Two weeks ago, the extreme anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress released two heavily edited, undercover videos that purportedly expose some deep-secret Planned Parenthood scheme to illegally sell fetal parts. The video has come under great criticism and scrutiny–rightfully so–as it’s so heavily edited that the statements “exposing” Planned Parenthood’s “crimes” are constructed out of disparate fragments of conversation as a substitute for context. In fact, the nearly 9-minute video (that has been viewed some 2 million times in two weeks) is actually just splices from a 3-hour lunch in which the topic of discussion was legal reimbursement for tissue donation for the purpose of medical research.
Moreover, a careful review of the full 2 hour and 42 minute video from this lunch reveals a very different story than Planned Parenthood opponents and long-time anti-choice crusaders would like you to believe. Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of Medical Services, was led to believe that she was having lunch with representatives from a middle-man company that transfers tissues from aborted fetuses to scientific researchers. Note that this is a completely legal medical practice (in most places, excepting Ohio) that has actually led to breakthrough scientific discoveries like a vaccine for polio.
In the video, Dr. Nucatola reiterates several times that tissue procurement isn’t something they do to receive money; it’s something they do to honor their patients’ choices when it comes to donating the tissues. The discussion of money in the video is specifically about ensuring that the clinic is reimbursed for the cost of storage and shipment of materials to medical facilities for research, not for materials themselves. Like any organ donation, the use of fetal tissues for scientific research isn’t just legal; it’s important to the health of the human species. Scientific research involving fetal tissue has given us the polio, rubella, and chicken pox vaccines. Still, as Dr. David Magnus, director of the Center for Biomedical ethics at Stanford University points out, this really has nothing to do with the use of fetal tissue for research.
“The analogy is often made of organ procurement. ‘I’m not in favor of car accidents or people shooting each other. But if tragedies happen, and somebody is shot or there is a car accident, then being able to have something good come out of that is seen largely as a good thing.’”
But to the opposition, to those who deceived Planned Parenthood into meeting with them, those who edited this video, those who posted it, and those who are now trying to capitalize on this moment of public confusion to falsely validate their own agendas, this video has little to do with medical research or fetal tissue procurement. It has to do with putting an end to Planned Parenthood.
So, from that point, let’s take a moment to talk about what Planned Parenthood actually does–which, to be clear, does not include running a black market for fetal parts.
Planned Parenthood Around The World
- Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of family planning services and sex education in the United States
- Each year, Planned Parenthood provides high quality, affordable reproductive healthcare services to more than five million women, men, and adolescents all over the world
- These services include: birth control, contraception, STD tests, pregnancy tests, fertility screenings, erectile dysfunction treatment, preventative care, and cancer screenings
- Planned Parenthood, though known for family planning and reproductive health, also provides general healthcare services such as vaccines, disease testing, and other health screenings
- One in five women visits a Planned Parenthood health center in her lifetime
- 80% of their services are preventative–meaning they’re proactive services sought by individuals who are trying to prevent the incidence of STDs, diseases, cancer, or unwanted pregnancy
- Only 3% of all Planned Parenthood services are abortion related–just 3%
- Planned Parenthood provides people with education. Their work provides quality sex education tools to educators everywhere. They believe that providing comprehensive sex education for our youth is instrumental in preventing unwanted pregnancy, preventing sexual assault, and preventing the spread of STDs. This belief is widely supported by empirical data, yet also misaligned with the priorities of their opposition
- Family planning (which is a majority of Planned Parenthood services), has been proven to help reduce high infant mortality rates (like the 3rd worst in the nation infant mortality rate that we have here in Ohio)
Planned Parenthood provides quality reproductive healthcare services to women, men, and teens all over the world at a low cost. It’s that simple. But, just to given you some more context, let’s talk about Ohio…
Where does Ohio #StandWithPP?
