—accused of killing babies born after botched abortions—has generated such outrage and revulsion, even among pro-choice politicians and other figures. There’s a difference between abortion and infanticide, and most of us want to keep the distinctions crystal clear.

What’s more, Planned Parenthood agrees. After Snow’s appearance before the legislature, the organization released this statement:

Last week, a panel of Florida state legislators demanded speculation about a vague set of extremely unlikely and highly unusual medical circumstances. Medical guidelines and ethics already compel physicians facing life-threatening circumstances to respond, and Planned Parenthood physicians provide high-quality medical care and adhere to the most rigorous professional standards, including providing emergency care. In the extremely unlikely event that the scenario presented by the panel of legislators should happen, of course Planned Parenthood would provide appropriate care to both the woman and the infant.

Pro-lifers, of course, believe there is little distinction between abortion and infanticide—that it’s all the same thing. Kermit Gosnell isn’t an exception to the rule, in this scenario, but the logical result of a depraved medical and legal culture that already allows babies to be murdered. When the distinctions become fuzzier in the public’s mind, reproductive rights are in danger.

Gosnell’s trial already had abortion-rights activists playing defense. Snow’s bad answer was another self-inflicted wound. She gave a bad answer; the result is that reproductive freedoms are on shakier ground than they were just a few weeks ago.