Planned Parenthood: Priceless

Please note: what follows may be unpopular with some. It may alienate a few readers. That’s OK, because what I’m about to say is critically important if you care about kids. And it’s the undeniable truth.

The latest gaggle of presidential hopefuls (I don’t need to call out their political party, do I??) have drawn a line in the sand. They demand the end of federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which they claim is the MAJOR provider of abortion services and must be crushed.

My response: R U KIDDING ME??? Never mind that no federal funds are used by Planned Parenthood to provide abortions; if you’re truly concerned about the rights of children, and you care about the health and well-being of our youngest and most vulnerable, you should be bowing at the alter, because the goal of Planned Parenthood and health providers like them is to create the most desirable possible world. Planned. Parenthood. Every child a wanted child. No throw-away kids. Parents who are well-prepared to perform the most important job out there — launching the next generation.

Let me tell you a story.

As many of you know, my day job is with a non-profit foster care agency. We place babies who have been victims of child abuse and neglect with nurturing families who are prepared to give them the care they need to develop healthy brains and have a shot at the future they deserve.

One of the families who does this work with us is exceptional. To tell you the truth, all our families are exceptional, but this family is more exceptional than most.

Several years ago this family, who we’ll call the Lees, took a newborn little girl into their home. This little girl’s birth mother had already lost custody of two children as a result of drug abuse that prevented her from caring for them. The Lees stepped up and provided loving care for that little girl, saving her life.

Less than a year later, the Lees got a call asking if they’d accept placement of that little girl’s newborn sister. Mom had given birth again and was still using, still unable to provide care. So the Lees took that second little girl while in the midst of adopting her older sister.

Ten months later: another call. This time it was a baby boy. The child of that same mother. Again the Lees welcomed the girls’ brother into their family, and planned a home remodel to add desperately needed bedrooms. They now had three beautiful babies under three years old. All three were the biological children of one mom.

By now you probably see where this story is going. Two years ago the Lee family adopted their sixth child from this same mother. They maxed out the bedrooms they could add and the wellspring of loving care they had to give. They let us know they couldn’t welcome any more children.

Since the Lees completed their family, Mom has gone on to deliver two more babies. If you’re counting, that’s a total of 10 babies — two before the Lees arrived on the scene, the six they adopted, and  then two more. All were removed from her.

Make no mistake, this story is a tragedy. We’re all relieved for the six who were adopted by the Lees, because we know their story had a happy ending. But what about the other four babies? How did their story end? And what about their birth mother? How does it feel to give birth to 10 babies and give away every one as a result of a disease that has you strangled? How does that even happen? Will there be #11? 12?

Why didn’t anyone intervene? Why didn’t this mom get the education and counseling she needed to break this cycle and quit popping out human lives she couldn’t possibly take responsibility for? Why didn’t SOMEBODY stop the madness?

I’ll tell you why. Because we vilify Planned Parenthood and groups like them who are out there working to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Because we harbor a false notion that promoting birth control leads to random promiscuity. Because we care more about protecting the unborn than we care about protecting the already-born. Because the screaming political rhetoric has drowned out our common sense.

When I tell this story (And I do. All the time) I often get responses like, “Can’t we make her tie her tubes? Can’t we force her to be sterilized?.” Well, no. We can’t. That would take away her civil rights that we Americans are all about protecting.

BUT, we could provide her with the tools she needs to stop getting pregnant every year or less. We could put aside our judgement that those who have sex should have to pay the price, because we’re all paying the price … mostly the babies who are the unwanted result. We could give groups like Planned Parenthood all the resources they need to provide preventive care to every woman who wants it.

Because, truly? How many families like the Lees are out there? How many babies will not be so lucky? How many children will fall through the cracks and leave a burden and a tragedy that can’t possibly be remedied? And what will be the result?

So I ask all you presidential hopefuls to cut the partisan rhetoric and look reality in its face. Honor the legacy of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) and get on board to create a country where every child is a wanted child, and every parent embraces their responsibility with gusto. Break the cycle of child abuse and neglect, no matter what your political persuasion, and do the right thing for children. Teach every woman to take control of her fertility and prevent any pregnancy that isn’t 100% wished for.

Prevent abortion by preventing unwanted pregnancy. Commit to taking as much loving care of the babies who are already here as of the unborn. Because it’s the right thing to do.

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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