Given the tactics of the GOP in the past, it should probably come as no surprise that they’re once more seeking to restrict access to women’s healthcare based on rabble-rousing that has little connection to reality, but that doesn’t make it any less stomach turning.
Republicans on Capitol Hill are betting the secretly filmed Planned Parenthood video — depicting an executive allegedly discussing the sale of fetal organs from terminated pregnancies — will give them cover to more aggressively push abortion issues without the political ramifications that have haunted the party in the past.
In recent years, Republicans have worked to soften their tone when it comes to contentious issues such as abortion, wanting to avoid a repeat of gaffes like Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments that have turned off many female voters.
But now, the GOP is going hard on abortion politics — and Planned Parenthood specifically — following the release of the video depicting a top official for the group casually talking about doctors collecting fetal organs for biomedical companies during abortions.
“The gravity of the situation most definitely” changes things, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told POLITICO Thursday. “This is not just Republicans. It’s independents. It’s Democrats…. Americans don’t want their tax dollars spent doing what they’re doing.”
There’s a problem with the catalyst for such a push, though — and I’m not just talking about the tax fraud committed by the disseminators of the film. The video in question doesn’t discuss a profit-hungry abortion complex raking in the dough by selling murdered children, as the far right would like you to believe. Instead, it discusses how Planned Parenthood partners with biomedical research firms to provide fetal tissue that would otherwise be discarded for the purpose of advancing medicine. The fees collected have nothing to do with making money and everything to do with covering the costs of delivery — a necessary measure for the organization as they strive to provide low-cost and free reproductive health services to the public.
That’s not something the group pushing the heavily-edited video wants you to understand. If you look at the actual transcript from the event, the truth comes out. As Dr. Deborah Nucatola actually said:
(Clinics) want to do this, but they want to do it in a way that’s not going to impact them, and it’s much much less about money. You could call them up and say, ‘I’ll pay you double the money,’ and they’re almost more inclined to say no, because it’s going to look bad. … To them, this is not a service they should be making money from, it’s something they should be able to offer this to their patients, in a way that doesn’t impact them.
Again, affiliates don’t — 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.
At the end of the day we just want to keep the doors open. And we don’t want to let jeopardize keeping the doors open. We just want (the cost per specimen) to be reasonable for the impact it has on the clinic. This is not a new revenue stream the affiliates are looking at. This is a way to offer the patient the service that they want. Do good for the medical community.
While the clinics aren’t in the business of making money off of fetal tissue, the idea of the abortion aftermath being used for medical research still makes some feel a little queasy, and has certainly been heralded by the right as a sign of just how awry our moral compass has gone. This conclusion is the result of ignorance, though. Research on discarded fetal tissue has been underway since Roe v. Wade. And contrary to what the bloviating Rep. McCarthy would have you believe, there is still a moratorium on federally funding such research. It is 100% legal to conduct such research with the backing of private funds, though. So, no, your tax dollars are not being used to this end.
Legality aside, opponents are still uncomfortable with the concept. It will lead to more abortions, they say. It will lead to more women choosing to abort in order to donate tissue. The fear behind such claims may be real, but the arguments hold little water in a world where the rate of abortion in this country hit its lowest level since legalization in 2014, and has continued to decline in 2015. So much for a “surge” in abortion as a result of donation.
One would think the anti-choice crowd would at least be on board with this element of the conversation. In a world where abortion is legal, shouldn’t they be pleased that something good comes out of it? And by good, I mean major scientific breakthroughs that help their suffering fellow man. As Dr. Samuel Cohen explained in 2011 testimony before the House Health and Environment Subcommittee:
The study of fetal tissue has already led to major discoveries in human health and has the potential to continue to benefit mankind. For example, the vaccines for rubella and varicella were made from human cell-line cultures. These vaccines have effectively eradicated a major source of child mortality and mental retardation in the U.S. Research utilizing fetal cells was critical to the ultimate development of the polio vaccine, a scourge that is about to be eliminated from the face of the earth.
Researchers use fetal tissue to investigate questions of normal fetal development.
Fetal tissue has become a mainstay in the human genome project and in the revolutionary developments in molecular genetics that offer promise for the development of new therapies.
Due to their capacity to rapidly divide, grow and adapt to new environments, fetal cells hold unique promise for medical research into a variety of diseases and medical conditions. In particular, there is exciting potential to use fetal tissue to transplant into other humans to treat disease. There is hope that fetal tissue transplanted into patients with illnesses such as Parkinson’s, diabetes or heart disease may be effective in mitigating or even treating these diseases. Fetal cells elicit less of an immune response than adult cells and are therefore less susceptible to rejection by the human body. Fetal cells are not as developed as adult cells and are therefore more able to accommodate to the donor. In experiments with fetal cell transplantation in Parkinson’s patients, we are seeing great promise that such treatments will be effective.
In other words, the fetal tissue being collected and distributed by Planned Parenthood — tissue that would otherwise be discarded — is the same kind of tissue that has helped us discover cures for a slew of lethal diseases around the world, and may hold the key to treating many, many more. One might consider that consolation to those opposed to abortion, but as Dr. Arthur Caplan of NYU put it:
For critics of abortion, the idea of making something good from something they see as inherently evil is not something they have room for.
Fair point. After all, the anti-choice crowd has never been morally consistent. They claim to be “pro-life,” but in reality, they’re “pro-birth”; many of these anti-choice individuals who care so much about protecting the “child” in the womb are the same ones that deride the very programs that support mothers and their families after the child is born, from Medicaid to food stamps to paid maternity leave. They care more about the non-viable “life” in the womb than they do the lives of the very viable women in question, shrugging their shoulders at the stories of women whose lives were ruined or lost prior to the legalization of abortion. Expecting them to value life where they have the opportunity to do so might be asking a bit too much of such an ideologically inconsistent and ultimately cruel subset of voters.
Here’s hoping your critical thinking skills are sharper, and that you wield your vote accordingly.