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Disputing ‘shameful’ take on agency

I’m torn between two topics today. One is the apparent inability of today’s Republican Party to formulate policy or do anything much besides fling at liberals crazy accusations of impossible horrors. But I’ll set that aside for now to deal with the column of the dreadful Star Parker on Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger and her espousal of sterilization of the “unfit” as a means of solving society’s problems (April 23).

First: It’s true. This was a theory current in the 1920s and ’30s among some sociologists. Incidentally, the Nazis in Germany thought it was a really neat idea too. It wasn’t entirely racist in the U.S.; the “unfit” might also be the intellectually limited, those with hereditary physical or mental handicaps, alcoholics and social misfits — readers of this piece may have friends or relatives who would qualify for sterilization in the terms of that time. This means of dealing with social problems has long since been discarded; anyone who has known a cheerful and cherished child with Down syndrome will be glad of its disappearance, and no reputable social scientist would propose sterilization nowadays except for valid medical reasons.

But second: The columnist goes on from this to excoriate the vile baby-slaughtering Planned Parenthood — an organization that has done more than any other, including the Catholic Church, to reduce the number of abortions.

She points with indignation to the statistic (Kaiser Family Foundation) that 34% of U.S. abortions performed in 2018 were on Black women, although Black women constitute only 13% of the population. If this figure is true, then it is because that number of Black women actually wanted abortions — their right — and not that they were foully forced into it by Planned Parenthood. Parker’s argument is dishonest.

We would all be happy if no woman ever wanted an abortion, but the practice has existed as far back as we have written records (note, however, no reference to abortion appears in the Bible except for one rather bizarre set of instructions somewhere in the minor prophets), and there always will be abortions as long as women find themselves in pregnancies that they cannot carry to term or don’t want to. So to please all of us, consider this:

The country with the lowest number of abortions in the Western world is the Netherlands, where abortion is free on demand as part of their national health service. How do they achieve this low number?

First, contraception is free, as part of that same national health service. Second, an ample social safety net provides support for single parents who choose to carry to term. Third, age-appropriate sexual instruction is implemented from the early school years onward, so the average young person is much better equipped to deal with sexual questions than many of our own youth. But, you say, that would mean youth promiscuity?! No — the data indicate that young people in the Netherlands begin sexual activity at maturer ages than in the U.S. And it’s worthy of note that the highest teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. are in school systems with “abstinence only” programs.

The worst of this mindless opposition to Planned Parenthood is that when its clinics are forced to close, essential medical services are lost to women — and men — of low income and no health insurance –mammograms, pelvic exams, and other routine medical procedures. Stopping Planned Parenthood doesn’t mean stopping abortions; it just means forcing them underground. We went through all that before Roe v. Wade, and it would be shameful to go back. That was bad. We can do better.

Dr. Karen L. Black is a Warren resident.

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