A Defunding Disaster


A Defunding Disaster

Jessica Pereira

Roughly one in five women in the United States has put her reproductive health in the hands of a Planned Parenthood care center at some point during her lifetime. For 80 years Americans have relied on the nonprofit organization for basic reproductive health care, information about family planning and contraception. And it’s not just a select few who utilize Planned Parenthood’s services as 2.7 million American men and women visit the care center annually. Planned Parenthood provides crucial healthcare to men and women—some of whom have no other options. Despite this, the organization lies victim to foes who will stop at no end to get them defunded.

Most recently it is a string of videos that have been released. Secretly recorded videos that discuss in detail the processes that lead up to fetal tissue donation. An antiabortion group, The Center for Medical Progress, is behind the release of the videos. Though named as though they might be a research institution for universal medical progress, it appears that the only “Medical Progress” desired is the disappearance of abortion services. The Center for Medical Progress is using these videos to accuse Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of fetal tissue and organs. Edited and strategically tailored to do so, these videos are deceiving to the public and are terrorizing women and their healthcare providers. These videos are less of an innocent attempt to reveal the “truth” and more part of a long-standing agenda to defund Planned Parenthood.

Pro-choicers and Pro-lifers have been at it for years. It’s an ongoing debate that perhaps will never reach an adequate consensus. Pro-choice organizations (or those that facilitate one’s right to choice) such as Planned Parenthood become victim to scrutiny as a result. In 2011 another antiabortion activist released an edited undercover video which she claimed “exposes Planned Parenthood for aiding and abetting the sex trafficking of under age girls and covering up sex abuse.” And before that there were similar undercover video releases from conservative activists as well—most known were the James O’Keefe-led ACORN videos. These types of video releases are not a new thing—like the ACORN videos and the 2011 videos, today’s video are a part of a strategy. They have been selectively cut to generate controversy and a reevaluation of funding for Planned Parenthood. It’s never ending, Planned Parenthood will always be scrutinized by those who only see the organization for one thing. Nevermind the HPV screenings, PAP smears, STD testing, women’s health check-ups and family planning services that Planned Parenthood provides—as long as abortion services are present (which is important to note are performed without using federal dollars and only make up 3% of their work), the health care center is target for defunding efforts.

Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, has spoken out. She retains that the group has done nothing illegal and is the target of a political smear campaign. Richards says the videos are part of longer discussion and that those longer videos showed doctors repeatedly saying that Planned Parenthood does not profit from the tissue donations. In her statement Richards says that, “This is actually laudable, that women and their families choose to make fetal tissue donations in order to potentially save the lives of other folks.” This fetal organ donation takes place in a handful of states and is used for medical research and progress. Planned Parenthood only carries out the donation with patient’s authorization for federally approved fees that cover storage and transportation and absolutely not for profit. Patients are informed about the tissue donations processes and procedures and their research potential. They are then required to fill out legal consent forms should they choose to participate in the tissue donation program. Cecile Richards maintains faith in her organization saying that longer footage would show officials communicating that Planned Parenthood does not in any way profit from a women’s decision to donate fetal tissue. At one point in an unedited video an official says, “Affiliates are not looking to make money doing this. They’re looking to serve their patients.” When it is mentioned that $30 to $100 is the range of amounts that would be reimbursement for expenses related to handling and transporting tissues Sherilyn J. Sawyer, the director of Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s biorepository said that “there’s no way there’s a profit at that price.” She said in an email published on factcheck.org, “In reality, $30-100 probably constitutes a loss for Planned Parenthood. The costs associated with collection, processing, storage and inventory and records management for specimens are very high. Most hospitals will provide tissue blocks from surgical procedures (ones no longer needed for clinical purposes and without identity) for research, and cost recover for their time and effort in the range of $100-500 per case/block. In the realm of tissues for research $30-100 is completely reasonable and normal fee.”

So in essence, if they were to lose funding, Planned Parenthood would be defunded on false grounds that they are functioning illegitimately and profiting from fetal tissue donation. American men and women, 2.7 million of them this year alone, would be deprived of their regular healthcare they need because of a malicious and calculated attack on one organization. They would be forced to turn to other options, some of which may be less efficient, over-croweded and underfunded. Pointing fingers at Planned Parenthood for being unethical is easy, but it’s like my mother and too many teachers have told me in the past—when you point a finger at someone else, there’s three pointing right back at you. So let’s take a look at the three fingers pointing back at the Center for Medical Progress. If the Center for Medical Progress were truly worried about the rightful intentions of Planned Parenthood, and wanted to legitimately question their motives, why not tastefully report the organization to a federal, healthcare or even a legal official who could then investigate the situation appropriately and in confidence to avoid unnecessary uprising. Instead, the CMP made a conscious choice to publish the video in more of a bully-style and let it go viral. Moreover, they did not initially release a full and unedited version, which really leaves room to question the credibility of the video. Nothing in the videos suggest any violation of law on the part of Planned Parenthood or any of its employees. However, posing as a biomedical company, secretly recording physicians for hours and then concocting false stories through selective editing seems like slander. Which is why a temporary restraining order against the Center for Medical Progress has been issued by Los Angeles Superior court. Under the terms of the order, the company is banned from releasing further videos.

In the wake of yet another undercover video release and scheme, it is clear that Planned Parenthood is currently victim to an agenda to be defunded. The videos were deceitfully cut and deliberately intended to spark public controversy and uprising against Planned Parenthood. Now, funding for the care center is up in the air—to the dismay of 2.7 million men and women across American. It seems then that the foes of Planned Parenthood are oblivious to the healthcare crisis they would bring unto Americans, should their attempts to defund the organization find success. Defunding would leave millions to overcrowd other federally funded clinics or with no other options for reproductive health care. Therefore, funding for Planned Parenthood is crucial to millions and we cannot take defunding the care center lightly. Two deceitfully cut videos obtained unethically should not be cause for millions to lose necessary healthcare.


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