The sting videos targeting Planned Parenthood are hard to watch. Doctors talk clinically, some say callously, about harvesting fetal tissue. Technicians identify and isolate tiny organs. References are made to “it’s a baby” or “it’s another boy.” The videos were taken surreptitiously and were artfully edited to produce maximum discomfort about complicated issues that, for many, are inherently uncomfortable.
That truths were distorted to paint an inaccurate and unfair picture of a health organization that provides valuable services to women — as well as to demonize research that leads to important medical advances — doesn’t matter to anti-abortion activists. Or, sadly, to the politicians who pander to them.
Planned Parenthood is under virulent attack for the role a small portion of its affiliates play in helping women who want to donate fetal tissue for medical research. The anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress has orchestrated a propaganda campaign accusing the nation’s largest provider of abortions of profiting from the illegal sale of fetal tissue, a charge refuted by Planned Parenthood.
None of the videos released shows anything illegal and, in fact, the full footage of Planned Parenthood executives meeting with people presumed to be buyers for a human biologics company include repeated assertions that clinics are not selling tissue but only seeking permitted reimbursement costs for expenses. Indeed, the Colorado clinic featured in the videos refused to enter into a contract with the phony company because of its failure to meet its legal and ethical standards.
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Such facts, though, haven’t stopped officials in several Republican-led states, including Texas, Louisiana and Ohio, from launching investigations of Planned Parenthood, even though affiliates in those states don’t facilitate fetal tissue donations.
In Washington, Senate Republicans have fast-tracked a bid to defund Planned Parenthood, with a vote set for Monday. Fortunately, it’s unlikely there will be 60 votes to advance the bill, as cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood would be irresponsible.
No federal money is used by Planned Parenthood to provide abortions except in some rare exceptions. So cutting off government funds, mostly through Medicaid and grants, would only hurt the thousands of people, most of them low-income women, who each day depend upon Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and other health services. Given that many of the clinics are in medically underserved areas, it’s a myth, as Republicans claim, that other providers can fill the gap. Shutting down clinics would make it harder for many women to obtain birth control — and the last thing either side of the abortion debate should want is an increase in unwanted pregnancies that result in more abortions.
We are under no illusions that the vendetta against Planned Parenthood will end. Conservative Republicans are already threatening to shut down the federal government in the fall by blocking any spending that includes money for Planned Parenthood. It’s clear from how quickly Republican presidential hopefuls seized on the issue that it will be a staple of the campaign trail. Consequently, it’s important that congressional Democrats and others continue to stand up for Planned Parenthood and the women whose health depends upon its services.