The Planned Parenthood Controversy Won’t Change the Abortion Debate

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Planned Parenthood has long been a divisive organization in national politics, but it received particularly focused and intense ire after a group called the Center for Medical Progress released a series of videos reportedly showing PP’s inappropriate behavior. The videos sparked renewed protests, calls to defund the organization, and plenty of political talking points for the seemingly limitless field of primary candidates. Now, an independent analysis has reported that videos were heavily edited. Unfortunately, that probably won’t slow the controversy.

The argument over Planned Parenthood isn’t over the organization itself, it’s over abortion. Abortion as a political issue has an almost uniquely solidified history. Many social issues in the United States have seen marked changes in support over the years, but the percentages of the population that are pro-choice or pro-life, or somewhere in between, have remained remarkably consistent since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973. According to Gallup, from 1975-2015, somewhere between 48-55 percent of Americans have reported that they believe that abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances. The percentage of the population that believes it should be illegal under all circumstances is exactly the same today as it was in 1975, at 19 percent, with some fluctuation into the mid teens and low twenties over the years. Those who believe it should be legal under any circumstances has also seen relatively little change, hovering somewhere in the 20-30 percent range for the past 40 years. While obviously individual opinions change over the years, and the simple comparison of numbers from vaguely worded polls should be taken with a grain of salt, it’s safe to say that overall the American population really hasn’t altered its beliefs as a whole much. The rhetoric and arguments used in 1975, and 1995, and 2015 all look fairly similar.

When opinions are so firmly engrained, and when we’re so used to something being a constant debate, it’s really easy to feel confirmation bias. We look for information that validates our world view, and explain away information that does not. That’s where it seems we are with the Planned Parenthood video debate right now. An independent group–Fusion GPS, based in Washington D.C., has said that the videos were altered and are inaccurate representations of the events. Fusion GPS stated about the videos:

A thorough review of these videos in consultation with qualified experts found that they do not present a complete or accurate record of the events they purport to depict.

Meanwhile, the Center for Medical Progress claim that the discrepancies only came from negligible sources such as bathroom breaks, or waiting periods between meetings, saying:

The absence of bathroom breaks and waiting periods between meetings does not change the hours of dialogue with top-level Planned Parenthood executives eager to manipulate abortion procedures to get high-quality baby parts for financially profitable sale.

So, who’s right? Well quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter. Those who believe in Planned Parenthood’s mission and the importance of a woman’s right to choose aren’t going to change their minds based on the Center for Medical Progress’s explanation. And those who demonize Planned Parenthood and believe that abortion is morally wrong aren’t going to change their minds on abortion just because the videos were seemingly hoaxes.

If anything, this renewed debate only serves one, depressing, singular purpose–to bring up the question during a long, arduous, and increasingly nasty primary election. It was the perfect catalyst for multiple inquiries during the first Republican debate, and continues to be a sticking point for many of the candidates on both sides of the aisle. Most recently, Hillary Clinton’s comments about how pro-life Republicans are wrong for America have fired up the debate even more, when she stated:

Extreme views about women, we expect them from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take coming from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States, yet they espouse out-of-date and out-of-touch policies.

But Clinton’s statements are just the latest in a long list of quotes, controversies, and events that continue to entrench the conversation. Once again, the abortion debate has become a talking point–over the last 40 years, very little has changed in that respect.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.



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