"A deer gets trapped on a hillside and every effort is brought to bear to rescue him from his predicament. The newspapers carry daily features."
The late Dorothy Day was writing about the contrast between how we sometimes treat animal life and human life, saying that more attention was paid to the plight of individual animals than to the suffering of large numbers of people. It certainly rang true as the dual news stories of Cecil the lion's execution and Planned Parenthood's harvesting and selling of the body parts of aborted fetuses made their way through the news cycle.
I mention abortion because it is the human rights issue of the day and because the status quo is unsustainable and we know it. We know it in new ways as we watch -- or read or hear about -- undercover videos from a pro-life group showing chilling conversations with top abortion industry executives.
A few days ago, I asked some folks what they thought the world might look like if Planned Parenthood ceased receiving federal money. The most common answer was some variation of what Arina O. Grossu, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., told me: It "would free up over half a billion dollars a year that could go to a myriad of health-care service providers that provide a broader range of health services than Planned Parenthood ever has."
As Chad Pecknold, a professor at the Catholic University of America, points out, "If Parenthood lost your tax dollars, the agency would still give out contraceptives, perform pap smears and check for HIV. These things are relatively cheap." The real misunderstanding about Planned Parenthood involves its architecture. It is not a beacon of women's health and freedom. It is America's biggest abortion provider. It errs on the side of death. Women go there to solve what they perceive to be -- what they have been told -- is a problem. That problem is a human life, something that we should be doing our utmost to care for.
And it is "we" who are responsible. This is a social problem just much as it is an individual one. And this is an important point. If you're a woman who had an abortion and you regret it, you should know that you did not make that fateful decision alone. The law said it was OK. People and societal norms pressured you. A doctor made it look routine.
But the moment of sunlight provided by these videos -- even Hillary Clinton has had to admit the footage is disturbing -- is a tremendous opportunity.
As Pecknold puts it: "What defunding Planned Parenthood would really mean is a reduction in the costliest side of the house -- the abortion side."
"Consider a young woman," he says, "The young woman arrives scared and uncertain about what to do. The forms are filled out and she is given several options, including adoption referral. Last year, 327,000 babies were killed in Planned Parenthood clinics, while only 1,800 women took up the agency's offer of adoption referral. What does that mean? It most likely means that (the woman), and women like her, experience a certain 'nudge' in a Planned Parenthood clinic. No one ever tells (her) to get an abortion. But there is a 'choice architecture' in the Planned Parenthood culture that consistently inclines women to seek only one gruesome solution -- a solution at which the agency truly excels."
Taking these intimate decisions out of the taxpayer-supported realm of Planned Parenthood opens the doors to encourage (and build on) some real choices under different roofs.
Dorothy Day dedicated her life to hospitality. Welcoming people in, hearing them out, providing for their needs. Shining light into the darkness of an architecture of death means we can build a culture more hospitable to life, never leaving anyone alone.
We have the right instinct, being sensitive to our stewardship of animals. Women and men, especially when most innocent and vulnerable, are part of creation, too. And if we can't see humanity, always, we'll be lost on all other fronts.