The Defunding Planned Parenthood movement is in full force, fueled by heavily edited videos produced by the anti-abortion crowd over at the questionably-named Center for Medical Progress (CMP). David Daleiden, the founder of CMP and a long-time abortion foe (if you can say that about anyone only 26 years old), set up a bogus company, Biomax Procurement Services, that claims to procure biological specimens for academic and private bioscience researchers. Under the guise of procuring fetal tissue for Biomax, Daleiden and some accomplices, filmed conversations with Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola.
If you haven’t seen the video, you can watch it here. It doesn’t help that Dr. Nucatola, who comes off pretty callous in the film, talks matter of factly about the nuts and bolts of harvesting fetal tissue while drinking wine and talking with her mouth full. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards was right to apologize for Nucatola’s “tone” and manner of speaking.
Disturbing, yes…but propaganda nevertheless
But, and this is big, it doesn’t mean that the picture this edited video (0r the other videos produced by CMP) paints is anything other than a propaganda piece for those who would give their right arm to flush Planned Parenthood down the toilet. These videos have led to the widespread belief that Planned Parenthood kills babies, crunches them up no less (check out the bunny rabbit in the blender video on this website), so they can sell them at a profit to scientists doing Frankenstein-like research who, presumably, will make zillions from products produced using this ill-gained fetal tissue.
The New England Journal responds
None other than the prestigious and, usually apolitical, New England Journal of Medicine, has published two back-to-back articles on the topic in their August 12, 2015 issue in response to the controversy.
School and the Department of Medical History and Bioethics at the medical school as well as a former member of Planned Parenthood’s National Medical Committee from 2004-2006. Her article takes us through the rational of the 1988 Fetal Tissue Transplantation Panel that grappled with the ethics of fetal tissue research at that time. The panel was appointed by none other than the GOP Fav, Ronald Reagan, and included “several members who opposed abortion rights.” Charo points out that, after reviewing decades of research, the panel concluded,
“…there was no evidence that the possibility of deriving some good from fetal remains had ever persuaded women to have abortions they otherwise would not have chosen.”
But, to be on the safe side, the panel recommended that the question of donation not be raised until after the woman had made her decision about whether to have an abortion. It also endorsed a law that prohibited the sale of fetal tissue for profit, although it was deemed permissible to be reimbursed for costs. It was also recommended that women not be permitted to direct tissue for transplantation to particular people.
The defunding of Planned Parenthood
As far as I know, there is no evidence to date that Planned Parenthood has violated any laws with respect to fetal tissue procurement, despite the blatherings of David Daleiden on national TV. Evidently, he thinks if he can say that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal parts enough time it will make it so.
Despite the lack of evidence, other than the CMP videos, Planned Parenthood has been tried and found guilty by anti-abortion activists and pandering politicians. The penalty? To withdraw any public funding of the organization.
The problem with this decision is that public funding is NOT being used to fund abortions carried out by Planned Parenthood. Rather, abortion services are paid for by private donations, foundations, and fees-for-service. Further, abortion services make up only a tiny fraction of the services provides by Planned Parenthood. Here’s a graph from Planned Parenthood’s 2013-2014 annual report that illustrates the breakdown:
Who is getting what from Planned Parenthood?
In the second article in the 08/12/15 issue of NEJM, physicians Topulos, Greene, and Drazen author an editorial that details extent and benefits of these services:
“In 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, Planned Parenthood provides services to 2.7 million women, men, and young people during 4.6 million health center visits. At least 60% of these patients benefited from public health coverage from programs such as the nation’s family-planning program (Title X) and Medicaid. At least 78% of these patients lived with incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. PP services included nearly 400,000 Pap tests, nearly 500,000 breast examinations, nearly 4.5 million tests for sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV) and treatments. The contraception services that Planned Parenthood delivers may be the single greatest effort to prevent unwanted pregnancies that result in abortions.”
Using deceit to dupe gullible people
By deceitfully making the case that defunding planned parenthood will stop the murder of unborn children, the ideologues behind the Defund Planned Parenthood effort have taken advantage of the ignorance and gullibility of the general public on these issues. As Topulos et al. conclude,
“It is shameful that a radical anti-choice group whose goal is the destruction of Planned Parenthood continues to twist the facts to achieve its ends. We thank the women who made the choice to help improve the human condition through their tissue donation; we applaud the people who make this work possible and those who use these materials to advance human health. We are outraged by those who debase these women, this work, and Planned Parenthood by distorting the facts for political ends.”