Why every American should watch the Planned Parenthood videos

Before we have a national conversation about abortion, we have to look long and hard at what abortion really is

A protest against Planned Parenthood.
(Image credit: Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)

If we all have something in common, it's that we're afraid to look.

We all know the horrors that lurk, but we are afraid to look at them. Not looking makes our lives livable.

We don't look at the horrors in our own society. We don't look at the homeless people we pass on the street. Perhaps, once in a while, with a twinge of guilt, we hand out a bill, knowing full well what a futile gesture this is, one that seems to often make things worse.

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We look in horror at societies far away, far away geographically or in our own past, where they do or did horrible things, and we reassure ourselves that we are not like them, that we are better, even though we know deep down that we are not.

Sometimes we don't even look at the horrors in our own lives, lurking in our marriages, or in our family secrets, or in the recesses of our own souls.

But justice demands that we look. At the very least, if nothing else, it demands that we look.

The videos released by the activist group Center for Medical Progress, about Planned Parenthood's harvesting of fetal organs, demand that we look.

We can talk about the gruesome details: an organ harvesting program, not "tissue" or "samples," which means Planned Parenthood's consent forms are misleading, and potentially illegal. And Planned Parenthood is doing this for profit, at least in any common conception of the word's meaning. Otherwise, its executives would not haggle over price; they would simply state the cost for shipping and handling.

We can talk about the politics, and what it means for the presidential election, or the endless, eye-melting battle between Team Red and Team Blue.

We can talk about ideology, and philosophy, and metaphysics. Is it true that every single human life has value, regardless of the value assigned it by society? Is it true that there are such things as inalienable human rights? And is it not true that, if we value every human life, and value human rights, and abhor abortion, any sustainable solution must include policies and a culture that helps women and babies at every stage of life, and not simply laws banning certain acts?

We can talk about all these things, and we should.

But justice, first, demands that we look.

It demands that before we talk about reality, before we decide what we do about reality, we look at reality.

We are talking about creatures that, in any other context, would be referred to as babies. We are talking about creatures that, according to incontrovertible scientific evidence, experience pain, have a form of consciousness, have dreams, and are even capable of loving, as all babies are. We are talking about creatures that, in any other context, would be referred to as babies, and instead are being harvested for organs, for resale at a profit margin.

That is the reality that demands our attention.

It demands, first, that we look.

What are we so afraid of?

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Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry is a writer and fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His writing has appeared at Forbes, The Atlantic, First Things, Commentary Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Federalist, Quartz, and other places. He lives in Paris with his beloved wife and daughter.