Why on Earth did Jeb Bush say ‘women’s health’ when that’s not what he meant?

What’s amazing about Jeb Bush getting into trouble over what he said about Planned Parenthood — which led to his having to issue a clarification — is that he essentially handed the cudgel to his critics and begged them to beat him with it.

Here’s what he said:

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who has been criticized recently by some conservatives for serving on the board of a charity that gave money to Planned Parenthood, called for the organization’s defunding during an interview Tuesday with a Southern Baptist leader.

“If you took dollar for dollar, though, I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” said Bush, to the cheers and applause from the audience of 13,000 Southern Baptists during his interview with Russell Moore at the denomination’s missions conference….

Obviously, what he meant to say was, I don’t think we need to send half a billion in tax dollars to the nation’s largest provider of abortions. Because, you know, that’s what we do. And that was the context of the statement.

But instead, he adopted the language of the people who use “women’s health” as a euphemism for abortion. This is something we all know and understand, whatever our positions on the issue. If we didn’t know that, we would have a terrible time following political debates. Anyone who thinks “women’s health,” in a political context, refers to fighting breast cancer or putting free clinics to promote overall health in poor neighborhoods is a person who’s going to be very confused about what is being discussed.

So why would Bush use the preferred euphemism of his opposition on this issue, thereby enabling them (with towering cynicism) to paint him as actually being opposed to, you know, women’s health? (Which is something that no one is against, which is why they say that instead of “abortion.”)

It’s inexplicable. Will he continue this trend? Will he start stating his position on abortion to be “anti-choice?” Will he express his objection to Planned Parenthood as being that it “prevents us from controlling women’s bodies?” Will he start wearing an actual sign on his back saying, “Kick Me, Hard?”

We all know that Donald Trump has said some stupid stuff lately. But on this, Jeb Bush voluntarily stuffed both feet in his mouth, completely unnecessarily.

70 thoughts on “Why on Earth did Jeb Bush say ‘women’s health’ when that’s not what he meant?

  1. Bryan Caskey

    Planned Parenthood is in the women’s health business kinda like the Corleone Family was in the olive oil business.

  2. Bryan Caskey

    Isn’t the main selling point for Jeb! that he’s the “safe pick” who knows how to be disciplined, stay on message, and be electable? If he’s going to say dumb things, then what’s his value?

    Essentially, the differentiating characteristic for Jeb! is that he’s a nice moderate guy, not like those icky conservatives, and so he’s “electable.” This kind of thing makes him very much *not* electable.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, as I say below, I don’t want Jeb (or Hillary) doing anything stupid!

      Maybe Hillary’s onto something with this not talking to media thing. Maybe Jeb could go her one better: Take a vow of silence and not say anything to anybody until December 2016.

      It could work…

      1. Jeff Mobley

        Let me just say that I hope Bryan continues to include the exclamation point every time he references Jeb. I find that incredibly entertaining.

        Also, I agree with Brad that this was a completely unforced error on Jeb’s part.

        While I don’t have an intense dislike for Jeb, I’ve found him (so far) to be completely uninspiring. There are a lot of candidates I like (Perry, Fiorina, Carson, Santorum, even Cruz), but it seems to me that most people who might, sort of by default, tend to favor Jeb could probably feel comfortable voting for Walker or Rubio (as could I).

  3. Lynn Teague

    As a female-type person, let me note that ALL of my health care when I was an undergrad and grad student and for several years thereafter was provided by Planned Parenthood. I would have had none otherwise, couldn’t afford it. Furthermore, all of it had to do with reproductive issues – my husband, as a healthy male, could and did ignore doctors, but I couldn’t. They provided contraception, which was essential to me, as well as help with other issues related to the complex plumbing of the female of the species. Yes, I realize the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t approve of contraception, but that is their issue, and possibly has been yours Brad, as a member of that denomination, but it is emphatically not mine, and no one has any business trying to make it so. Even most RC’s feel free to ignore that teaching.

