Revisiting the Salem Witch Trials: Welcome to the For Baby Body Parts

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In case you need them, this week provides some helpful if excruciating reminders that the right wing's "deranged war" on Planned Parenthood and women's health lumbers on. There was not just the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments in a challenge to Texas' Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt - an anti-choice law that has closed over half the state’s 41 abortion clinics, threatens to close all but nine or 10, offers "a cautionary tale" to Louisiana women's health advocates now fighting a similar law that would leave the state with just two abortion providers for almost a million women, and constitutes perhaps the most egregious of hundreds of like-minded anti-choice bills nationwide that in the last five years have helped shutter a quarter of all US abortion providers.

This week also saw Oklahoma's House pass, with a vote of 64 to 12, Bill 2797 for “Public Education on the Humanity of the Unborn Child Fund,” which calls for public high schools to incorporate an anti-abortion message into their curricula and creates a special revolving fund to be used solely to promote the “humanity of the unborn.” Under the bill, high schools would be required to "clearly and consistently teach that abortion kills a living human being and is against public policy," part of a broader public service campaign "for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society."

Perhaps best of all - though, really, how to choose? - we also got the opening session of the “House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives,” a congressional hearing aimed at exploring "the ethical issues that surround procuring and selling baby body parts” - an illegal act that, in fact, Planned Parenthood never participated in, according to the findings of taxpayer-funded investigations undertaken in almost 30 states after the release of bogus and sometimes violence-provoking videos that have now been discredited, and whose authors have now been indicted in Texas for tampering with government evidence and telling a shitload of other lies.

Rather than focus on the ethical implications of what Planned Parenthood actually sometimes does - donate fetal tissue from aborted fetuses for scientific research, an act that's been legal since the 1970s - the hearing quickly devolved into a rabid denunciation of abortion and a woman's right to choose. It was led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Tennessee Republican who led the recent congressional fight to defund Planned Parenthood, and it featured a raft of openly anti-abortion speakers making such outlandishly hysterical claims that critics likened the atmosphere to Joe McCarthy's hearings  and the Salem Witch Trials, where scientists and women's healthcare workers were “being burned at the stake."


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Thus did Gerard Donovan, the director of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, quickly move to compare research on fetal tissue to the famed experiments of Auschwitz' Joeseph Mengele perpetrated on LIVE prisoners and the Tuskegee syphilis experiment on poor black sharecroppers, arguing on behalf of the “personhood” of fetus that deserves "the same dignity that we accord all other human lives." "We wouldn’t have kittens or puppies put to sleep without keeping them out of pain,” he said. “I don’t think we should do that for kids either.” Tallying votes, Rep. Diane Black (R) might have won the day's Fever Pitch Award with her outraged query, "In our society, have we reached a point where there is an for baby parts, including entire babies?” Umm, actually, not.

To see this mindset (sic) in action, watch Samantha Bee on her new "Full Frontal" show confront Texas' Rep. Dan Flynn (R), co-author of that state's HB2 bill now up before the Supreme Court. The bill ingeniously managed to close almost half of Texas' abortion-providing clinics by simply requiring them to make 90 pages of random, pricey, insanely irrelevant building upgrades -  mandating the color of the walls, the width of the corridors, the size of the janitor's closets - they couldn't afford. Though the clueless, decrepit Flynn clearly knows nothing about abortion - he refers to "cutting people's bodies" and "invasive surgery," which bear no relation to the actual procedure - he insists, "We're not removing access to health care, we're improving it." Like much else in today's political discourse, you gotta see it to believe it.

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