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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Thomas Garrett's Legacy: A Modern Day Abolition Issue

Good day, readers! I'm posting the following article which I completed this past February, and updated today in light of new legislative developments. I ask that if the Lord leads, you share it in whatever venue seems right to you. And please consider contacting lawmakers and apprising them of your views on the issues discussed herein.

One small disclaimer: apologies for the variations in font and format, which I suppose are the result of cutting and pasting articles and links into the body of the text. I tried various means of correcting this, to no avail. In the end I decided to let the piece stand or fall on its own merits and research, and trust readers to overlook this minor flaw.
I was especially stunned to learn of the House panel's investigation into Planned Parenthood, and their surprising findings.
I pray many will find the piece worthy of sharing.

Thomas Garrett’s Legacy: A Modern Day Abolition Issue


Subversive Hero

Thomas Garrett helped an estimated 2,700 slaves find freedom via the Underground Railroad when the scourge of slavery marred our land of the free and home of the brave.

Garrett began these “subversive” activities while residing in Pennsylvania, a free state, but remained committed to his illegal operations after relocating to Delaware, a state which had codified into law the enslavement of humans.

Garrett paid a steep price for his involvement. He was attacked in the press, tried in court, and found guilty by none other than then Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, whose later rendering of the deplorable Dred Scott decision was one of the final straws that propelled the United States into civil war.1 Garrett’s legal costs, fees to the tune of $5,400 (a king’s ransom, even for a prosperous iron merchant like Garrett), and being forced to neglect his business to attend to his legal troubles, left him penniless.

But the grace of God through sympathetic friends enabled him to rebuild his shattered life, and ultimately African Americans, for whom he sacrificed his own wellbeing, dubbed him “Our Moses” and carried his body to its final resting place.2

A fitting end to a life finely lived.

Prayer Vigil

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a prayer vigil on a street which bears Garrett’s name. Amnion Pregnancy Center on Garrett Road in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania serves the community and country in ways which would make the former Delaware County native proud. I learned from Amnion’s Executive Director Melanie Parks and Board Vice President Louann Rodgers that Amnion operates on only $325,000 per year, none of which comes from federal or state government. This small agency stretches every dollar to counsel expectant mothers, outfit and diaper babies, and dispense ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, prenatal vitamins, and parenting coaching. They hope in the future to add STI testing and treatment to their list of services.  

In addition, Amnion offers adoption and housing referrals, and links low-income clients to physicians that serve the uninsured and underinsured, as well as to community resources like WIC.3
Not least, Amnion feels a responsibility to serve women who have had abortions. Roughly one in five women in the United States is post-abortive.4  The Amnion chapter of “Surrendering the Secret” offers group support and counseling5 to deal with the guilt and shame that many report as aftereffects of the procedure.6

The cost for all these services?

$0.00.

That’s right. Amnion and other agencies like it, such as AlphaCare (whose annual budget is $586,000 according to Executive Director Karen Hess7) and Delaware County Pregnancy Center (which ekes by on $135,000 per year, per interim Executive Director Helen McBlain8), charge nothing for their assistance. Zero. Zip. Nada. Relying on fundraising and donations, these agencies build bricks with virtually no straw on a regular basis. While some pregnancy centers receive state funds9, others, such as the aforementioned three, receive not one penny of government funding. Nor do they want any. As Hess explains, “No government funds ever. So we can keep sharing the Gospel.”10

Make no mistake: pregnancy centers have an agenda, and they’re not trying to hide it. They make no bones about their huge concern for unborn children, and that concern extends to the spiritual welfare of prospective parents who walk through their doors. While taking care not to thrust a religious world view on their clients, if and when the opportunity arises to offer spiritual hope, these agencies would sooner do without government grants than risk being beholden to its whims and shots-calling.

Another Vigil

As I pondered all this information, my mind flashed back to another Saturday vigil I used to attend. This one took place in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic located in Media, Pennsylvania. My friend and I used to pray regularly with a group of like-minded individuals outside this branch of the organization that performs more abortions than any other health care provider in the United States.11 The Media office does not itself offer abortions, but regularly refers clients to practitioners who do.12

I began to wonder about Planned Parenthood’s budget in comparison with the small purses of the pregnancy centers I’d been interviewing. Shockingly, this massive body rakes in almost four billion dollars a year13, which it doles out to approximately 650 clinics in the U.S.14 This works out to about $6 million per clinic per year, nearly half of which it receives from United States taxpayers.15

One might well wonder what Planned Parenthood does with all this cash, considering it happily accepts payments from insurance companies, Medicaid, and individuals, as well as enjoying non-profit tax exempt status.16 While there’s no denying that Planned Parenthood performs a variety of cancer screenings – not including mammograms, despite claims to the contrary by certain notable figures – and a hefty percentage of STI tests and treatments, their most recent annual report also reveals that they perform 324,000 abortions per year, which constitutes almost 50% of abortions done annually in this country (30).17  

