I am a coward. Although I have always supported Planned Parenthood, both in financial terms and when I used their contraceptive services as a young adult, I seldom find the time to speak out on their behalf at rallies or volunteer at their locations. It is much easier to write a check than to face the opposition crowds that gather at their front door. But with the release of the recent heavily edited video that is being used as leverage to ignite anger and calls to defund the organization, I feel that it is the duty of those of us who have quietly supported this organization to become more vocal. Thus, this coward is moving out of the shadows and trying to inform the general public about how easily this video could have been created.
As a second year resident, I was faced with telling a patient that her infant had lost a heartbeat at 4 months of pregnancy. She was young and distraught, wanting to terminate the pregnancy as soon as possible and with the least amount of pain. The senior resident offered her a dilation and evacuation of the pregnancy in the operating room under anesthesia. She quickly accepted and was scheduled for the next day. I had never performed such a procedure or seen one performed. At the end of clinic, the senior resident spent time explaining to all of the junior residents about the procedure. The cervix needed to be dilated mechanically, the bag of waters ruptured and the fetus extracted (not whole, but in pieces), followed by the placenta. Before the procedure could be considered complete, the parts of the fetus had to be reassembled to make sure that none were missing. Although gruesome, this was the safest and quickest route to terminate the pregnancy at this stage. What if someone had recorded this conversation and edited out the part about the fetus being demised?
A second encounter that generates some rather unpleasant conversation regards a fetus that is further along in pregnancy and has been demised for more than a week. Much of the tissue has started to deteriorate and extremities can become easily separated from the body during a vaginal delivery. As a resident, we had discussions about techniques to deliver these infants that would be most successful in giving the parents an intact infant to hold. This conversation could also easily be edited to make us appear heartless.
When a stillborn infant is born, we often collect tissue samples (at the heart of the controversy in the Planned Parenthood video) from the thigh of the infant and blood thru a needle stuck in the infant’s heart. This is considered the tissue that is most likely to grow in culture and produce a possible reason for the fetal death. In order to learn these techniques, residents need to watch someone more experienced perform the biopsy and blood draw. I will leave the discussions to your imagination.
While no one wants to think about what happens to aborted fetuses, the live tissue can be quite valuable in the research lab in regards to human illnesses such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis etc. Since these illnesses do not exist in animals, only human tissue will be of benefit. Planned Parenthood is clear that the money obtained is used to pay for the service of collecting and preserving the tissue and no woman is coerced into donating tissue. In fact, only a few centers throughout the country offer the service.
90% of Planned Parenthood’s services support contraception, STD testing and health screening for women, many of whom are poor and unable to afford a visit to a traditional clinic. The best way to decrease the abortion rate is thru education and provision of effective contraception. This is the primary aim of Planned Parenthood. We should be increasing their funding, rather than debating whether to defund the organization. If all of the creative energy and monetary funds that went into creating this video were used in a public health campaign regarding the safety and availability of contraception, abortion could become a safe but rare occurrence.
If you, like me, have quietly supported Planned Parenthood, now is the time to become more vocal and educate others. Let’s turn the tables on those who seek to destroy, and make it an opportunity to talk about the benefits of contraception to decrease the incidence of abortion.