    So, there is still 3% of Planned Parenthood’s work involves abortion. No one is going to convince me that a fetus in the early stages of pregnancy is a human being. Yes, it has the potential to become one. So does an egg, so does a sperm. (Does anyone else remember that charming Monty Python ditty, “Every Sperm is Sacred”?) Finally, having sat through the some of the House and Senate debates on the 20 week abortion bill, I’ll just say that anyone who tried to get me to carry to term a fetus with a high probability, or worse yet a certainty, of being born without most of its brain would have discovered what a truly enraged human being is. Intervening to prevent abortion in those cases isn’t respect for life, and it is certainly not anyone else’s business.

    1. Doug Ross

      “No one is going to convince me that a fetus in the early stages of pregnancy is a human being. ”

      How about when the fetus has working organs that can be harvested? Is that a human being?

      We need more factual evidence to make sound decisions in this case. I’d like to see the form that women sign to donate the aborted fetus’ organs. I’d like to hear how the decision to donate is presented to the mother. Are they handed a piece of paper or is there an actual person describing the process (including the payment received by PP)? Is there any accounting for the dollars received for the organs? Numbers of abortions provided, percentage that are used for organ donation?

      Anyone who favors organ donations should at least be willing to observe a video of the process before making blanket statements about it. I’m willing to accept the video explanations from multiple PP staff members that the process involves crushing/killing the fetus in a way that best preserves the organs that will be sold. Is that a women’s health issue or a business decision?

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Lynn, neither a sperm nor an egg has the moral standing that they have once they have combined to form a new, unique human individual. The difference is qualitative, not quantitative. The difference is like ones and zeros, on and off. Therefore the Monty Python spoof doesn’t even work as hyperbole.

      The thing is, this is not about some religious teaching for me. I held my current views on abortion long before I was Catholic. This is based upon what is observable in biology, combined with a deep respect for human life — particularly innocent, helpless human life. (I’m also opposed to capital punishment, but at least a killer has done something to bring this fate upon him.) I think it’s great that the Church agrees on this important ethical point. If it did not, I probably wouldn’t have become a Catholic.

      But don’t make the mistake that many well-meaning pro-choice people make, as though they are making an excuse for me: Oh, he just thinks that because he’s Catholic. If anything, it’s the other way around. I just can’t bring myself to make the rationalizations that are necessary to justify abortion. And as one who believes in the rule of law, there is NO way I would ever be able to justify a single individual — and in this case an individual with a huge interest in the outcome — being sole judge and jury. In no other area of law would we grant any one individual such absolute power over whether another lives or dies. It’s unthinkable. There are just so many things wrong with the absolute right granted by Roe v. Wade (and don’t get me started on the Griswold precedent) that have nothing to do with religion.

      1. Lynn Teague

        I don’t make that mistake, Brad. I know that you converted to Catholicism and I have assumed that you did so because you find that it is consistent with your worldview and beliefs.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Thanks, Lynn.

          But you know, I didn’t mean to get off into all that.

          I really think my point is one that everyone should agree with — Bush’s choice of his critics’ rhetoric to say something he didn’t even mean to say is just disturbingly stupid…

    3. Jeff Mobley

      Rich Lowry has an interesting piece on NR concerning “The 3 Percent Dodge”, which includes this:
      The 3 percent figure is derived by counting abortion as just another service like much less consequential services. So abortion is considered a service no different than a pregnancy test (1.1 million), even though a box with two pregnancy tests can be procured from the local drugstore for less than $10.

      By Planned Parenthood’s math, a woman who gets an abortion but also a pregnancy test, an STD test, and some contraceptives has received four services, and only 25 percent of them are abortion. This is a little like performing an abortion and giving a woman an aspirin, and saying only half of what you do is abortion.

      Such cracked reasoning could be used to obscure the purpose of any organization. The sponsors of the New York City Marathon could count each small cup of water they hand out (some 2 million cups, compared with 45,000 runners) and say they are mainly in the hydration business. Or Major League Baseball teams could say that they sell about 20 million hot dogs and play 2,430 games in a season, so baseball is only .012 percent of what they do.

      1. Mark Stewart

        Such cracked reasoning… hmmm, one could also say this is no different an accounting as what every hospital and insurance company does to bill for care.

        What is the alternative you propose; to call every service a component, or antecedent, of an abortion? One could stretch that out to include all care that precedes an abortion, even if of no relation.

        This is why I roll my eyes when two sides start spewing data; it’s all suspect.

