Planned Parenthood battlefield

Thursday, July 11, 2002

While attempting to avoid classification as a tree-hugging, tofu-munching ACLU supporter, I will attempt to address the potential dangers that may arise if the Buena Vista County Sheriff's Office gets its hands on certain confidential records in the epic battle with Planned Parenthood.

Let's face the facts. There's no denying the terrible tragedy that shocked the entire community when a newborn baby boy's badly damaged body was found May 30 at the Harold Rowley Recycling Center with not so much as a clue to its origin. In more than a month since the discovery of the body, BVSO has valiantly struggled to keep the case open and find those responsible for the horrid disposal of the baby's remains.

After a month of investigation, all leads are exhausted. Now, as a final Hail Mary, they've turned to Planned Parenthood for strictly confidential records of women testing positive for pregnancy within a several-month timeframe. Planned Parenthood has refused to turn over the records, appealing a local judge's orders to the Iowa Supreme Court, involving the American Civil Liberties Union, and, in short, inciting the national media attention our sheltered little town is experiencing today.

Many have argued that this case is not an issue of civil rights, but instead an issue of finding justice in the name of this discarded baby. They're partially correct. It's absolutely true that justice should be served for this child. However, this is also very much an issue of civil rights. In issuing a subpoena and now with Planned Parenthood officials claiming the sheriff's office allegedly threatened them with jail time, BVSO should have seen the tidal wave coming.

I wholeheartedly credit BVSO to the fullest in seeking justice for this child. However, sacrificing the right to privacy for numerous women served by the Storm Lake Planned Parenthood Center oversteps many boundaries. Once again, let's face the hard truth. Unfortunate as it may be, this baby is dead. These women, who have put their utmost faith in an organization whose main staple is confidentiality, are still living. Do we really want to forsake the rights of hundreds, possibly thousands, of living citizens for that of one deceased who will never actually see his justice served in the flesh? To me, it makes about as much sense as cutting off one's left leg in order to run more swiftly.

Although it's by no means impossible, BVSO's chances of solving the case through the use of these records is very slim. With a shot-in-the-dark such as this, Planned Parenthood, yet another important resource that Storm Lake is extremely lucky to have, could lose a significant amount of credibility, as well as business.

Aside from this, it goes without saying that there will, of course, be an abundance of women within those records that do not have a baby to show for their pregnancy. No matter what the circumstances are in cases such as this, it's certainly not something to be discussed over afternoon tea, let alone with a law enforcement official knocking at your door. And while in no way do I doubt the professionalism of our sheriff's department, let's face it. It's a small town we live in. People talk.

With this, BVSO, here is my shot in the dark. Perhaps it is simply best to let sleeping dogs lie and seek other leads to the whereabouts of this child's mother, wherever she may be. It's well understood that the department is merely doing its job, and a fine job at that. Although these records just may hold a chance in the investigation, it's simply too slim to be worth the ugliness that undoubtedly will ensue.

Abby Simons is a Pilot-Tribune news intern from Storm Lake.