Boasting of “foster[ing] the sexual and reproductive health and rights of individuals, families, and communities,” Planned Parenthood’s website also contains an “Info for Teens” page which offers everything from advice about sexual orientation/gender experimentation to glib videos about masturbation and precum.18 What they do not do with Uncle Sam’s tax exempt dollars is deliver virtually anything in the way of prenatal care; in fiscal year 2015, this champion of reproductive rights reported less than 0.2% of its business coming under this category.19 Adoption referrals made up an even tinier fraction of services rendered by this “family planning” giant – .02% .20

So when my friends and I prayed in front of their offices, we prayed for parents-to-be who made their way into that facility looking for help, and for preborn children who couldn’t speak for themselves. We prayed also for young people, whose world views are still up for grabs. We knew the counseling they would receive inside those doors would focus on contraception (women ages 15 to 24 account for nearly half of contraceptive usage in this country21); prevention and treatment of STIs, half of which occurs among that same population22; and pregnancy termination, 12% of which occurs among teens.23

Ultrasound Usage­­­

Expectant moms who step across Amnion’s threshold are offered the opportunity to glimpse their developing children on an ultrasound screen. This is an unapologetic effort to allow mothers to see their developing children prior to deciding their fates. Many pregnancy centers have found that this simple step allows clients to make a more informed decision as to whether the tissue they’re carrying is a “bundle of joy” or merely a “product of conception.”

On the other hand, not all abortionists use sonography. Some physicians go into the birth canal blindly, without consulting sonograms to illuminate their path. Those who do employ the technology do so to guide cannulas which locate the fetus prior to tearing it limb from limb, or to inject lethal doses of digoxin or other death-inducing drugs into fetal hearts. Ultrasound, if used at all in Planned Parenthood clinics, is utilized primarily for one of two purposes: either to assess fetal age to determine abortion cost – the older the fetus, the higher the fee24 – or to guide a probe/clamp to dismember the fetus inside its mother’s womb, then crush its skull to facilitate exit through the birth canal.25

 Either way, their mission is the same: search and destroy.

The Other Side of the Discussion

Attacks have been leveled at pregnancy centers by such auspicious publications as Time Magazine and Cosmopolitan, claiming misleading advertising and one-sided agendas. Any organization stands to benefit from constructive criticism, self-examination and reshaping, and pregnancy centers are no exception. Judging from the websites encountered in the research for this article, it would appear the Fourth Estate has caused pregnancy centers to clarify their mission and objectives so as to ward off any misunderstandings right out of the gate.

Interestingly, though, the aforementioned periodicals haven’t seen fit to denounce any of Planned Parenthood’s peccadillos like, oh, say, sale of fetal body parts, overbilling of insurance companies, dubious consent forms, disregard for HIPPA regulations, and violation of the Hyde Amendment which bars them from underwriting abortions with federal funds. Rather, both magazines robustly defended the abortion giant; Cosmopolitan went so far as to give the cat bird seat to Planned Parenthood’s President, Cecile Richards, by running her op ed, in which this leader and spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood reveals the organization’s “liberated” philosophy:

Women's ability to realize their goals requires them to have control of their fertility. If           we want women to have fulfilling careers and economic stability, we have to give them full access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion.

Above and beyond any practical, economic reasons to respect the right of women to control their own reproductive system, abortion rights are a matter of autonomy and equality.

Condoms break. Birth control pills are not infallible. Intrauterine devices and implants, even, have failure rates, miniscule as they may be. When these things happen, women have to make a whole host of decisions. No member of Congress should interfere.

Women deserve healthy, fulfilling, positive sex (no matter how many times misogynists say it, "keep your legs closed" will never be a valid argument). And they deserve access to reproductive health care and information to make the best choices about sex.26

Government Conclusions

Despite Richards’ noble motives and the accolades and apologist efforts of her media friends, the federal government did not shy away from objectively considering the troubling questions raised by the release of 11 videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s unlawful trafficking in fetal parts and other unethical activities. In 2016 the House of Representatives released its 427 page Final Report by the Select Investigative Panel of the Energy and Commerce Committee, validating all the aforementioned allegations.27

The panel included in its report the following further observations about Planned Parenthood and quotations from its founder, Margaret Sanger:

       Planned Parenthood executives who spoke with the Panel noted that 2016 is the 100th
       anniversary of [its] founding … A closer look at the history of the organization,  however,  
       leaves little to celebrate. [It] was founded by eugenicists who believed in limiting the rights
       of people to form families and have children if they had mental or physical disabilities or
       were of the “wrong” race (xxxvi).

