“You have the forehead of a prostitute, you refuse to be ashamed” (Jeremiah 3:3). Thus says God to his rebellious kingdom. The “forehead of a prostitute” is an ancient expression that referred to an inability to blush. It bespeaks a loss of shame, a seared conscience, a calloused soul, and a hard heart.
What is shocking about the recently released Planned Parenthood videos isn’t just the scandal of fetal parts for sale by abortion providers, but the disturbing nonchalance (nay, defiance) with which it is being greeted by many. (I’ll pause, of course, to acknowledge that Republican presidential candidates have made a lot of noise about this).
A writer named Robin Marty at cosmopolitan.com opined on July 14: “I’ve read the emails. I’ve watched the short-version video. I’ve read the website and the other anti-abortion action groups’ press releases. I’ve even poked through all the primary sources posted so far in the “Document Vault.” Now, frankly, I’m just going to yawn.”
A conservative website called Newsbusters has helpfully counted up the minutes and concluded that “the broadcast news shows spent more time in one day on Cecil the Lion than they did on the Planned Parenthood videos in two weeks.”
The media have begun to cover this because they aren’t able to cover it up. When they have taken up the story, it has generally been to sympathize with Planned Parenthood. Lester Holt on NBC’s Nightly News intoned that Planned Parenthood is “under fire” from “activists”. This headline from Reuters proclaims: “Planned Parenthood slams secret video as false portrayal of fetus tissue program”. The “Grey Lady” leads off an online article in this way: Abortion opponents on Tuesday renewed their campaign against Planned Parenthood, with immediate impact among Republicans in Congress and the presidential race. (The New York Times online).
The dominant narrative of the media seems to be that this is a “stunt” or “fraud” (as though the Planned Parenthood representatives are scripted actors), perpetrated by a “far right” (and therefore dismissable) group. (As an aside, I find it odd that we never hear of any “near right” groups, or of conservatives that aren’t also “extremists”).
Salon.com has screaming headlines like “What the Planned Parenthood hoax really proves: Right-wing extremists have no qualms about destroying peoples’ lives” and “The Planned Parenthood hoax is the GOP’s Trojan horse: How Republicans are hijacking the national conversation” (www.salon.com).
Newsweek (article here) implies soothingly that one can disregard the source of the material, because David Daleidan once wrote an anti-abortion article for the conservative outlet “The Weekly Standard”, and made reference to “prayer life”.
Even the Obama White House has chimed in: The White House on Thursday waded into the debate, calling the group behind the sting videos “extremists on the right.” (CNN article) Always keen to show that they are thinking for themselves, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. “And Planned Parenthood has indicated that’s what has occurred here.”
I am not going to opine here about the legality of the fetal parts trade–I don’t doubt that in fact it is legal, just as abortion is legal. “Legal” doesn’t equal “good”, of course. I’ll accept that Planned Parenthood doesn’t make that much money per body part–as if that has any relevance. Perhaps people can even justify the fetal body parts market, by representing fetal biomedical research as a silver lining of hope in the dark cloud of abortion. I furthermore won’t even question here the claim that Planned Parenthood may provide many good medical services to women that are not related to its abortion provision.
At the end of the day, though, all of this public conversation depressingly reveals the coarsening of our culture. Our outspoken ones flash with anger that any would dare shine a spotlight on this tragedy, but do not blush with shame that it has even been occurring. It reveals just how far askew our moral compass has drifted in recent decades. Our national discourse has become an echo chamber of cynicism and spiritual death.
We have sold baby parts, and bought a prostitute’s forehead in the bargain.