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The Latest Planned Parenthood "Controversy" is Fueled by Ignorance

No, America, Planned Parenthood isn't selling baby parts. They're not actually "selling" anything. Like nearly every other hospital or clinic in the country, they provide donated tissue blocks from surgical procedures for medical research; research that has likely saved the life of people you know.

No, America, Planned Parenthood isn't selling baby parts. They're not actually "selling" anything. Like nearly every other hospital or clinic in the country, they provide donated tissue blocks from surgical procedures for medical research; research that has likely saved the life of people you know.

On Thursday, the Center for Medical Progress, a right-wing anti-choice organization, released their third video in their campaign to get Planned Parenthood defunded. The Center for Medical Progress was founded by David Daleidon, an associate of James O'Keefe, famous for his edited "undercover" videos that took down ACORN, a community organization that advocated for and mobilized low income families.

Like O'Keefe, Daleidon uses highly edited footage to paint an emotional repugnant narrative, in this case, that Planned Parenthood is profiting from "baby parts sales." Quite simply, they are not. Planned Parenthood allows a patient to donate fetal tissue for medical research, and like all clinics and hospitals that provide biospecimens, negotiates fees to recoup expenses. While some in the anti-choice movement may see this as the same thing, there are very important points they are purposefully leaving out of their argument.

First, Planned Parenthood isn't making a profit from providing tissue. This is made clear by watching the complete, unedited videos where Deborah Nucatola, the senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood states "Affiliates are not looking to make money by doing this. They're looking to serve their patients and just make it not impact their bottom line." Further, the $30-$100 fee per sample mentioned in the footage is to cover a fraction of their cost.

The non-partisan and non-profit website spoke to experts in the field of human tissue procurement.

Jim Vaught, president of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories and formerly the deputy director of the National Cancer Institute's Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research, told us in an email that "$30 to $100 per sample is a reasonable charge for clinical operations to recover their costs for providing tissue." In fact, he said, the costs to a clinic are often much higher, but most operations that provide this kind of tissue have "no intention of fully recovering [their] costs, much less making a profit."

Carolyn Compton, the chief medical and science officer of Arizona State University's National Biomarkers Development Alliance and a former director of biorepositories and biospecimen research at the National Cancer Institute, agreed that this was "a modest price tag for cost recovery." Compton told us in an email: " 'Profit' is out of the question, in my mind. I would say that whoever opined about 'profit' knows very little about the effort and expense involved in providing human biospecimens for research purposes."

Second, and much more important, is the medical value of research derived from fetal tissue. Scientists and researchers have utilized fetal tissue from legal abortions for the last 50 years to develop our immunizations for rubella, mumps, measles, chicken pox, polio, rabies and hepatitis A. Fetal tissue has allowed doctors to develop insulin and blood-clotting proteins, improve transplant success, and continue promising research into treating Parkinson's and Huntingdon's diseases, ALS, type 1 diabetes, and spinal cord injuries.

It is estimated that the research and medical advancements made from the use of fetal tissue has already saved lives in the literal millions. The National Catholic Bioethics Center even advises parents to vaccinate their children with vaccines that have been derived from "aborted material" when alternatives do not exist. It's worth noting their choice of the term "aborted material" and not "baby parts."

As an organizer, I understand the importance of messaging and framing of an issue. It is understandable why the Center for Medical Progress ignores the medical realities of research and development in pushing their argument. Their goal is to defund and dismantle Planned Parenthood, believing it furthers their cause of eliminating abortion. However, it is a goal antithetical to their cause.

Abortion makes up about 3% of the services Planned Parenthood provides. Those include contraception, STD screening and treatment, cancer screenings, and other "women's health services." Any federal funding goes to these other 97% of services. Seventy-five percent of their clients receive contraception. Planned Parenthood is, if not the largest, definitely one of the largest providers of free and low-cost contraception. That's important, because studies have shown that access to contraception greatly reduces the rate of abortions.

In 2007, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis launched a research study called the Contraceptive Choice Project. Researchers with the study recruited over 9,000 women, providing them their choice of free contraception. The 5 year study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine and found pregnancy and abortion rates among sexually active teenagers in the study was over 75% less than sexually active teenagers nationally. Among all age groups, the abortion rate of women in the study was 70% lower than the national average.

It's worth noting that compared to states that mandate abstinence education, such as Mississippi, (the anti-choice movement's preferred strategy) the teenage pregnancy rate of women in the program was nearly 90% lower.

If those who oppose choice want to truly eliminate the need for most abortions they can not choose ignorance and ideology over proven and practical policy. Outlawing abortion, which is the ultimate goal of the Center for Medical Progress, certainly won't lower the amount of abortions by anywhere near the amount accessible birth control can, it would only make them more dangerous for women. Outlawing the medical progress that comes from research on fetal tissue could doom millions of people to suffering and death.

The campaign against Planned Parenthood is not "pro life." It is a campaign led by men who pine for the control of women's bodies and sexual lives they had before the 1950's and fueled by the ignorance of their supporters.