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An old slogan has made a comeback. While speaking about the newly-released Planned Parenthood videos, a presidential candidate has walked back from a recent defense of their practices to say something you don’t hear much anymore from the pro-choice crowd: “I have said for more than 22 years that abortion should be legal, safe and rare.”

Most pro-lifers would be inclined to say that abortion is intrinsically unsafe for the unborn child. Yet the mirage that it’s “safe” for women has gone away in recent years as well. A prime example of this is the dangerous clinic of Dr. Kermit Gosnell. The disturbing part about his case is that he not only killed children after they had been born, but was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter of a forty-one-year old woman, who died during his abortion. The irony of this whole story is the reason the federal government investigated him in the first place was not late-term abortion, infanticide, or even the death of that woman, but suspicion of illegal prescription drug activity.

The Gosnell case also shows the horribly under-regulated abortion industry which allows even our liberal abortion laws to be violated. After spotty inspections in the 80s, the clinic was uninspected for over sixteen years, even though there were official complaints of women “becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases at Gosnell’s clinic when they had abortions there.”

“Rare” is the most easily refuted of all three: 24,134,600 unborn children have been aborted from 1993-2011 (last year of official statistics given by the pro-abortion firm Guttmacher). Add to that a low estimate of one million children per year for the last 3 years, which makes over 27 million children aborted in this country since Hillary Clinton identifies saying “legal, safe, and rare.”

And now, as the recent undercover videos show, there is a great reason to suspect that Planned Parenthood has been engaging in methods of changing abortion methods to better extract organs: very “illegal” and very “unsafe.” Further, there is cause for investigation of their profiting from the trafficking of human fetal parts of just-aborted children and the need for better laws in the current wildly unregulated and multimillion dollar situation.

The Hyde Amendment already tells us that the American taxpayers want nothing to do with funding abortions. But these budgetary restrictions exist only on paper. One possible step forward is that abortion providers—as long as they are legally allowed in this country—should have to be independent corporations that only perform abortions and receive no federal funding, with regular inspections and investigations both financial and health-related, and the passing of new laws which more strictly regulate their practice. However, if Planned Parenthood cannot separate the abortions and fetal body part trafficking from the other services that provide, then the logical conclusion of the Hyde Amendment is to defund their organization. It would be a large step in the right direction, so that they could no longer hide behind a supposed philanthropy.

Planned Parenthood claims to help women make their own choices, but in their last annual report, they reveal they performed 327,166 abortions and referred only 2,197 women to adoption. Further, the large number of crisis pregnancy centers around the country help women every day, with no abortions provided. Planned Parenthood is hostile to these centers, which is curious. If their mission is really to help women, why would they oppose organizations with whom they share a common cause? Isolating abortion providers would begin to keep them honest about what they truly hope to accomplish.

So if the claim of “legal, safe, and rare” could have been made with relative innocence twenty-two years ago, this is simply not the case today. Even the Democratic Party in 2012 removed the “rare” qualifier from their platform, moved by activists who want to erase any sense that abortion should be minimized any more than another medical procedure. I think the recent slogan comeback is a desperate sign from the pro-choice movement that the day of reckoning for Roe v. Wade is nigh.

Image adapted from Flickr.

Dominic Bouck, O.P., is a Dominican brother of the Province of St. Joseph and a summer intern at First Things.

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