On Second-Trimester Abortions and Controversy and the One Question that Matters

If you’re anything like me, in the past three weeks, you have been inundated with links and information about abortion, about Planned Parenthood, about scandalous undercover videos. If you’re anything like me, you’ve read about what’s going on behind closed doors, you’ve been horrified and saddened by the words and images shared, you’ve wondered how it is we’ve come to this as a society. If you’re anything like me, your social media feeds and blog reader are a never-ending cycle of stories, editorials, news links about abortion. You’ve read about women’s health care, women’s rights, about controversy and scandal, about morality and ethics and so many issues that these videos have raised. If you’re anything like me, you might assume that the entire world must know of this scandal, must know what’s going on, must be processing and working through this information just as you are.

If you’re anything like me, if you assume that the entire nation is hearing this story, you’re wrong. You’re wrong. In a poll conducted between July 30 and August 2 of this year, 53% of respondents said they hadn’t even heard of this story, hadn’t even heard about undercover videos or the reported sale of aborted babies, hadn’t even heard about this news which has consumed my attention for the past few weeks.

And this is what hits me, in all of this. There are so many good conversations being had, so many facets of health care and poverty and sexual ethics to discuss, so many points to consider. I have read so much in the past three weeks, so much that it starts to blur together, starts to become a muddle in my brain, but all of it is good, all of it is important. We have much to talk about, much to do in addressing the issues these videos raise.

There’s so much written, so much being said – but the majority of America isn’t even listening, doesn’t even know the conversation is happening.

And this, this is where I think our conversations, the diversity of topics raised by this controversy, are hurting us, hurting the opportunity for change. Because if you aren’t even listening, if you aren’t even paying attention, then, when you are finally presented with so much information, so many angles, it just sounds like so much noise. It becomes easy to tune out.

If we are to break through the noise, break through the apathy, we must share one, bold clarion message. A message with no clutter, no side issues. Only then, once that message is heard, once that message is absorbed and the questions it raises answered, can we deal with the other, very important issues that have been discussed. These videos have given us that message, one that cannot be denied, cannot be ignored. It is this:

This is what second-trimester abortion is: it is the dismemberment and killing of a being that has fingers, toes, a heartbeat. It is the death of a living creature with organs developed enough that they are useful for scientific research, a living creature with a liver and a brain and kidneys and a gallbladder. It is bringing about the intentional and unnatural demise of a child in the womb, pulling it apart piece by piece, sometimes while its heart still beats, crushing less valuable body parts in order to preserve those that can offer us the most use.

This is what second-trimester abortion is, despite all the language we use to describe it – fetus and tissue and “clumps of cells” – and it is legal in the United States. Organs from unborn children with gestational ages of only 17 or 18 weeks, perhaps even younger, are useful for scientific research. (How have we come to this, that the “usefulness” of babies’ organs can be discussed in polite society?) From 17 or 18 weeks, an unborn child is developed enough to have recognizable and functional organs.

This is what second-trimester abortion is, and this is how often it happens: in 2011, 4.8% of the 1.06 million estimated abortions occurred at 16 weeks or later. An additional 6.2% occurred between 13 and 15 weeks. That’s 116,600 babies in one year. 319 every single day. Even if we go with the smaller number, the 4.8% that are aborted after 15 weeks, that’s 50,880 babies. Just under 140 children per day, dismembered and killed. Think about that for a moment. One hundred and forty per day.

This is the conversation we must have first, the information we must share first, before we discuss de-funding Planned Parenthood, before we talk about women’s rights or women’s health care or sexual ethics, before we talk about the legality of selling or donating tissue, before any of the other very important issues raised by these videos. This is the question we must raise first:

This is what second-trimester abortion is. This is what it is, this is how often it happens, and it is legal and condoned in our society. Is this who we are, as a people? Is this what we want as a society? When faced with the reality of what this “procedure” entails, do we, as a nation, care? Does it matter?

We must answer these questions first, because everything else is distraction, everything else draws us away from the stark, ugly reality of this practice. We must answer these questions first because if the answer is that it doesn’t matter, if the answer is that we, as a society do not care (and God help us if that’s the answer), that we still don’t regard those unborn children as human beings, worthy of dignity, worthy of basic rights, then none of the other issues raised matter, either. If the child in the womb is not a person, then why try to reduce abortions, why worry about the funds that go to Planned Parenthood, why be concerned about whether the transactions recorded are sales or donations, why bemoan the fact that a killed lion in Africa has received more attention and outrage than an organization dealing in aborted baby parts?

If the child in the womb is not a person, then none of the other issues matter.

But if it is, if you see these videos or hear these stories, if you look – really look – at what abortion truly is, and recognize it as wrong, terrible, horrific, then all the other questions and issues must be answered in light of this. All of the other questions and issues must also take into account that these tiniest and most helpless members of our society deserve dignity, deserve protection.

This, then, is the conversation we must have, the question we must answer as a society, before any of the rest. I know what my answer is, what my conscience screams at me. Abortion is a terrible violence against the unborn child and against the mother, and no civilized society should condone its practice.


While I fervently believe that we must have this conversation first, before any others, without being distracted, and only then can we have informed discussions about all the other issues surrounding abortion, there are some crucial conversations happening. Here are links to some of the noteworthy articles and editorials I’ve read in recent weeks. But please, please, please – look at what second-trimester abortions really are, and honestly answer the question of whether this is a moral practice or not – before delving into these other issues.

On the killing of lions and the killing of babies:
A discussion of minor morals vs major morals (with quotes from Chesterton – always a plus!)
How outrage over a lion can help you understand outrage over Planned Parenthood
10 Developments on the Scandal – interesting information regarding public relations, comparative media coverage, and supposed attacks.

On the ethics and motivation of obtaining undercover video, and how the videos were edited:
Why He Went Undercover
Was the editing ethical, and does it matter?

On whether the good PP purportedly does outweighs the evil of abortion:
There is No Pro-Life Case for Planned Parenthood

On women’s health, and what happens if PP is de-funded:
What PP actually provides, and what clinics are available
A detailed explanation and list of services available to New Hampshire women
Obria Medical Clinics: an alternative to PP
Services the organization claims to provide – facts of note: A little less than 1/3 of all abortions occur at PP clinics. There are only 700 PP clinics in the US. Also, 27% of women who receive contraceptive services do so at “a publicly funded health center … such as Planned Parenthood” – not necessarily at PP itself.

On how our evaluation of abortion is part of a comprehensive world view:
Jennifer Fulwiler on why she became pro-life

On the systematic dehumanizing of the unborn:
The System Behind Abortion

On hope and healing for those who have had an abortion:
Project Rachel
Rachel’s Vineyard

On how abortion is a sign we’ve failed women:
A Voice for the Voiceless
Don’t Turn Away from Anyone
(This last topic is especially important. Abortion is most certainly a sign that we’ve failed women: that we’ve failed to provide the support and resources they need to raise their children, that we’ve failed to educate them about what abortion truly is, that we’ve failed to show them what options they have, that we’ve failed to develop healthy attitudes about sex and life and family as a society.)


Disclaimer: I have not actually watched the videos in question. I have read some transcripts and excerpts, and that was more than enough to make me physically ill. If you already know about these issues and want to change the way things are, there may not be a need for you to watch them. But if you don’t understand what the controversy is about, or you aren’t stirred to do something, to say something, to give somewhere – please watch, and learn. Turn away then, if you must, but at least do so from a place of knowledge.

Loving Others

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2 Responses to On Second-Trimester Abortions and Controversy and the One Question that Matters

  1. I was hanging on your every word. So well-said!!