Bare Bones Biology 190 – Planned Parenthood

Certain subjects, especially important subjects, if we talk about them, someone will attack us. Or even worse, our friends might shun us. Planned Parenthood is one of these subjects. We would rather fight than talk, a thing I do not understand.

100317_dsc5989SsSo I decided to talk about it. At the Planned Parenthood clinic there are often pickets outside the fence. The pickets sometimes yell at the clients, who come (most of them) for routine health care, including contraception. Some clients do not like to be yelled at, and so there are volunteers inside the fence who escort clients to their cars and out the gate. I asked volunteers, on both sides of the fence, why they volunteer their time at Planned Parenthood. The replies were quite consistently related to the levels of human welfare that I label as Level One-Individual Welfare; Level Two-Community Welfare; and Level Three-Biosystem Welfare.

All the protestors on the outside of the fence, in one way or another, spoke about individual welfare. For two examples: “Jesus loves the little children . . .” “People that we don’t see, due to distance, in utero development, or indifference, still have value and deserve care & compassion. Each of us can’t help everyone, but we can and should help someone.“

My understanding of their point of view is that it is a “level one” argument, and by that I mean they are trying to ensure the welfare of individuals who can’t help themselves.

The volunteers on the clinic side of the fence talked about community welfare: “I don’t think anyone likes abortion, but I know it is sometimes a sad necessity and I do not want to go back to the days of illegal abortions, which will only drive them underground and endanger the lives of many women and their children.” “Why do I volunteer for Planned Parenthood? Because I think that affordable, quality reproductive health care should be available to everybody.”

Clearly, they are all right. First, in a compassionate human relationship, we must protect at-risk individuals. Therefore, Level One Individual welfare is important to human ethics and survival. At the same time, individual human welfare is not possible without a Level Two social system that provides for the needs of the community as a whole, including our ability to equitably provide food, housing and education. No wonder this is a never-ending fight. Everyone is right. And our culture teaches us that it’s better to fight than talk, and it’s better (or at least easier and more fun) to win rather than talk about difficult problems. Everyone is right.

100317_dsc6087LSsSo then I went home to think about this situation, and I think it is very sad, because both sides are also wrong.

There is a third level of human welfare, Level Three, that is essential to our survival, and that is the whole Life of Earth, the Biosystem that generates all of our food, water and air. I did not bring up this subject during my little research project, but neither did anyone else. When I do mention the welfare of the Biosystem, almost everyone from all sides responds: “There is plenty for everyone.” And because this is not true, therefore the people are fighting over issues that cannot solve the problems they care about.

There is no longer plenty of food on earth for everyone because so few people are standing up for the welfare of Level Three and because there are so many people eating up the food produced by Level Three. Therefore, even if we could get an agreement between the people on the two sides of the fence, this is actually a three-sided problem, and until we are willing to consider the welfare of all three sides of the problem – we will all continue to lose.

“The real tragedy is not the conflict of good with evil, but the conflict of good with good. That leaves a problem with no solution.” Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers

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