        1. Doug Ross

          How about just providing the number of abortions performed broken down in two ways: by age in weeks of the fetus and by number of fetuses that were sold to researchers?

          Those are real numbers that taxpayers should consider.

        2. Jeff Mobley

          Well, Planned Parenthood wants the discussion to be about how they do all this stuff besides abortion. But whether abortion is 0.05% of what they do, or 98% of what they do, the fact is they perform more abortions than any other single entity: about 30% of all the abortions in the country. This is reason enough to not given them a red cent of taxpayer money, and instead direct that money to community health centers and other organizations that provide needed services, but don’t perform abortions.

          1. Mark Stewart

            “and instead direct that money to community health centers and other organizations that provide needed services, but don’t perform abortions.”

            As if an abortion is not a needed service…

            The reason Planned Parenthood is providing such a large percentage of the abortions in America may have to do with the concerted effort to strangle these community service providers (see what I did there? I pulled a Jeb!), no?

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              That’s right, abortion is not a needed service. No form of homicide is a needed service in an ethical society. Any problem that a pregnancy poses can be addressed humanely, by some approach other than killing.

  4. Bryan Caskey

    I’m still trying to figure out the logistics of how you end up with an “intact fetal cadaver” after an abortion, if there isn’t poison in the form of some drug (which you can’t use if you want to harvest the organs).

  5. John

    This is a bit of a dog-bites-man story. Jeb Bush is an extremely socially conservative politician who won’t hesitate to interfere in personal matters if he can (remember Terry Schiavo?). He’s from a famously inarticulate family (rarely is it asked…; Message: I Care…etc etc). So he recently made a verbal blunder while suggesting he was dismissive of the importance of keeping some medical clinics funded because of his personal beliefs about what medical decisions other people should make. 1+1 =2, no? I don’t follow the angst. What were you expecting from him? I think he’s pretty much just living up to expectations…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I just like to think there are sensible alternatives out there, because ONE of these people is going to be president. I mean, whether it’s Hillary or not (if she succeeds in doing herself in through her email problems, etc., which is why there’s buzz about Biden this week) on the Democratic side, you’ve got about a 50-50 chance (or better) that the GOP nominee is going to be president. So I want BOTH parties to nominate people with some sense.

      And as much as we’ve been entertained by some of the foolishness on the GOP side, I like to comfort myself by saying, well, Jeb is out there. And if not him, then young Marco isn’t crazy… And so forth.

      So I don’t need him doing dumb stuff, too. I find it unsettling.

      In fact, here’s my request: Since I expect them to be the eventually nominees, I don’t want to see ANY more dumb stuff from either Jeb or Hillary. Don’t do anything stupid! (At this point, I want each of them to react like Forrest Gump: “I sure hope I don’t let him down…”)

  6. Karen Pearson

    Two things: First of all, women’s health issues is definitely also code for contraception as well as abortion. Second, The question here is not abortion; that’s a given in this situation. Would you rather use those organs (with the mother’s consent) to help others and to further medical knowledge, or would you rather simply incinerate them with the rest of the remains?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, sometimes “women’s health” is used to mean contraception. And sometimes “reproductive health” is meant to mean contraception AND abortion. In the political sphere, “reproductive health” seldom means the kind of reproductive health care my wife received from her OB over the years, which was about having healthy babies.

      Speaking of that, I’ll concede that as Lynn said, sometimes women only go to the doctor for issues related to reproduction — if they’re really, really healthy. Like my wife, who never really had a regular “primary care” doctor for the first 20 years or so of her adult life. In those days, her OB was the only doctor she saw regularly. After she contracted cancer in 2001, her oncologist sort of became her regular doc. I’m happy to say that she sees an internist annually as well now.

      Very different from a person like me, with all sorts of chronic conditions (yet not ever anything deadly such as cancer). I’ve always had to have a regular primary care physician, an allergist and occasionally other specialists. And since not all women are as healthy as my wife, I know that plenty of them experience health care more the way I have, seeing docs who deal with the whole gamut of health…

    2. Dave Crockett

      I think you condensed the matter down to a nice manageable summary, Karen.

      While I tend to support abortion, it’s not without a lot of qualms and qualifiers. Contraception (both male and female, mechanical and pharmacological), on the other hand, has my whole-hearted and unqualified support support and I have a very difficult time understanding anyone’s opposition to such. When the two get tied together as you suggest is happening when the term “women’s rights” is invoked, I’m forced to support both.

