Choosing to have an abortion is a gut-wrenching decision. Some women hope some good will come of it when they decide to donate fetal tissue for scientific research. Fetal tissue, after all, has been used to develop vaccines and medical treatments.
In one highly edited video released recently, an anti-abortion group purports to show a doctor from Planned Parenthood negotiating prices for such fetal tissue. Abortion opponents, including some in Congress, immediately seized on the video — two others also have been released — to condemn Planned Parenthood. Congress is expected to take up bills to defund the agency this week. Such action would only hurt the thousands of low-income women who receive health care — not abortions — from Planned Parenthood.
Lawmakers instead should be appalled at the distortions that groups such as Live Action resort to to tarnish the reputation of Planned Parenthood in the process of seeking to outlaw abortion.
Live Action, which previously has released questionable videos just as members of Congress prepared to debate Planned Parenthood funding, created a fake company called the Center for Medical Progress, which was granted tax-exempt status by the IRS by presenting itself as a biomedical charity. Instead of doing charitable work, the group sought to entrap Planned Parenthood by secretly recording some of its officials in what they think are meetings with tissue buyers.
In a long conversation with Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s senior director of Medical Services, she and the fake buyers talk at length about fetal tissue. Nearly three hours of video were edited down to a nine-minute video that purportedly showed Nucatola talking about selling aborted fetuses. The unedited video and a transcript show Nucatola repeatedly returned to talking about reimbursement rates, which are set by law, for the “time and space” needed to handle donated tissue while the people posing as executives from the Center for Medical Progress talked about “selling” tissue. At one point, Nucatola says “nobody should be selling tissue.”
Nucatola explains repeatedly that many women donate the tissue because they like the idea of helping others through the research that is done with fetal tissue, including research into Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
The fake buyers, who may have violated California law by recording Nucatola without her knowledge, lead her into a detailed discussion of what types of tissue and organs are in demand and how they are collected and preserved.
Nucatola naively tells the fake buyers they could help with the messaging around the difficult topic so more people would donate, not so Planned Parenthood could make money but so more people would donate tissue for needed research.
Instead, the message anti-abortion advocates are spreading, as was planned all along in this elaborate setup, is that Planned Parenthood is callously selling aborted fetuses and that its funding should be cut.
Unfortunately, that message is resonating. “The callousness that the Planned Parenthood employees displayed in discussing the sale of fetal tissue and organs is appalling,” Sen. Susan Collins said in a statement to the Bangor Daily News. “The videos raise questions about the ethics and legality of Planned Parenthood’s practices and, as a result, an investigation is warranted.” She added it was “premature” to de-fund Planned Parenthood.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, is pushing an amendment to bar federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
The federal money Planned Parenthood receives under Title X cannot be used for abortion, which accounts for 3 percent of the group’s services. The Medicaid money it gets can be used for abortions in the cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England does not participate in the tissue donation program.
Abortions only are a small portion of the health services Planned Parenthood provides, many of them to low-income women. Two-thirds of Planned Parenthood clients in Maine live below the poverty line. Last year, the group provided $3.5 million in free or reduced-price care.
Reducing Planned Parenthood’s funding means poor women will go without breast and cervical cancer screening, HIV tests and sexually transmitted disease treatment. Punishing these women for political gain or to further a moral ideology — while doing it so deceptively — is wrong and hurtful.