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Accommodating the truth

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Videos of Planned Parenthood officers openly negotiating the illegal sale of fetal organs and body parts to research suppliers changes the whole discussion about abortion.

Jaymie Stuart

I was in elementary school when the Watergate scandal broke. Nobody cared. Unrelenting investigative reports in the Washington Post, however, revealed piece after illegal piece of what had occurred. A Joint Congressional investigation ensued. I remember rushing home after school every day to watch the hearings on television. It was my first real exposure to American politics.

Within a few weeks, Watergate was the headline in every newspaper and the first story on every newscast. Reporters Woodward and Bernstein were sudden celebrities. Still, public opinion was all over the map. People who had never liked the president were quick to accuse him of corruption. Those who had supported him, took a defensive wait-and-see position.

As the investigation continued, however, the names of the people who knew about the scandal went higher up the White House chain of command. Powerful men with slick lawyers appeared before the panel: Haldeman, Erlichman, Mitchell, Colson, and Dean -- the "president's men."

Everyday Americans found the scandal difficult to follow and understand. Most people weren't quite sure what to make of it. Then something happened. Rosemary Woods, the president's secretary, testified that 18-and-a-half minutes of taped White House meetings were missing. The explanations she gave for how that happened were simply not credible. In an instant, everything changed. A national consensus emerged as the people who wanted to believe Richard Nixon just couldn't manage to do so anymore. He resigned in August of 1974.

Enter the release of the undercover Planned Parenthood videos. These recordings aren't the kind of thing anyone should rush into watching. I put it off as long as I could. What they reveal is both very ugly and very sad. Women ostensibly engaged in healthcare professions to benefit women coldly discuss how they may be able to increase the number of intact body parts they have to offer. They negotiate prices for various human organs and talk about the legal issues involved in obtaining "donated" tissue. They identify useable organs in Petri dishes as belonging to "another boy." The barbaric nature of what they are doing is completely sanitized by the words they use and their calm demeanor. That, in fact, is what is most barbaric of all. They have managed to completely dehumanize the unborn child in their own minds -- so completely, that they have dehumanized themselves.

It is darn near impossible to change what we believe when we desperately want to believe it. Facts, however, don't bend to accommodate the way we've always seen things, or the people or principles we've chosen to trust. Ultimately, each of us has to accommodate the truth. As Flannery O'Connor put it, "The truth does not change according to our ability to handle it." Neither, I would add, does it change according to our desire to handle it. What we want to believe and what we can believe must eventually converge and become what we do believe.

That's what happened in 1974 with Watergate and the Nixon presidency, and that is what I'm convinced can happen again now with Planned Parenthood. Why? Because the pro-life movement finally has its own Woodward, Bernstein and Rosemary Woods. Videos of Planned Parenthood officers openly negotiating the illegal sale of fetal organs and body parts to research suppliers changes the whole discussion about abortion. Those videos are as potentially powerful for today's pro-lifers as that 18-and-a-half minutes of silence on tape was for Democrats in the 1970s. The game has been changed, and that's why we've got to keep playing it.

Still, Planned Parenthood isn't going to be abandoned or defunded overnight. It will require persistent investigation. What is uncovered will need to be revealed in a way that can sustain the public's attention span. We need to allow enough time for people to come to the conclusion that it is no longer rationally or morally possible for them to support Planned Parenthood. Remember, PP is an organization that millions of people all over the world have embraced enthusiastically for decades. It's important for us to remember that peppering the dialogue with I-told-you-so's won't help. Allowing the facts and the leadership of Planned Parenthood to speak for themselves -- again and again and again -- can and will.


Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.

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