      And, yes, postulating that abortion is a given in the situation, with the mother’s consent I’d far prefer that the organs be put to some better use than fodder for the incinerator! That’s why I’m an organ donor, myself, with all the requisite directives spelling out my wishes.

    3. Jeff Mobley

      Not to pick on you in particular, Karen, but I think some of the words in your comment helpfully illustrate some of the issues here. We can try to frame this in the most dispassionate and clinical terms possible, considering a question like:
      “Given that an abortion has already been performed, what uses for the fetal remains are acceptable?”
      But the fact is, when we see these videos, and think about these issues, there’s no way around what we’re talking about here.

      I mean, consider these words and phrases from your comment:

      “Would you rather use those organs…” – whose organs?
      “…(with the mother’s consent)…” – mother of whom?
      remains” – whose remains?

      It just becomes so clear here what abortion is. We’re talking about a human being. And not an organ donor who died, but a baby who was killed. So it’s hard to just treat abortion as “a given in this situation”.

      Nevertheless, I do think it is possible that laws were broken as it pertains to selling organs. I don’t know that it’s a slam dunk, but there’s clearly enough for an investigation.

      One more thing: I haven’t heard or seen any example of a cure or major medical advance that has been made as a result of research on fetal organs (not that that would justify abortion).

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        There is no way to justify a penny of tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood. No way at all. There never has been. That we are giving them half a billion is an outrage of monumental proportions.

        1. Mark Stewart

          Um, I’m pretty sure we, the Federal tax payers and bondholders, subsidize a wide range of medical care; some of which you might object to; and some of which you might want to advocate for…

          Others have good grounds to argue the outrage is the incessant chipping away at the rights of the living at the expense of some fetuses. Especially when we don’t take care of people in need and some don’t see that not every fetus is physically, socially, or economically viable. Do you see the contradiction?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            No, I don’t. I don’t follow you at all.

            Abortion isn’t medical care. It’s violence. It’s killing someone who is alive. It’s stopping a beating human heart.

            You can’t just lump it in with “a wide range of medical care.” It does not fit.

            1. Dave Crockett

              That’s over the top for me, Brad.

              Is a child being born to a woman or a family who doesn’t want it, can’t support it, can’t raise it, won’t love it, possibly the result of rape or incest, and leaving it to the rest of us to support at least until adulthood an acceptable proposition? Doesn’t that need to be at least part of the equation of life in the abortion question?

              Yeah, that child might grow up to be another Einstein. Or another Jeffry Dahmer. It’s a crapshoot. We humans are animals. Sentient animals, I’ll grant, but not all that special in the kingdom IMHO in the grand scheme of things. Until those who block sex education and wide access to contraception drop their guns, I’m not willing to join the anti-abortion crowd on the grounds of “it’s killing someone who is alive”.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                To your first point, “a child being born to a woman or a family who doesn’t want it, can’t support it, can’t raise it, won’t love it, possibly the result of rape or incest, and leaving it to the rest of us to support at least until adulthood” has EXACTLY the same right to live, the same claim to at LEAST due process before his or her life is taken, as a child who is much loved, longed for, provided for, and who won’t cost us poor, beleagured taxpayers a dime (and I have to say that I find the implication that a person who might receive some sort of welfare is a person who doesn’t deserve to live offensive in the extreme).

                On the second point… Well, I had a little trouble following it, as I don’t know what some people think about guns has to do with the point being made here (unless they’re advocating that it’s perfectly OK to go around killing people with them). But I CAN address this point: “We humans are animals. Sentient animals, I’ll grant, but not all that special in the kingdom IMHO in the grand scheme of things.”

                Humans being “not all that special” in terms of having a moral claim on us is something I have to utterly reject. You say IMHO, but the very fact that you HAVE an opinion, a humble one or otherwise, completely distinguishes you from other animals. You have a greater moral claim on me, in terms of my respecting your fundamental rights, than any non-human critter that ever lived or ever will live could have.

                It’s a qualitative difference, not a quantitative one.

