Planned Parenthood debate? Where?

A reader pointed us to this piece in the Canton Repository by Charita Goshay headlined "Clergy debate over Planned Parenthood shows no signs of abating." OK, a journalistic debate sounds promising. Until you read it and see that the reporter managed to locate clergy on only one side of the story. And that side, you will be stunned to know, is the side that sees no problems with Planned Parenthood or the services it provides, including abortion. So we get quote after quote after quote and 1100 words of one-sided advocacy journalism.

It would be absolutely hilarious if the topic weren't so grave. I mean, it takes effort, in its own way, to manage not to find a single member of the clergy with qualms about Planned Parenthood. The frequently quoted folks are the Rev. Doyle A. Luckenbaugh, a retired United Church of Christ pastor who "has supported Planned Parenthood since its inception," and the Rev. Missy Shiverick, a parish associate at a Presbyterian congregation who is a member of the Clergy Advisory Board at Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio. For balance, we get an employee of Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio.

So here's a sample of the "debate":

"I've never seen a woman waltzing in, giddy about having an abortion," Shiverick said. "A problem pregnancy is a problem pregnancy. There's nothing sadder than having to counsel a family having to make a horrendous decision that, thank God, I never had to make."

"The decision to terminate a pregnancy is a moral decision," Luckenbaugh said. "It's easy to present it as a black-and-white issue, but there are always extenuating circumstances."

"The sad fact is, women will always continue to have abortions," Shiverick said. "Women will take any measure. Rich women will always find a way.

"For many low-income and young women, Planned Parenthood provides their chief source of health care, including screenings for cervical cancer. It's an incredible justice issue. We can't rally around this enough as people of faith."

Luckenbaugh noted that many religious people who are opposed to abortion and contraception are opposed to Planned Parenthood's sex-education programs designed for schools.

"What is more Christian than making sure a baby is wanted and can be provided for?" he asked. "Those who claim to be 'pro-life,' I think they're pro-birth. The issue for me becomes once the child is born ... almost inevitably it puts young women into poverty that they can't get out of, and they become dependent upon society and the government."

That's an actual excerpt from the story. The reporter doesn't bother asking pro-life clergy if they have a response to the characterizations provided by those who support abortion rights.

And it's even creepier because the very first paragraph tells us that earlier in the week a group of nameless black clergy picketed outside the Planned Parenthood facility as part of the Black Pro-Life Coalition's "National Day of Mourning." We're later told that one critic calls their pro-life protest "shop-worn tactics."

So, what do these nameless black clergy say in response? Why are they mourning? We don't know because the reporter doesn't think identifying or speaking with these clergy is worthwhile for the story.

Ah, but it gets worse, somehow. The last part of the piece has the subhed "Other Faiths" where the Presbyterian pastor tells us what Jews believe. Then the reporter tells us what "Islam" has to say about birth control and what "Buddhism" has to say about abortion. It's an odd almost dogmatic section with absolute pronouncements about what various groups believe. No sign of complexities there, as in debates between Orthodox and Reform Jews.

Then we get back to the "debate":

Shiverick said some are misinterpreting Scriptures to make their case against birth control and abortion, such as Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you."

"Those passages were written to a different people and time," she said. "It's saying that God knows us; it's not to make a statement about abortion.

"I'm willing to accept another person's faith. Not agreeing is part of our heritage. But I'd like my faith respected. I don't think faith should be the law of the country."

Well, debate settled, I guess. There are no voices of dissent.

Thanks to the Canton Repository for a thorough airing of all sides and viewpoints in this balanced journalistic debate.

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