Tish Harrison Warren writes:
In a recent New York Times op-ed, the current head of Planned Parenthood, Alexis McGill Johnson, lays bare their founder’s involvement with white supremacist groups, eugenics, and the medical exploitation of Puerto Rican women. She calls for a “reckoning” with Margaret Sanger’s sins, admitting that Sanger “devalued and dehumanized people of color” as well as people with disabilities. McGill Johnson then pledges on behalf of Planned Parenthood “to fight the many types of dehumanization we are seeing right now.”
McGill Johnson wants you to know that her claims aren’t just “virtue signaling.” She outlines how Planned Parenthood has invested in anti-racist training and developed “equity and inclusion” standards. She also points out that their senior leadership team is diverse. What she fails to note is that, for all the diversity in their boardroom, each person there shares a key privilege: They were allowed to be born….
They miss how eugenic assumptions—that some lucky human beings merit more protection than others—are still alive and well in their organization today.
However, it’s equally important to point out what’s right about McGill Johnson’s argument. She assumes that dehumanization is wrong and makes clear that systems of white supremacy rob people of not only their rights but of their God-given dignity.
In its best moments, progressivism reaffirms that society has a responsibility to correct injustice, pursue fairness, and protect those who are marginalized, weak, excluded, and oppressed. We as a church can clearly affirm these goals as good and even biblical. But we can also call out the fact that pro-choice progressives fail to bring their moral logic to its inevitable conclusion: Human dignity applies equally to women, people of color, those with disabilities, the elderly, and the very young—even those yet to be born…
Those of us (like me) who are part of the “whole life” movement—committed to protecting life from conception to natural end—are at times treated by pro-lifers as if we are anti-abortion in name only. Because we complicate the message of anti-abortion groups, some conservatives assume we aren’t sufficiently committed to protecting the unborn. At the same time, progressives often view us as insufficiently committed to feminism or progressivism.
In reality, however, we understand that there is a deep and unavoidable moral link between the various life issues that those on the Left and the Right pry apart. Whole-life advocates understand that once any of us is dehumanized, we all become dehumanized. Once we devalue one group of people, we begin to do the same with others. Dehumanization is a malignancy that spreads. And it’s always fatal. It always ends in death.
Those of us in the pro-life movement would therefore be irresponsible to sneer at McGill Johnson’s inconsistency without examining our own….
Injustice and inequality beget death. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal how problems in American healthcare disproportionately harm people of color, who have higher rates of serious illness and death from the disease….
Additionally, Black men are still disproportionally more likely to be sentenced to death for crimes, particularly if their victims are white. Migrants continue to die while trying to cross the Southern border. And the life expectancy for people of color lags behind white people, a “death gap” that is likely to increase.
These are all life issues. Like abortion, they too point to patterns of dehumanization that lead to death. When we champion the protection of the unborn while ignoring the suffering of other groups, we are guilty of the same moral logic as Planned Parenthood.