by Cameron Dominy, TFF Summer InternCharleston Southern University

Through all the partisan outrage regarding the recent Planned Parenthood controversy, social conservatives have lost sight of the core issue at hand. Legal analysis and calls for reform are taking precedent over the the main contention of the pro-life movement for the last 40 years; that the life inside a mother's womb is a human being, and deserves to be treated as such. Conservatives are drunk with political thrill, drawn into a feeding frenzy around the organization in unrealistic hope of defunding or destroying it. But now is not the time for them to insist upon the removal of the residual monetary subsidies that sustain Planned Parenthood. Now, more than any time in the recent past, the argument for the humanity of the child is there to be made. Many cases for the pro-life cause are stronger than ever, supported by exposal of certain procedures as well as medical advancements. The social conservative’s goal must be to first change the hearts and minds of the American public on the issue of abortion, and they must act accordingly in order to continue the movement of public opinion.

If conservatives learned anything from the homosexual marriage movement, it should have been that social change can effectively be instituted through grassroots tactics. For years the leaders of that movement worked one group at a time, making their case, building their support. Eventually, the movement began to change the public’s view of traditional marriage, and in doing so was able to achieve its goal.. Conservatives themselves have previously used the same methods, on the same people, when lobbying for pro-life opinions. They too, have been incredibly successful, and millennials polling much more pro-life than their parents is indicative of that fact. Pro-lifers, therefore, have no need to change strategy simply due to recent events. Actually, quite the opposite should occur. They should instead rely on their arguments that have been made more effective by the ordeal, and convince Americans with newly robust contentions, one by one.

With modern scientific developments, one of the arguments becoming rather useful for the pro-life demographic is that of the “separate DNA of a child within the womb.” As the logic goes, once the fertilized egg is functioning with its own genetic code, it cannot scientifically be the same individual as the mother. It is a completely separate organism, and therefore must be granted all the rights that any individual would. They have argued that as soon as conception happens, the organism is a child that is merely at a different stage of his or her development. One doesn’t believe that a toddler deserves different human rights because they are not a teenager yet. One shouldn’t, therefore, insist that a zygote deserves different rights because it isn't a fetus yet. In the same understanding, a being cannot function off of two different codes of DNA. So if the “blob of cells” has one code, and the mother has another, there must be two different organisms. This compelling thought process has turned many against late trimester abortions, where the progression of fetal development is easily recognizable.

Given the exposure of Planned Parenthood’s sale of fetal organs, the biological argument has become considerably stronger for conservative activists. If two separate genetic codes can hint of two different organisms, two sets of useful, vital organs should scream of it. Not only have Planned Parenthood employees been caught on video admitting that said organs are there, but that they are discernible from other parts, and can be used. “Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director for medical services, had this to say: “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”” Surprisingly, considering Planned Parenthood’s usual line of rhetoric, the body parts are said to be so visually discernible from one another that during the procedure they can even choose which ones to “crush”.

Recent advances in pregancy care have allowed for brain waves to be detected at as early as six weeks, with fetal heartbeats being recognized just two weeks after that. Clearly, these are not simply groups of unused organs waiting to awake upon birth. Rather they are sets of fully functioning parts, with everything necessary for a fully functioning body. Do we believe the mother herself is the one with two working brains, or livers, or hearts? No, obviously if these were attributed to her as an organism she would be unable to function. We understand humans cannot live with two working brains, or two working hearts. The child's dependence on the organism of the mother cannot scientifically negate their complete separateness, or usefulness, as admitted by Planned Parenthood.

More importantly though than being scientifically compelling, what the scandal has brought to light is conceptually compelling.  What was once an abstract and hard to grasp concept such as DNA, can now be easily visualized by the average American. It isn’t hard to picture a brain, we all know roughly what one looks like. Many of us are repulsed by the thought of a heart being removed or “crushed”. We all can grasp that we need our brains, or our hearts, or our livers. We all know that something that has those pieces just like us is it’s own organism. Consequently, it’s far easier to see the issue with destroying someone’s organs than destroying random strands of DNA . This message is the one that must be pushed relentlessly by the social conservative. It is simple, it is emotional, and it is factual.

Conservatives have essentially received an admission of the individuality of the child within the womb from Planned Parenthood themselves. This admission is easy for the average person to understand, yet is still scientific at its core. The pro-life demographic need not look further than this to have a compelling and personal argument, one that can subsequently change the culture of the nation when it comes to abortion. What is key now, is that they recognize that it is not going to be a revelation that simply occurs overnight, and prompts sweeping legislation. Planned Parenthood will more than likely not be federally defunded because of this story, or even receive any sort of serious discipline. Social conservatives must be content to continue changing the culture as they have for forty years now, utilizing progressively newer and better arguments, one American at a time.