                The fact that we disagree on that point makes it practically impossible to reach any sort of synthesis on this subject. I have a devastating argument for people who think a fetus is not a human being, and it goes like this: There’s no question that it is alive, and that it has a unique genetic makeup. And any sort of scientific analysis as to what species it is must necessarily arrive at the conclusion that it is human. It is definitely NOT a dog or a chimp or a horse or a dragonfly or a slug. And science will tell you that; you need not make any reference to religion….

                But anyone who thinks humans are “not all that special” compared to other animals is completely, utterly immune to that argument.

                Which is discouraging.

                The thing what gets me so low about this subject is that I’ve lived my life having a great deal of faith in the ability of people to work together toward solutions based on rational discourse. To bring religion back into it, one of my favorite passages in the Bible is “Come, and let us reason together…”

                But then we get on a subject like this and we run into brick wall after brick wall. Actually, bad analogy — brick walls are easier to knock down than these kinds of fundamental disagreements are…

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                This discussion reminds me of the moment when I learned that humans were animals, too.

                I was in the 1st grade. Another kid made that assertion, and I objected. No, I said — people aren’t animals; animals are animals. (Of course, at the time, I thought a rose was something different from a flower, probably just because I knew a different name for it.)

                The other kid was certain, and he said I’d find that he was right. And then he said something that had me scratching my head: “My Daddy says it’s so, and he ought to know, because he’s a preacher.”

                I thought even then that some sort of scientist — say, a doctor — might be more authoritative on the subject than a clergyman.

                But maybe he meant that even a preacher, steeped in the importance of each human’s immortal soul, says so.

                Or maybe, being a 1st-grader, he just thought preachers, and his Daddy in particular, know everything…

              3. Dave Crockett

                Brad, we do fundamentally disagree on these points. And I will withdraw into the background on discussion of them.

                As always, I respect your opinions even when I am diametrically opposed to them. And I respect those of all the others who’ve chimed in on this discussion (on all sides).

              4. Mark Stewart

                It is a stunning argument to make that humans are not animals; as is the idea that we are the only sentient species.

                We just don’t know that, in a broad way. Whales, Dolphins, Chimps, Bees, Ants, etc. do seem to have some, but clearly not all, of what we have. It is a clear argument to say that we are the top of the food chain on earth; but it is a very murky one to argue that we are separate and apart from the world of which we are a part of. There is a whole line of fossil records that track our development as a species; much of this focused on our mental developments in social and technical contexts. And on the other we have the Bible saying “and God created man in his image”.

  7. bud

    Sometimes in an unguarded moment a politician makes a truthful comment. This is one of those for Jeb. Why is it so hard to believe he really does want to gut health spending for women? I have yet to see a proposal to just find the non abortion part of PP. of course if they did that there would be less money available to cut taxes for the rich.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Bud, that’s impossible. That is SUPPOSEDLY what they do now. But if you give somebody a dollar for A, it means that the dollar they raise elsewhere can go to B, since A is covered. Money is fungible. (I hope I used that word right. Since it has to do with money, and my brain recoils from terms having to do with money, I’m never sure.)

  8. bud

    Huh?? If it’s fungible then DOD could fund child nutrition. Or HUD could buy cruise missiles. It’s only as fungible as congress say it is.

    Of course if PP is defended there will be MORE abortion since contraception services will go away.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      Let’s say I give you $2,000 a month, and say “You can only use this money I’m giving you to pay your mortgage.” You can do that. You can also then turn around and spend the money you were going to otherwise spend on your mortgage on season tickets for USC football games, or symphony tickets, or lots of bourbon, or anything else.

      The fact that I’ve conditioned the money that I’m giving you to be spent on one particular expense frees up your other money to be spent on whatever your like. Make sense?

      So yeah, I guess DOD could fund child nutrition if they wanted to, but they’d end up giving kids MRE’s and no one would eat them. HUD could buy cruise missiles, too, I guess, but they probably wouldn’t be able to figure out how to use them, or they would require lots of forms to be filled out first.

  9. bud

    Brad, I thought you weren’t going to bring up abortion on the blog again. No one seems to see the other point of view AT ALL on this issue.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      That actually brings a question to mind for me: Have these new videos that reveal PP selling fetal organs for profit changed anyone’s mind?

      Essentially, has anyone seen these videos and thought: Wow, I really didn’t know it was like that.

