November 30, 2015

FORKEN | Reckless GOP Rhetoric Endangers Planned Parenthood

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Three people were killed and nine others were injured following a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs this past Friday. Though an official motive remains unclear, law enforcement officials report that, following his surrender, the suspect stated, “no more baby parts,” an apparent reference to leaked Planned Parenthood videos that surfaced earlier this year. Erick Erickson and Ben Shapiro — editors of RedState and Breitbart, media outlets influential on the right, respectively — initially attempted to cast the incident as a bank robbery, given that the shooting took place near a Chase Bank. Chase refuted these claims, and the tweets have since been deleted or retracted.

After the suspect was captured, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told CNN, “You can certainly infer what [the motive] may have been in terms of where it took place and the manner in which it took place,” and Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the attack a, “crime against women receiving health care services.”

The attempt of Erickson and Shapiro to represent the violence as a bank robbery gone wrong illustrates an effort to absolve the right of any responsibility for this attack. This is not to suggest that anyone on the right supports or condones such violence. In fact, most GOP presidential candidates have since condemned the brutality. It’s not clear if the suspect is politically engaged or at all aware of the antagonistic rhetoric continually employed in the Republican discussion surrounding Planned Parenthood. But this is not an examination of what fueled one disturbed person; it is a consideration on the reckless rhetoric that has fostered a societal atmosphere that directs public mistrust and animosity towards an organization that provides women with healthcare.

In response to the shooting, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee declared it, “a little bit disingenuous on the part of Planned Parenthood to blame people who have a strong philosophical disagreement with the dismembering of human babies and with the selling of body parts.”

But in August, Huckabee made comments strikingly similar to that of the suspect when he asserted, “I would also invoke the 15th and 14th Amendments. This is the power that we have to stop this incredible, barbaric scourge of abortions … I would let those who want to slaughter babies, those who want to sell their body parts, let them sue me.”

While Republican candidate Ben Carson has called the attack a “hate crime” and suggested that, “If we can get rid of the rhetoric from either side and actually talk about the facts, I think that’s when we begin to make progress,” his previous sentiments, however, strike as contradictory.

In July, Carson told CNN that Planned Parenthood, “doesn’t seem to understand the sanctity of human life and is willing to destroy that,” as well as calling the women’s health organization, “an organization whose founder believed in eugenics.”

These comments seem even more remarkable when considering Dr. Carson himself conducted research using fetal tissue from aborted fetuses during his medical career.

In the second GOP debate in September, Carly Fiorina maintained, in an egregious lie, that one of the aforementioned leaked Planned Parenthood videos displayed, “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’”

Responding to the Planned Parenthood videos in September, Chris Christie proclaimed that Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton supports, “the systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts in a way that maximizes their value for sale for profit.”

This past Sunday, Senator Ted Cruz attempted to further deflect from the issue, labeling the suspect a, “transgendered leftist activist.”

One can be opposed to abortion without demonizing Planned Parenthood. In fact, abortion services constitute a minority of the care Planned Parenthood provides. And to be clear, Planned Parenthood never sold or profited from body parts obtained in abortions. Fetal-tissue donations are utilized in medical research using tissue samples to explore cures for ailments including spinal cord injuries, eye disease, cancer and HIV. Vilifying the organization with outright lies and deceptions simply serves to stoke misplaced fear for the sake of appearing tough on abortion.

Moreover, if such statements reflect legitimate internal opposition to abortion, as opposed to a formulaic appeal targeting conservative voters, then why not support policy that reduces abortions such as expanding access to birth control, providing healthcare, teaching sex education and/or implementing paternal leave.

Republican rhetoric didn’t cause the shooting in Colorado Springs, yet it did foster an environment that allows for hatred towards an organization whose primary goal is providing healthcare to women.

Presidential Candidates must be mindful of their rhetoric and carefully consider the balance between campaigning and unintended consequences.

Jake Forken is a senior in the College of Human Ecology. He may be reached at jrf285@cornell.edu. My Forken Opinion appears alternate Fridays this semester. 

13 thoughts on “FORKEN | Reckless GOP Rhetoric Endangers Planned Parenthood

  1. “Presidential Candidates must be mindful of their rhetoric and carefully consider the balance between campaigning and unintended consequences.”

    You mean Republicans. You never point out examples of Democrat rhetoric being responsible for the slaughter of innocent police officers. You don’t offer quotes of Obama’s international American-degradation tour.

    Instead, you list a few quotes that are critical of Planned Parenthood, an organization that acknowledged that it has taken money for body parts.

    I’m happy the GOP candidates condemned the attacks. I’m happy that they condemned the murder of Ezra Schwartz in Israel. Where were the liberals on that one?

  2. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the narrative around this shooting has been about the rhetoric used. This is not an issue about inciting violence through bombastic language meant to strike fear, but rather language built on pure lies. There is more than enough actual fodder here that we do not need to blame this on freedom of speech and demonization.

    If the right-wing had wanted to demonize Planned Parenthood simply because they perform abortions (whether they are performing many or few is irrelevant), there would be no problem with this because they DO in fact perform abortions. The issue comes in when they build there demonizations on lies, such as this false idea that Planned Parenthood is selling body parts. People are allowed to criticize but they are not allowed to defame.

    The fact that someone did something terrible (and in fact many someones, as this is far from the first time that an abortion clinic has faced a terror attack) does not necessarily taint the underlying criticism. If, for example, someone had attempted to attack the president, and when they were apprehended the shooter was heard saying “no more drone strikes,” or if another had attempted to attack one of the Koch brothers and when they were apprehended they were quoted saying “free and fair elections,” would we blame the left-wing for their rhetoric on these issues? No, because they have not used lies to further their criticism.

