Perhaps you’ve seen the headlines about Planned Parenthood.
Viral videos released by an outfit calling itself the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) purportedly show two PP doctors discussing the organization’s practice of “selling” fetal tissue to biomedical research firms. The Religious Right promptly whipped itself into a frenzy, claiming that the videos are evidence that the pro-choice non-profit is violating federal law. But that’s no surprise to us. (The videos were heavily edited and misleading. See more on that below.)
Planned Parenthood has long been an ally of Americans United and we believe they do good and important work. They provide affordable health care to 2.7 million men and women each year, including abortion, birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STD and HIV screenings.
These attacks don't surprise us.
We have worked with Planned Parenthood when religion has been used as an excuse to deny women healthcare. Most recently, we’ve joined forces to defend the Affordable Care Act’s contraception regulations from the Religious Right. And because we’re allies, we know where these attacks come from: They’re orchestrated by the same malicious forces that regularly go after us.
That’s why we joined 91 other organizations to sign a letter signaling our continued support of Planned Parenthood.
The group behind the manufactured outrage, CMP, is really a front for Live Action, an anti-abortion outfit long associated with the more extreme fringes of the Religious Right. It’s headed by David Daleiden, an associate of Live Action founder Lila Rose; Live Action is responsible for a number of other deceptively edited “stings” that attempted to catch Planned Parenthood staffers engaged in illegal activities.
And Troy Newman, the current president of Operation Rescue, is a CMP board member. Newman once defended Paul Jennings Hill, executed in 2003 for murdering a Pensacola, Fla., abortion provider. Another current Operation Rescue staffer, Cheryl Sullenger, served time in prison for scheming to bomb an abortion clinic in San Diego, Calif. According to watchdog site Media Matters for America (MMFA), Sullenger also corresponded regularly with Scott Roeder, who later murdered Dr. George Tiller for providing abortions.
CMP is staffed and supported by extremists. Their attack on Planned Parenthood is entirely without merit, and it has been conducted with the aim of ending legal abortion in the U.S. and even shutting down one of the nation’s leading providers of high-quality, affordable health care. It’s clear that they’re willing to accomplish this goal by lying and potentially breaking the law. And now they have recruited Members of Congress to join their campaign who are making repeated threats to defund the organization that serve 2.7 million people annually.
It’s hardly a coincidence that the campaign to restrict abortion access in the U.S. frequently manifests in government promotion of religion. Notable examples include a South Dakota requirement forcing women to attend a “pregnancy help center” before they can receive an abortion. The state lists only two approved pregnancy help centers on an official website. Both of them are religious. This law is currently tied up in the courts and is not in effect; thanks to the hard work of many civil rights groups, it may never be. Regardless of its ultimate fate, it’s an example of how the crusade to restrict abortion rights can infringe on the religious freedom of others.
See, too, the public funding of religious crisis pregnancy centers that proselytize to women. That policy is popular in various forms in states like Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania—among many others---and it too has the potential to erode the separation of church and state.
We support Planned Parenthood because we know who’s orchestrating these attacks, and because we know the facts don’t support the preposterous claims made by CMP and its extremist allies.
Contrary to what CMP claims on its You Tube channel, donated fetal tissue hardly ends up in some wild black market. As reported by Jessica Mason Pieklo at RH Reality Check, it’s governed by federal law. Clinics, including those run by Planned Parenthood, cannot profit from the donations, and the tissue must be voluntarily donated by the patient who received the abortion. Federal law also prohibits clinics from changing abortion procedures in the interest of procuring fetal tissue.
This is the reality: There is no evidence Planned Parenthood violated any of these regulations. The sums discussed on CMP’s inflammatory videos are very low, lending credence to the argument that PP simply expected to be reimbursed for the cost of procuring and transporting the tissue. Doctors made it clear that Planned Parenthood does not participate in donation programs for profit.
You wouldn’t know that if you watched CMP’s edited videos, however. It’s necessary to watch the full footage in order to find out the truth.
And that hits at the core of the problem. CMP activists selectively edited these videos to produce maximum horror in viewers. MMFA has demonstrated exactly where the film was cut in the “documentaries” to make it look as if Planned Parenthood profited from the practice of donating fetal tissue. That’s a deceptive practice and, arguably, an immoral one too, but that hasn’t prevented the Religious Right from rallying around CMP.
Don’t be fooled by extremists. Make sure you’ve got the facts. We do, and that’s why we stand with Planned Parenthood.