After an onslaught of controversial videos stealthily taken for the purpose of making Planned Parenthood look like they sell fetal tissue – or “baby parts” as many sources put it – to researchers, the non-profit organization has decided to stop accepting payments to cover the costs of their fetal tissue research programs.
The new policy was presented in a letter sent Tuesday by Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, to the director of the National Institute of Health, Dr. Francis S. Collins.
“Planned Parenthood’s policies on fetal tissue donation already exceed the legal requirements,” Ms. Richards wrote. “Now we’re going even further in order to take away any basis for attacking Planned Parenthood to advance an anti-abortion political agenda.”
The initial attack video was released in mid-July by a group of anti-abortion activists who call themselves The Center for Medical Progress. They hired actors to pose as representatives of a biomedical firm looking to purchase fetal organs from the organization while they secretly filmed the negotiation. Once released, the videos brought mass outrage from conservatives and anti-abortionists, leading to Republicans in Congress launching several investigations of Planned Parenthood and even attempts to cut their federal funding, which is mostly reimbursement for Medicaid patients receiving cancer screenings, contraception, and other non-abortion services, says The New York Times. The organization responded by saying the videos were edited deceptively and denied receiving payments aside from the legally permitted reimbursement of costs for the program.
The backlash was mostly due to the misconception that the organization was profiting off of its clients’ aborted foetuses, when in reality they were simply abiding by a law passed by Congress in 1993 that allows women who get abortions to donate the fetal tissue for use in scientific research, as per their discretion. The law also permits the supplier of the tissue to recover the costs, such as transportation, of running these programs. Planned Parenthood stated that its fetal tissue programs only took place in California and Washington, which is roughly only a half-dozen of the nearly 700 health centers they own across the nation. Executive vice president of the organization, Dawn Laguens, said the Washington State branch already has a policy of not accepting reimbursements, and now the California affiliate will follow suit.
In the midst of the controversy over the videos, many of Planned Parenthood’s critics demanded a ban on fetal tissue research, however countless experts in the scientific and medical field came to their defense. In a letter sent by The Department of Health and Human Services to Congress in August, the importance of research with fetal tissue was outlined saying it “continues to be a critical resource for important efforts such as research on degenerative eye disease, human development disorders such as Down syndrome, and infectious diseases, among a host of other diseases.”
Here’s hoping this will be the end of prejudice-fuelled attacks on the organization.