For two weeks in July, I traveled with a bunch of Baptists across South Africa for a mission experience followed up with a global gathering of Baptists – the 21st Baptist World Congress of the Baptist World Alliance.
While in the country, I was reminded of the nickname given to South Africa by Archbishop Desmond Tutu – the Rainbow Nation – a metaphor for a post-apartheid vision for multicultural unity.
“We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans … will be … assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world,” Nelson Mandela said at his presidential inauguration in 1994.
During my brief time in the Rainbow Nation, I witnessed a God who sees and saves babies through the work of indigenous ministries – ministries that have rescued and received more than 1,500 babies in the past decade and a half.
Each year, more than 3,500 newborns are abandoned across South Africa, and in Johannesburg, the country’s largest city, 200 babies are abandoned monthly.
I saw up close the holy work of ministries that provide a safe home to babies that have been abused, neglected, survived attempted abortions and treated like trash – dumped on the side of a street, gutter, in shoe boxes and latrines.
The stories shared showed a chilling reality that I had a hard time wrapping my mind around.
Upon returning home, I was bombarded with a deluge of articles, tweets and cable news segments about a series of covert investigative videos showing Planned Parenthood officials casually discussing the harvesting of aborted baby parts.
Central to the controversy was the discussion in the videos around the exchange of money for the organs of fetuses (we learn that heads command the highest price), and the ways in which this harvesting process influences actual abortion procedures.
“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m not gonna crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact,” said Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s senior director of medical services in the first video.
“Let me just figure out what others are getting, and if this is in the ballpark, then it’s fine, if it’s still low, then we can bump it up. I want a Lamborghini,” said a laughing Dr. Mary Gatter, PPFA’s Medical Directors’ Council President in the second video.
“It’s another boy,” a medical assistant announced in the nauseating fourth video depicting lab workers picking thru baby parts in a dish.
Congressional investigations have been launched. To date, Alabama, Louisiana and New Hampshire have cut its Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood.
While a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, which receives more than $500 million annually in federal funding, was rejected by the U.S. Senate, a political showdown looms on the fall horizon.
Jim Wallis, a leading voice for progressive evangelicals, called the covert videos an “in-your-face reminder of our culture’s blatant disrespect for life.”
Kirsten Powers, a pro-life columnist and commentator who served in the Clinton administration, said that the problem here is not the tone, not the casual chat over a meal about how to extract a fetus without tearing it apart.
“It’s the crushing,” Powers wrote. “It’s the organ harvesting of fetuses that abortion-rights activists want us to believe have no more moral value than a fingernail. It’s the lie that these are not human beings worthy of protection.”
Many warn against defunding Planned Parenthood, trotting out the oft-cited stat that abortion accounts for only 3 percent of its services – 97 percent of which include providing women’s health services such as cancer screening and prevention, contraception and pregnancy tests.
That’s fuzzy math though.
“By Planned Parenthood’s math, a woman who gets an abortion but also a pregnancy test, an STD test and some contraceptives has received four services, and only 25 percent of them are abortion,” one columnist wrote. “Major League Baseball teams could say that they sell about 20 million hot dogs and play 2,430 games in a season, so baseball is only 0.012 percent of what they do.”
What’s fuzzier is the ethical logic of Christians “personally opposed to abortion” who somehow rationalize and justify sending taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood, a group that performs 330,000 abortions a year.
The notion that we can reduce the number of abortions through subsidizing an organization for which abortion is its foundational service – financially and philosophically – is morally incoherent.
Two years ago, I penned an article on abortion in the aftermath of the trial of abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, who murdered babies born alive.
There, I asked why we as justice-seeking Baptists stay silent and fail to back restrictions on abortion rights while we loudly urge restrictions on gun rights.
Noting that we revere science – refusing to deny evolution and climate change – I wondered why we choose silence in the face of medical advances since Roe v. Wade which have placed many abortions well outside of some morally gray area.
I asked why we don’t speak out against an abortion lobby – led by Planned Parenthood – that has been rightfully dubbed the “NRA of the Left”?
Why do we so often allow our partisan politics and allegiances to shape how we respond to issues like this?
We champion freedom but we’re beholden to an ideological orthodoxy that says to be a good progressive, to be a good liberal, one must toe the political line – clinging ostentatiously to a belief in X, Y and Z, even if Z makes our souls shudder a bit.
So we don’t think about it. We stay silent.
My fellow progressive friends, where’s the human dignity in “I’m gonna crush below … I’m gonna crush above”?
How can we be at peace with ourselves as a society when we so willingly fund a group that does that?
Is your conscience pricked?
Aaron Weaver is communications manager for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. He blogs at The Big Daddy Weave where a version of this article first appeared. You can follow him on Twitter @BigDaddyWeave.