The latest dispute regarding Planned Parenthood illustrates much of what is wrong with American politics.
For those who haven’t followed the story, an activist with a long history of opposing reproductive rights made several visits to Planned Parenthood offices. He filmed several of the exchanges he had with Planned Parenthood officials and then released highly (and, apparently, selectively) edited excerpts of the meetings that suggest the organization sells body parts of aborted fetuses.
The release of the videos provoked fresh exertions of outrage among members of the perpetually outraged religious right.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence directed the state of Indiana to investigate Planned Parenthood. The state’s legislative leaders – who still are trying to soothe the bruised feelings of social conservatives angry about defeats in same-sex marriage battles – quickly fell into line.
The message was clear: The state of Indiana will give Planned Parenthood a thorough going over.
The fact that Planned Parenthood, like most large not-for-profits, undergoes an annual audit that likely would reveal any thriving commercial trading in body parts seems not to have occurred to the deep thinkers in our state government. A quick look at the books probably could save Hoosier investigators – and Hoosier taxpayers, who will underwrite this crusade – a lot of time and money.
Nor have our leaders committed themselves to anything resembling an even-handed investigation – one that would study whether the videos released were edited in ways designed to deliberately distort the nature of the exchanges or would weigh whether the activist who recorded the videos misrepresented himself and his intentions in order to get the meetings.
That’s the nature of jihads.
They’re not nearly as satisfying to the faithful when one tries to make them fair.
The reality that the state’s leaders – including the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, the governor – aren’t above bending the legal and political processes to serve rather narrow partisan ends isn’t the most distressing thing about this episode.
This, after all, is the same governor who at least twice has been rapped on the knuckles by judges for acting as though he could ignore court rulings. Mike Pence may say he believes in limited government, but there’s little evidence he believes there are any limits on what he may do as governor.
No, the most disturbing thing about this episode is that it provides still more evidence – as if more were needed – that we are led by people who prefer a fight to a solution.
Polls reveal a broad consensus in this country regarding abortion – one that does not reflect the views of the most strident activists on either side of the debate. The overwhelming majority of Americans want abortions to be safe, legal and far less common than they are.
In a rational world, we would use that broad area of agreement as a place from which to craft policies that protect both women and children, that balance rights and that achieve something resembling justice.
But that’s not the world (nor the state) in which we live.
No, we live in a world (and a state) in which our leaders strive to make the perfect the enemy of the good. If they can’t get an immaculate solution, they want no solution at all.
The state of Indiana will do the equivalent of a show trial of Planned Parenthood. We’ll spend time, money, energy and attention that otherwise might be devoted to meeting other pressing needs.
This “investigation” will accomplish nothing other than confirming the prejudices of the most devout activists on both sides of the debate – and convincing just about everyone else, once again, that almost no one in state government thinks about or speaks for them.
Just one more example of your state government at work.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.