Standing in solidarity with Planned Parenthood

The Wisconsin Gazette

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin recently selected the Wisconsin Gazette as recipient of the group’s Voices award. No honor we’ve received makes us prouder than this one, particularly now.

Despite the unrelenting campaigns of propaganda, PPWI’s 22 clinics provide quality, affordable reproductive health care, including honest sex education, birth control, adoption referrals, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STD testing and treatment to 60,000 women and men. That’s even after being forced to shutter five clinics because Gov. Scott Walker cut off state funding for the organization.

But anti-choice activists have demonized Planned Parenthood in recent years, whipping up the level of hysteria that accompanied Joe McCarthy’s red scare of the 1950s. And conservative politicians are capitalizing on it, just as they did on McCarthyism. 

Although abortion represents only about 3 percent of PP’s services, that’s enough for anti-choice fanatics to put a bullseye on its doors.

Foes have whittled away at women’s reproductive freedom for decades, but abortion is still legal and its legality is supported by a majority of U.S. citizens. It’s also a deeply personal choice that can only be made by a woman whose body and future are involved. Women are not human incubators.

We fully respect the countless women who choose to carry a pregnancy to term under adverse circumstances, including conception through rape or incest. But it’s their right to make that choice, not the right of a bureaucrat. Individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot exist if strangers can force a woman to bear a child against her will.

The current frenzy against abortion is the result of years of brilliant propaganda by anti-choice leaders. Their heart-tugging campaigns of deception featuring fully formed thimble-sized fetuses and bloody, disembodied parts of infants are complete fabrications. Recently it was revealed that activists were using the picture of a stillborn baby in their propaganda and claiming it was an aborted fetus.

A recent “sting” operation added fuel to PP’s critics. Selectively edited tapes that were secretly recorded by activists made it appear as if PP was doing a booming business in selling fetal tissue to medical researchers. But investigations launched by conservatives in several states have yielded no evidence of wrongdoing.

Fetal tissue, which can be donated by women to science just as people can donate their organs, has yielded medical advances that have saved lives — including those, undoubtedly, of anti-choice activists. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., under Walker’s direction, made a $750,000 loan and gave $2 million in tax credits to Flu-Gen, a Madison biotech firm that’s using kidney cells derived from fetal tissue to create a more effective flu vaccine. Biotech companies like Flu-Gen not only save lives, but also contribute significantly to the state’s economy. 

But now, capitalizing on the fury over PP, state Republican leaders want to criminalize the sale of fetal tissue.

Activists have turned the debate about abortion from a women’s issue into one over the “personhood” of fertilized eggs and fetuses. That’s not a scientific view, but rather a religious belief that has no place in the secular world. 

When a 10-year-old girl in Paraguay got pregnant after being raped by her stepfather, the government there ruled for the rights of her fetus over hers, forcing her to carry the baby to term at great risk to her health. The baby was delivered through C-section, because a natural delivery would have killed her. Mike Huckabee praised the decision. He and most of the other Republican candidates, including Walker, want to criminalize abortions under any circumstances, including those in which the mother’s life is in danger. Bizarrely, Walker denies that such situations exist.

More than ever, we need organizations that cherish women’s lives over embryonic cells. PP is at the forefront of such organizations. Its doctors and staffers work under constant harassment, including death threats that have led to at least nine murders in recent years. They refuse to yield to fanatics who believe that women’s bodies are public property. 

We are proud to stand with them and the essential health services they provide. Unlike Walker, they are truly unintimidated.