Abortion is one of those political subjects that is always painful to argue about. Some political questions – economics, size of government, foreign policy – can often be engaging to debate with friends from another political party, but not abortion. Usually, someone walks away angry or hurt or both. A lot of those issues are probably rooted in the way we talk about abortion as a society. To start, we often assume and argue against each other’s motivations rather than ideas. Example: “You want to control my body” or “you want to kill babies.” It’s safe to say that most people’s opinions on the subject aren’t accurately summarized by either of those statements and neither statement presents the opportunity for a reasoned exchange of ideas, but nevertheless that is how the conversation tends to go.
Why? Well, honestly we’re carrying on separate conversations. One person is talking about women’s health and autonomy, the other is talking about the value of human life. No one hears the other side. We mostly just yell in each other’s direction and dumb down the opposition into something that is easy to vilify.
Such is the case with Planned Parenthood and our debate here in Texas over the notorious HB2, government funding, and the undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress. Liberals argue that Planned Parenthood clinics provide crucial access to healthcare and birth control for the poor and under-privileged. Growing up in McAllen, I had many friends that benefitted from Planned Parenthood’s non-abortive services, as do many Texan women. Liberals argue that abortions make up a tiny portion of what the non-profit provides and removing funding from Planned Parenthood would damage those at-risk communities even more.
Conservatives argue that their tax dollars should not go to fund abortions, to which they are morally opposed. They don’t want to have any part in it and they shouldn’t be forced by the government to support something with which they disagree – even indirectly. So they want Planned Parenthood to stop receiving federal funding.
When considered thoughtfully and treated with respect (two things that are never done when discussing this subject), both sides make valid points. So what’s the solution?
Terrible, cheap, delicious fast food.
Just hear me out.
I’m one of many Texans who is one half of an interracial marriage. My lovely wife was born in Mexico and came here as a child with her mother and brothers. She’s a tall, beautiful Latina. I’m the gringoest gringo that could ever gringo. We met in the Rio Grande Valley, where we both grew up, and are quickly approaching four happy years of marriage. With one exception: I sometimes like to eat at Taco Bell.
My wife considers that to be a nearly mortal sin, to the point that if I avoid telling her I’ve eaten there, I feel like I’ve cheated on her. So I tell her, every time. “It’s not real Mexican food,” she says sternly. “Exactly.” I always reply. She’s a snob about Mexican food. My palate is driven entirely by value. It’s an impasse. We’re never going to see eye-to-eye because we’re talking about different things.
It’s kind of like that with Planned Parenthood and the battle between liberals and conservatives. See, if my wife gives me a crisp $20 and tells me to spend it on anything but Taco Bell, I can’t just put that $20 in my wallet next to all of the other crisp $20’s. (More crisp Washingtons than Benjamins TBH) If I do that and I head down to the local dealer to feed my Doritos Locos addiction, there’s no way I can look my wife in the eye and guarantee without a shadow of a doubt that the $20 I used to buy food at Taco Bell (which would be roughly half the menu) was not the one that she gave me. In order to guarantee that I didn’t use what she gave me on that shameful deliciousness, I’d have to physically separate the money, say by putting it in my pocket instead of my wallet.
And that’s the problem of the fungibility of capital in a nutshell, and why so many Texans are fuming on both sides of the aisle.
While proponents of Planned Parenthood consistently claim that tax dollars do not go to fund abortive services, we are still faced with the reality of the fungibility of capital. Once that money goes into the wallet, can you really say without a shadow of a doubt that tax dollars don’t get spent one way or another? The government couldn’t track TARP funds for the same reason; this isn’t a new or unique problem.
I suggest that Planned Parenthood be split into two separate organizations. One organization that provides all of the non-abortive services and another that provides abortions and abortifacient treatments. They may even continue to operate in the same buildings as long as rent and utility expenses are evenly and clearly divided. Separate books, separate staff, separate wallets. This way, we can guarantee that tax dollars only go to non-abortive services which everyone can agree on. The other organization could continue to operate on its own as a non-profit, so if you support the work they do you could freely donate in proportion to your passion.
It’s that simple. Divide and conquer, so to speak. We may not all agree on everything in Texas, but we can agree this is the greatest state in the Union. Let’s lead the other 49 toward a compromise.