Ohio’s government, that is, doesn’t do much standing with Planned Parenthood; but, we sure do stand out on this issue. Over a year ago, ThinkProgress referred to Ohio as the “worst state for women’s health,” following the passage of a slew of anti-choice policies by the Ohio State Legislature. In the 1990s, Ohio was the first state to ban partial birth abortions (a rare procedure typically used only in extreme cases, when there are severe health implications for the mother, the child, or both). Since Kasich took office in 2011, he has signed into law 16 policies that restrict women’s access to reproductive health care. Here are a few of them:
- 20-week abortion ban
- In 2013, stripped Planned Parenthood in Ohio of $1.4 million in family-planning dollars
- Cut funding for rape crisis centers that give victims advice on terminating pregnancy
- Required women seeking abortions to pay for and undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound prior to the procedure
- Required that women seeking abortions receive state-sponsored counseling in which she’s made to question her decision, then is required to wait another 24 hours before undergoing the procedure
- Required that physicians read a script, written by Ohio legislators (not doctors), about “fetal heartbeats” to any woman seeking an abortion
- Since 1996, abortion clinics have been required to have a “transfer agreement” with a local hospital in order to treat a patient who is seeking an abortion. But in 2013, public hospitals were banned from participating in transfer agreements with abortion clinics. And, as of the most recent 2015 budget, those non-public hospitals entering transfer agreements are limited to only those that are within 30 miles of the clinic
Meanwhile, more than half of Ohio’s clinics have shuttered since Kasich took office…going from 26 abortion providers to only 8. The most recent budget provisions on transfer agreements put 2 more clinics at risk of closure. John Kasich and his allies have been employing a strategy where they effectively regulate abortion out of existence in the State of Ohio. This is a terrible thing for Ohio’s women. Still, the implications go even further.
Because reproductive healthcare isn’t all about abortion. Unfortunately, in their crusade against a woman’s choice to have an abortion, anti-choice activists put millions more women’s health at risk.
The infant mortality rate in Ohio is 30% higher than the rest of the country. Ohio ranks first in the nation for infant mortality rates among black babies. That means that while pro-lifers are putting their energy into banning wanted abortions, hundreds of Ohio babies continue to die every year, many due to inadequate care during their pre-term phase. Maybe Ohio’s anti-abortion crusade and its terrible infant mortality rate seem unrelated; but, they’re actually very much entwined.
When abortion became legal in 1973, we saw an increase in safe and legal abortions, and a decrease in infant mortality rates. This, combined with medical testimony and medical research, attest to the correlation between access to quality reproductive healthcare and a lower infant mortality rate.
We also know that family planning services (i.e. contraception, sex education) can help reduce infant mortality rates–and, quite obviously, the rate of abortions. But, conservatives in Ohio are determined to attach the Number One provider of these critical family planning services: Planned Parenthood.
Still, the edited and proven-false video of Planned Parenthood doctors discussing fetal tissue donations has prompted Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine’s investigation Planned Parenthood of Ohio. This investigation is, of course, part of the national witch hunt to defund Planned Parenthood. There’s not even a chance that Ohio’s abortion providers could be profiting from the sale of fetal tissues, because that practice of tissue donation and remuneration is not allowed to take place in Ohio. Regardless of that fact or any others, GOP leaders across the state are using their bully pulpit and our public tax dollars to urge an investigation into Planned Parenthood with the intention of defunding them.
Here’s the nitty gritty of where we’re actually at, if you believe in reality: Planned Parenthood provides critical health care services to thousands of Ohioans every year. Planned Parenthood is active in educating Ohioans on sex and preventing STDS and unwanted pregnancy. Planned Parenthood provides affordable contraception and preventative healthcare services. Planned Parenthood tests men and women for STDs and performs cancer screenings. Planned Parenthood also provides abortion services. Planned Parenthood has long been a compassionate partner to women, and, now more than ever, we all must #StandWithPP in order to ensure they’re financially capable of continuing this good work.