In early September, I was in an elevator heading up to Expectant Mother Care, a crisis pregnancy center strategically located a few floors above a Planned Parenthood clinic in New York City. There were eight of us in the elevator, seven blacks, five of them women, including me.
The first stop was Planned Parenthood. Three women got out. As the door closed, I could not contain myself: I asked the remaining people in the elevator if they had seen the videos revealing the callous way Planned Parenthood treats the abortion procedure, and how some of their clinics sell baby parts for profit. I added, given the demographic of the elevator, that most Planned Parenthood abortions in New York City are of black babies. All of them said No, they had not heard of the videos. They all shook their heads in agreement and disgust when I said, “I can’t believe Planned Parenthood is still in business.” They agreed, even though they had not seen the videos. No one interrupted me to say that Planned Parenthood was protecting a woman’s “right to choose.” They had an almost instinctual reaction that this was not a good organization.
A few days later, I encountered a young woman standing outside a Dunkin Donuts enlisting (financial) support for Planned Parenthood. She yelled out information about the organization’s primary benefits for women. Perhaps Planned Parenthood does this kind of promotion periodically. Or perhaps it was in response to its growing unpopularity. Again, I was moved to mention the videos. This time I got a typical response: “Only 3% of their funding goes to abortions,” she told me.
I raised two objections. Considering Planned Parenthood performs over 300,000 abortions a year, where is the rest of the $500 million in federal funding going? I am aware that Planned Parenthood does not provide mammograms; it funnels millions to democratic candidates; and provides only about six kinds of services, compared to the 17 services the average health-care center offers women. I asked her if she had seen any of the videos, and she replied, No. She then informed me she did not actually work for Planned Parenthood, but for another company, and her job was merely to solicit support for any given organization assigned to her.
These are two of the brief and informal discussions I’ve had with people recently. There have been others, and I have been shocked to learn that many people do not know the videos even exist. The mainstream media has been reluctant to cover the Center for Medical Progress’s undercover investigation. So where does the average New Yorker go to learn about prolife concerns? Although Fox News has reported on the videos, many people perceive Fox as too “conservative” and do not tune in. In addition, many churches, especially predominately black churches, continue to remain silent on the abortion issue.
Planned Parenthood has had decades to permeate public schools and community programs in the inner city with its propaganda. Success in the war against abortion depends on successfully educating those most vulnerable to the abortion industry—those who get indoctrinated early on into trusting Planned Parenthood, first for basic sex education, then for sexual and reproductive health needs, and finally in a pregnancy crisis.
One purpose of protecting free speech is to guarantee the free flow of thought and encourage public discourse. All educated Americans value this principle. The recent push to categorize pro-lifers as extremists is a way to justify the mainstream media’s general indifference to pro-life concerns. Extremism connotes something categorically offensive and harmful to discourse; it produces fear of even entertaining pro-life arguments. Governor Cuomo has declared that “extremists” such as pro-life advocates “have no place in the State of New York.” Mayor De Blasio later responded, “I stand by that 100 percent. I agree with Governor Cuomo’s remarks.”
The political theorist John Stewart Mill stressed the importance of guarding against social tyranny, that is, the tyranny that ensues when prevailing opinion is considered infallible. He argued that throughout history, an infallibility mentality towards a majority opinion has often led to persecution, which takes the form of threats, social stigma, isolation, and legal penalties.
I understand that there are always those who know information is available, yet choose to ignore it. But there are many in my neighborhood and around New York who are not even aware that certain information exists. Each person should decide what is true for himself, but it should be after the weighing of opposing arguments.
The First Amendment protects political speech, enabling a culturally heterogeneous society to forge a common democratic will. This can only happen through public discourse. A person who discovers the world, and questions everything, is more prone to find mistakes and work to correct them. All citizens, no matter their socio-economic background, should have the time and opportunity to better themselves through education, and then contribute to political discussion
The abortion debate should be happening in every “public square,” including the inner city and minority communities most affected or targeted by the abortion industry.
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Ifeoma Anunkor is a recent graduate of Columbia Law School and lives in New York City.