Among the founders … were a group of eugenicists, including … Margaret Sanger, who sought to reduce and control population growth, including among the African American community. Sanger saw the eugenics movement as a chance to rid civilization of “racial, political and social problems… Our civilization has bred, is breeding and is perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents and dependent.”  

She calls those with mental disabilities a “dead weight of human waste” and a “burden of
unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity.”

Sanger wrote that “negroes present the great problem of the South …” (299-300).

Final Considerations

In light of the facts revealed by the House panel and its unabashed disdain for Planned Parenthood’s practices and philosophies, one might wonder why taxpayers are still supporting the organization. No one is disputing that Planned Parenthood serves women and families in numerous ways that pregnancy centers do not and cannot because of their largely unsubsidized budgets. What is up for debate is whether the former’s activities ought to be bankrolled by the federal government. The real question is, is it right for a country founded on “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” to embrace one of those objectives at the expense of the other two?

As we progress through our 45th year in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade – 59 million abortions and counting28– the action required of the new administration and Congress is clear: defund Planned Parenthood. The House of Representatives took a major step in this direction this past week by approving the American Health Care Act, which will withhold Medicaid payments from Planned Parenthood for a year unless it stops providing abortions.29 Now it falls to the Senate to continue the job its legislative counterpart has started. Concerned citizens can find contact information for their senators at https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm, to apprise lawmakers of their views on the bill.

Abortion has been rightly called the slavery issue of our time. Countless African American lives were lost due to the institution of slavery, but among those who survived and managed to thrive in the midst of this national disgrace were the likes of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Booker T. Washington. How much more genius was left unrealized in the name of slaveholders’ rights and servitude to cotton and tobacco we will never know this side of heaven. Likewise, how many scientific pioneers, politicians, and great artists’ lives (Andrea Bocelli tells a poignant story of how his mother refused physician’s counsel to abort him30) have we snuffed out in the name of women’s rights and convenience?

Thomas Garrett saw through his generation’s national lie a century and a half ago, and history has proven his convictions right. He didn’t pretend to have all the answers as to how to integrate masses of uneducated victims into an unwelcoming society. Lincoln himself surely couldn’t have dreamed when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation how many decades would go by before equality would become less a byword than a reality. After years of hacking away at unfair laws and institutionalized racism, our country is still paying the price for dehumanizing an entire segment of the population. What was clear to abolitionists was that every life they spared gave the recipient an opportunity to bestow on society the gifts that person was born with. That hope was reason enough for their crusade, and an end in itself.

Likewise, this author doesn’t purport to have solutions to the child abuse crisis or the glutted foster care system that many raise as justification for abortion. Logic would seem to dictate that we make adoption as affordable and simple to obtain as abortion. That we return to the moral codes that used to bind us as a nation, with or without Scriptural underpinnings, which in theory would make organizations like Child Protective Services less needed in the first place. That we start rewarding the commitment of stay at home parents with tax dollars – perhaps the same tax dollars we pull from the abortion industry.

One way or the other, we will answer for all the unborn blood we’re spilling, just as we continue to reap the repercussions of slavery. The question is, will future generations view ours as being on the right side of history – or the convenient side?

Endnotes

1“Roger B. Taney: Chief Justice of the United States,” https://www.britannica.com/biography/Roger-B-Taney. Accessed February 4, 2017.

3Melanie Parks and Louann Rodgers. Email interview. 23 January 2017.

4“Induced Abortion in the United States,” https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states. Accessed February 4, 2017.

5“Surrendering the Secret: Heal the Heartbreak,” http://surrenderingthesecret.com/. Accessed February 4, 2017.
6Abolghasem Pourreza, PhD and Aziz Batebi, MD, “Psychological Consequences of Abortion among the Post Abortion Care Seeking Women in Tehran,” American Journal of Psychiatry, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3395931/. Accessed February 4, 2017.
7Karen Hess. Personal interview. 11 November 2015.
8 Helen McBlain. Email interview. 25 January 2017.
9Jennifer Ludden, “States Fund Pregnancy Centers That Discourage Abortion,” Shots: Health News from NPR, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/09/391877614/states-fund-pregnancy-centers-that-discourage-abortion. Accessed February 4, 2017.
10 Hess. Email interview. 22 January 2017.
11Julie Rovner, “That Vow to Defund Planned Parenthood: Easy to Say, Hard to Do,” Shots: Health News from NPR, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/01/15/509662288/that-vow-to-defund-planned-parenthood-easy-to-say-hard-to-do. Accessed February 5, 2017.

12 “Media Health Center – Media, PA: Abortion Referral in Media – Planned Parenthood,”  https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/pennsylvania/media/19063/media-health-center-2338-91460/abortion-referral. Accessed February 5, 2017.

