Planned Parenthood and the Metaethics of Language
John C. Rankin
In my full-time pro-life ministry with the New England Christian Action Council, 1983-1991, I was initially and consistently amazed at the use of dishonest language by those who advocated for legalized abortion. Yet too, as I have written elsewhere, abortion is a reaction to male chauvinism, and women are this deeply injured in mind, body and spirit. It was so painful to see how abortion becomes a means to escape the control of male chauvinists.
But I still put the major responsibility at the feet of men and the church. The word “metaethics” is a philosophical term — rooted in the Greek terms meta for that which surrounds, and ethos/ethikos, that which is rooted in the social customs of how we treat each other. In other words, speaking as a biblically rooted Christian, it does not so matter what I mean by what I say, but what others understand me to be saying. Especially among those who think they oppose what I believe. This was a task I set immediately to learning in 1983ff, a learning process that continues to this day (in 2016).
In Jesus becoming the living Word (logos) in his incarnation, he communicates to us the reality of our Creator on terms we can understand. This is the call of disciples of Jesus in a broken world, to represent Jesus on his own terms.
So in the 1980’s, I saw how much of the pro-life movement did not grasp this reality — their language worked for the choir, those amenable to joining the choir, but so often only produced boomerang effects among ideological abortion advocates whose pain was so palpable to observe. In my files, I have two items from this era that i kept, first an ad by Planned Parenthood in the Atlantic, February, 1986, and second, an undated fund-raising letter from Planned Parenthood sometime in the late 80s. As you sample the various articles at the pro-life icon on this website, you can ask yourself why we see such virulent reactions on the Part of Planned Parenthood et al. They are responsible for their own sins, bitterness and anger, for choosing to follow their founder, Margaret Sanger, in her racist, eugenic and pro-Nazi sentiments in 1922ff. But what is our responsibility, as disciples of Jesus, to add no oxygen to the fires raging in their souls? To define truly informed choice in love, and support in the face of crisis?
[text from Atlantic ad, with a picture of a woman, likely in her twenties, holding a son, maybe five years old, in her arms]
“When I was fifteen, Planned Parenthood saved my life.”
“I was never so scared. I was pregnant and afraid to tell anyone. A friend told me to go to Planned Parenthood. They were so wonderful. They talked to me about what I could do. I knew I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I wanted to tell my parents but I didn’t want to hurt them. Planned Parenthood helped me talk to them. I had an abortion. Getting was the worst crisis of my life. But I know I made the right decision. I finished school, got married and now I have two wonderful kinds. I don’t know what I would have done if abortion wasn’t [sic] legal. My only choices were a back-alley abortion, trying to do it myself, or being a fifteen year-old mother. Planned Parenthodd saved my life when I was fifteen. I got my future back.”
This is a typical story. Each years, thousands of young women come to Planned Parenthood when they’re scared and have no place else to turn. Planned Parenthood helps teenagers who face unwanted pregnancy with confidential counseling, information, and abortion. We try to prevent unwanted pregnancy by providing birth control.
But there’s an increasingly vocal and violent minority that wants to outlaw abortion for all women, regardless of circumstances. Even if she’s a victim of rape or incest. Even is she’s fifteen and not ready to be a mother.
They’re attacking the Constitution. They’re trying to take away your right to decide for yourself. Some even want to ban contraception and sex education. And when they don’t get their way, they resort to threats and violence.
And they just might succeed, unless you speak out now. Use the coupon.
The decision is yours.
[ ] I’ve written my representatives in Congress to tell them I support: government programs that reduce the need for abortion by preventing unwanted pregnancy; and keeping safe and legal abortion for all women.
[ ] Here’s my tax-deductible contribution in support of all Planned Parenthood activities and programs: [ ] $25 [ ] $35 [ ] $50 [ ] $75 [ ] $150 [ ] $500 [ ] or: $_______.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., 810 Seventh Avenue, New York, New York, 10019.
[Excerpted use of language in Planned Parenthood fund-raising letter]
“Anti-choice extremists … anti-choice forces … Randall Terry, the militant anti-abortionist … anti-choice activists … this tiny, fanatical minority of anti-choice activists, who have enjoyed political power far beyond their numbers … imposing their will on the rest of us … This tiny minority of anti-choice zealots has gained political power and influence far beyond their actual numbers … this small group of fanatics … expose the leaders of the anti-choice movement for the ruthless fanatics they are … it is politically foolish to pander to the anti-choice extremists … [we need to] enact mandated sexuality education programs … our nation’s family program, which has been under siege by anti-choice zealots since 1985 … We must not let a minority of anti-choice fanatics turn back the clock … Sincerely, Faye Wattleton, President.”
Planned Parenthood’s motif was and is sex education in the schools, and as mandated by government policies. It is always designed to justify sexual promiscuity. Below is a definition of assumptions underlying such sex education from the mimeograph of a college course on the Psychology of Human Sexuality in the Fall of 1987, by a Dr. C. Gay.
To foster the interactions which are an integral feature of this course, we here make certain assumptions upon which this course is based:
- Sex is a natural function; it is part of sexuality.
- Sexuality is an integral part of each person’s total personality.
- One’s sexuality is closely related to one’s personal view, and one’s personal view is based upon one’s values.
- One’s personal values have validity for oneself; while they need not be accepted or agreed upon by others, that validity must be accepted by others.
- What is “acceptable” sexuality varies for all of us ; we must be sensitive to this variation and not demand conformity or uniformity.
- It is natural to have feelings and fantasies; we are not responsible for having the feelings, but we are responsible for what we do with them.
- In order to be able to talk about sex openly, honestly, and calmly, a non-judgmental environmental is desireable [sic].
- We can relate our sexuality to others more effectively when we are comfortable with our own sexuality.
- We have the RIGHT and OBLIGATION to know objectively the range of human sexual behaviors.
- We have the RIGHT and OBLIGATION to know the facts about sex and sexuality as they are currently understood.
- We have the RIGHT to our own beliefs and convictions, as well as the right to re-examine them as we continue to grow and develop as human beings.
In other words, this is a psychology rooted in religious and ethical syncretism where there sexual promiscuity in a wide range of forms, and the abortion ethos, are given space, and any standards that believe otherwise are marginalized. The fruit of such a psychology of sex is evident over the past 50-60 years. A pagan and secular ethos versus the biblical ethos.