    The only thing worth connecting back from the shooter to the right wing is the perpetuated lies, nothing more nothing less.

      • Well than let’s get a little more specific and define our terms.

        Miriam Webster dictionary defines the verb “Sell” as “to exchange (something) for money” key word in this context being for, which denotes a profit motive. Money is simply incidental if its reception is not the goal of the transaction.

        Planned Parenthood never sold body parts because it has never (or at least it has not up until this point in time) been shown to reap a profit from an exchange of body parts. While there have been transactions where body parts have been exchanged with money, such money was simply used to facilitate the transaction, to cover costs such as transportation and storage. Since these transactions end in a net zero gain of dollars, this transaction is not a sale. It would more aptly be known as a donation.

        Now, you can have moral problems with a donation of body parts, and if you don’t think donation is the right word, with a transaction that involves body parts, but that’s completely separate, and should be referred to in that way. To call these transactions a sale though is completely misleading as they are void of any profit motive or incentive.

        • Merriam Webster also defines “sell” as “to make something available to be bought.”

          Regardless of the profit being made, Planned Parenthood made those body parts available in exchange for money.

          There need not be a profit motive in order to sell something. I can sell you something with the goal of donating the money to charity. Or I can sell you something because I want you to have it. People also “sell at a loss,” in which case they definitely do not make profit. Just yesterday, I sold a ticket for $15 to a concert that I had paid $30 for. I made no profit, but there is no reasonable person who would not say that I sold the ticket.

          Your argument that “for” connotes a profit motive is a roundabout way of reading the definition — and a pretty petty one at that.

          • I just want to be clear on your argument before I respond — are you saying that “donation” is simply another word for “sale” and that the two essentially mean the same thing?

            Because if we are going to use the definition of “to make something available to be bought” then any donation at all to any non-for-profit whether it be a synagogue, or a medical research facility, or anything else for that matter is really a “sale” for a tax credit, good will in a community perhaps, and even that feeling most human’s get from doing acts of kindness. When you give money to a food fund and they send you a thank you note, did you just purchase that thank you note and was a sale transacted?

            Technically that would be true and would fit your definition, so I want to know would you consider any donation to be a sale?

            It seems intellectually dishonest to me to not make the distinction between something that is inherently profit driven (which, by the way, does not mean making a net gain, but rather maximizing profit, which could mean making an otherwise lower than expected net loss), and something that is not at it’s core motivated by personal profits.

            But there’s a possibility that I am misunderstanding your point or mischaracterizing, so if I am please let me know as I am not looking to be petty.

  3. Ralph: your argument is a straw man. There is nothing intellectually dishonest about saying that Planned Parenthood sold body parts. And whether they sold the parts or donated the parts is not the point.

    I never said “donation” is another word for “sale.” (Though, for the sake of that argument, you don’t charge money to cover costs when you make a donation. When I donate a toy to a charity, I don’t ask the charity for ten dollars in order to cover my expenses).

    You used a dictionary to make a point. I’m using the same dictionary to refutes it. But you don’t need to use dictionaries here. A reasonable person (a layperson) would understand what Planned Parenthood did to constitute selling body parts. To call it a “pure lie” is ridiculous. If you’d rather the GOP candidates start saying “Defund PP because they have been donating body parts,” fine, but practically there’s very little distinction there for the public.

    • I disagree and think that it would be a huge difference of whether the transaction was described as a sale v. a donation (hence not a straw man), but at least now we’re talking policy.

      And while you never said a “donation” is the same thing as a “sale,” when you take the definition you provided to its logical conclusion, the lines become blurred, which is why I don’t think that it is a fair definition. And as a society, we do charge money for charitable donations (see: tax deductions for charitable donations). And they’re not charging $10 for the price of the toy, as they are not charging for the price of any surgery or the inherent price that a market may yield if such tissues were traded, but the $2 to ship the toy to make sure that it gets to the organization in one piece.

      And I do not think that a lay person would consider a transaction that involved the trade of tissues for the costs of preserving and transporting such tissues to be a sale, hence our disagreement. I would much rather the GOP say “Defund PP because they have been donating body parts.”

  4. PP sold body parts. That can be no doubt about that. Was it wrong to do so? I don’t think so unless PP encouraged women to have abortions in order to create a supply of such parts. I have not heard allegations to that effect. The more significant issue is the one Jake brings up and that is whether public statements contributed to the killing. Who knows? And even if they did, does that mean no such statements should be made? Arguably public statements made regarding the death of Michael Brown contributed to days of rioting in Ferguson. Should no statements have been made? Jake- did you criticize BLM for chanting about the police “Pigs in a blanket-fry them like bacon”? That certainly sounds more like an incitement to violence than anything Carly Fiorina said.

    • I respectfully disagree and think that there is a difference between selling something and donating something especially on a layperson level. The reason for this is I think the inherent understanding taken away from “selling body parts” by a layperson which would mean that PP is creating a market for body parts in order to make money, which on its face is an immoral, illegal practice. On the other hand, “donating body parts” leads one to ask “for what?” at which point we’re having a discussion of whether the medical pros of stem cell research outweighs the moral cons of using these tissues. Which by the way, the moral cons may outweigh the medical pro’s. However, at least we are now having that conversation.

      As for the public statements, I agree, unless we deem the statements to be lies, and even then, I would most certainly not call it inciting violence at this level or even creating an atmosphere for violence to breed — no one above (as far as I am aware) said we should invoke our 2nd amendment right. But I would call it defamation and that has its own issues and consequences.

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