      1. bud

        I’m sure there’s a video out there showing the horrors of a botched abortion on a 13 year old rape victim in a place where they’re difficult to get that would have an equally zero affect on the anti-women’s health crowd. See how this game is played. No one ever budges their position. Everyone has slogans and horrifying anecdotes. Both sides play the fear card. It’s the extremes that tend to get all the attention.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              It was neither. (By the way, I see how you distinguished lawyerly from legitimate.) 🙂

              I was asking that question because I kind of agree with you. I don’t know anyone who has changed their mind on abortion because of the new videos. They’ve certainly kicked over the hornet’s nest, but there’s been no movement. I was actually thinking about how intractable abortion is versus how intractable the issue of the Confederate Flag seemed, until…it wasn’t.

              Could there ever be something that could happen in the abortion debate that suddenly moved what we all thought irreconcilable differences to a place of common ground?

              1. Mark Stewart

                Yes. It is not hard to imagine that happening, actually.

                Change doesn’t come gradually: It arrives with a boom. We just always expect that things will wear on as they have before. But they don’t.

                Take the recent flag action for example. The needle just moved one day (the why is very sad and pointless, but it did demand change).

                This is the field on which the abortion debate is played (I use that word deliberately): On one side we have those who morally believe that life begins at conception. On the other side we have those who empirically believe that life begins at first breath. So while we all talk as if these are polar opposites, it’s helpful to remember that the span of this playing field is one with 38 hashes chalked out on it marking the weeks of development between the viewpoints.

                So conception and first breath. Then science comes along and say, no, we have the technology to make life “viable” at X weeks. And then that X is, of course, a moving target as the medical science develops – and as our societal willingness to both fund these lives and accept their brittle, imperfectly formed nature also moves. All this means that the midfield of this debate is not a fixed place as the end lines are. But there is a place, an imprecise place, where one can scientifically argue that life apart from a fetus’ mother is viable.

                So I would look at this and say, okay, personal belief can range the gamut from conception to birth. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. As a society and as a civilization, however, we need a solution that satisfies the majority of our members. As much as the diehards on either side want their goal line to be the depth of the field (as in inches), that isn’t happening. So this will be a middle ground, “scientifically” based, civic solution. And that’s what we have had. And it has worked. Better than either of the polar extremes.

                One day for some reason, we as a society will again coalesce (not every individual of course) around a few hashmarks of turf somewhere around midfield. And that is the best we will ever get on this issue.

                As a broad society, why is that so bad? My answer: It isn’t.

              2. Doug Ross

                We could start with both sides agreeing that the goal of our society should be to minimize the number of abortions but not eliminating that option when necessary (not convenient).

              3. Brad Warthen Post author

                Yeah, well… as long as we’re described as “the anti-women’s health crowd,” there will not be a meeting of the minds.

                Which is why I thought Bush’s screwup was so monumental — I mean, REALLY? You’re going to paint yourself precisely in the negative and untrue terms in which your opponents paint you? If that’s some sort of attempt to reach out for consensus, it’s a particularly ham-handed one…

  10. Karen Pearson

    Get rid of planned parenthood and you’ll have more abortions, not fewer. Why? Because women, especially young, poor women will not have the access to accurate sexual information, contraceptives, or prenatal care that is now available. You can make abortions illegal all you want, it will not stop abortions. All it will do is endanger these young women as well as destroying their fetuses. And there will be no check to make sure that each fetus is not independently viable. Lynn, I stand with you. I see that all the people who are objecting so much are also those who lack a womb. They can never find themselves pregnant under disastrous circumstances. If they want to decrease the number of abortions, as I would love to be able to do, they need to find some way to decrease the situations that bring women to make these decisions.

  11. bud

    I would not only continue funding for PP I’d dramatically increase it. Organizations like PP have helped to sharply reduce the birth rate in the developed world and in the last decade or so in places like Mexico and India. This is a success story, not a horror story as is often portrayed by the right. Isn’t it a good thing that the world is on the path to zero net population growth? Rather than denigrate this highly successful organization we should be celebrating the great work they do. We should be pushing to expand PP into Africa where fertility rates remain disasterously high. I suggest the name of organization, PLANNED parenthood, speaks for itself. Rather than increasing the incidence of abortion they have almost certainly reduced the numbers. And the ones that remain are safer. Shouldn’t that be everyone’s goal?