13 “Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. and Related Entities Consolidated Financial Statements and Supplementary Information June 30, 2015 and 2014,” Planned Parenthood,

14“Planned Parenthood at a Glance,” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/planned-parenthood-at-a-glance. Accessed February 5, 2017.

15 “2014-2015 Annual Report,” Planned Parenthood, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/2114/5089/0863/2014-2015_PPFA_Annual_Report_.pdf, 32. Accessed February 4, 2017.

16 “Information for Attorneys and Other Professionals,” https://www.plannedparenthood.planyourlegacy.org/attorney.php. Accessed February 21, 2017.

17 “Reproductive Health: CDC’s Abortion Surveillance System FAQs,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/abortion.htm. Accessed January 25, 2017.

18 “Info for Teens,”  https://www.plannedparenthood.org/teens. Accessed January 25, 2017.

19 2014-2015 Annual Report, 29.

20 Ibid.        
     
21 “National Center for Health Statistics: Current Contraceptive Status Among Women Aged 15-44: United States, 2011-2013,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db173.htm. Accessed February 4, 2017.

22“Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs),” https://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm. Accessed January 25, 2017.


24“In Clinic Abortion Procedures,” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion/in-clinic-abortion-procedures. Accessed January 25, 2017.

25Dr. Anthony Levatino, “Abortion Procedures: What You Need to Know,” http://abortionprocedures.com/#1466802057205-34297158-57fd. Accessed January 21, 2017.

26 Cecile Richards, “The Effort to Defund Planned Parenthood Isn’t Actually About Fetal Tissue Donation,” Cosmopolitan, October 9, 2015, http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a47520/cecile-richards-planned-parenthood-fetal-tissue-abortion/. Accessed February 23, 2017.

27 “U.S. House of Representatives Final Report,” Select Investigative Committee of the Energy & Commerce Committee, December 30, 2016. https://energycommerce.house.gov/sites/republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/files/114/Analysis/20161230Select_Panel_Final_Report.pdf. Accessed February 12, 2017.

Relevant excerpts from the House panel’s report:

 First, the clinics have a checkered history of overbilling Medicaid and of improperly billing items to cover the costs of abortion services, in violation of the Hyde Amendment.

“Second, the clinics did not follow PPFA guidance about compliance with federal criminal statutes that govern the terms of fetal tissue donation. Accounting documents from middleman tissue organizations showed that several PPFA affiliates made a profit from the transfer of fetal tissue.

“Third, PPFA failed to secure compliance with the requirement that doctors who perform abortions certify in writing that the method of abortion has not been changed to facilitate fetal tissue donation. The PPFA executive in charge of this requirement admitted that she regularly changed the method of abortion to facilitate intact fetal specimens …

“Fourth, PPFA guidance on patient consent and the affiliate practice violates federal consent regulations.

“Fifth, the affiliate clinics routinely violated HIPAA privacy regulations to facilitate the harvesting of fetal tissue for which the clinics were paid on a per specimen basis” (309).

“The Panel found a significant history of flawed and unlawful management of federal funds … through audits performed by the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and by state-level family planning agencies. Of particular concern is the clinics’ false designation of abortion services as family planning services. This practice misallocates federal funds designated for family planning to underwriting abortion procedures … (310).

“First, local affiliates regularly and with little accountability substitute billing codes for approved reimbursements for prohibited activities that violate the prohibition against use of federal funds for abortion services. Second, the affiliates operate with disregard of accepted accounting procedures. Third, the local affiliates that seek to increase Medicaid payment through false billing practices also require close scrutiny about compliance with federal law on receiving valuable consideration for the transfer of fetal tissue” (319).

“The CMP undercover videos revealed a ‘wink and a nod’ attitude by PPFA executives who seemed to communicate that fetal tissue programs help with revenue but don’t get caught because the headlines would be a disaster” (322).

28“Abortion Statistics: United States Data and Trends,” National Right to Life: Protecting Life in America Since 1968, http://www.nrlc.org/uploads/factsheets/FS01AbortionintheUS.pdf, 1. Accessed February 5, 2017.

29Sandhya Somashekhar and Paige W. Cunningham, “Congressional Health-Care Bill ‘Defunds’ Planned Parenthood,” The Washington Times, May 4, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/congressional-health-care-bill-defunds-planned-parenthood/2017/05/04/afdc3b5a-30f1-11e7-8674-437ddb6e813e_story.html?utm_term=.1f4414b32d5f. Accessed May 6, 2017.

30 “Andrea Bocelli on Abortion – A Story that Touches Hearts,” YouTube video, 2:27, posted by Pietro Schito, June 1, 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QfKCGTfn3o. Accessed February 21, 2017.

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