    1. Doug Ross

      Zero net population growth is great unless you have social programs like Social Security and Medicare that require more people to pay in to cover those receiving benefits. What happens when there aren’t enough workers to support the baby boomers as they retire?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, ZPG is a bad idea for any society that doesn’t want to experience economic problems that make the Great Depression look like a picnic…

      2. bud

        Zero or lower, population growth is a mathematical certainty. The only question is how we get there. Most of the world has already achieved a 2.1 or lower fertility rate which means in time the population will stabilize. For many countries, Japan for example, are already experiencing a decline in population. Africa is the big holdout. With very high fertility rates it is estimated that in just a few decades 40% of all the people in the world will live in Africa.

        Brad suggests: “ZPG is a bad idea for any society that doesn’t want to experience economic problems that make the Great Depression look like a picnic…” That would suggest Japan is in economic collapse while Niger is a veritable heaven on earth. We simply must slow the rate of population growth in Africa in a reasonable way. Otherwise extreme problems will befall us all.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Japan is having a bad time, and is headed for worse, with its aging population and lack of young people to work.

          Maybe you’ve noticed that no one has envied Japan’s economic situation for some time.

          Google “Japan aging population” to read about it…

    1. Bryan Caskey

      He makes a strong point here:

      “If all these other services [provided by Planned Parenthood] are such a great, crucial, and (allegedly) abortion-reducing good, why do you, center-left journalist, want them perpetually held hostage to the possibility of public outrage over the crushing of tiny bodies in the womb? If a publicly-funded institution does one set of things you really like, and another thing that makes you morally uncomfortable, why are you constantly attacking that organization’s critics and telling them that they just have to live with the combination, instead of urging the organization itself to refocus on the non-lethal, non-dismembering portions of its business?”

      1. Karen Pearson

        Because, Bryan, the women who need abortions will then get them– unclean, unsafe, illegal abortions which are likely to be even more destructive, just like they used to before abortion became legal. The deaths and damage didn’t show up too often in the newspaper because a) it was illegal, and no one was going to admit to it, or tell where they got it; b) those middle class people or richer who found themselves in such circumstances could afford to go out of the country to obtain one safely; c) medical science was less advanced at that time and less able to accurately predict disastrous consequences to the mother or severe complications in fetal development, although in the case of ectopic pregnancies the embryo or fetus was removed immediately before it killed the mother with little concern that they were “killing a baby;” d) victims of rape and/or incest were less believed and were likely to have been perceived as cooperating in causing the pregnancy, therefore deserving the baby as punishment (“she made her own bed; now she’ll just have to lie in it” was, I believe, a common way of phrasing it).

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          See now, Karen, that argument — “the women who need abortions will then get them– unclean, unsafe, illegal abortions” is FUNDAMENTAL to the pro-choice position. And I’ve never been persuaded by it.

          Everything I know about human nature argues that if you erect barriers to abortion, there will be fewer of them.

          I wish there were some way to measure the number of abortions per capita BEFORE legalization and compare it to any time post 1973, but I don’t see how you could ever come up with reliable numbers for the very fact that it WAS illegal, and therefore underground. I believe there were far fewer then, but I can’t back up that belief.

          So people will keep on making that dubious assertion, and I’ll keep on being unable to PROVE them wrong…

          1. Mark Stewart

            What is knowable, even without data, is that the abortions which did occur before “legalization” were much more dangerous to women’s lives. You know, the living, breathing people who are our family members, spouses, loved ones, etc. That suffering is real and undeniable.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks for sharing that, Jeff. I had started to read it this morning, but didn’t feel like I had the heart for dealing any more with the subject for the moment. I find it emotionally wearing…

      1. Doug Ross

        “I find it emotionally wearing…”

        As it should be for all parties involved. The ideal objective should be to minimize the number of abortions performed to the lowest number possible that takes into consideration the mother’s health, rape, and incest. That means free birth control to whoever wants it, adoption assistance, plus education and incentives to women to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

  12. Karen Pearson

    I disagree. I don’t think that the girls and women I encountered during various volunteer activities in hospitals or women’s shelters would have been likely to have talked to you for any length of time.

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