Planned Parenthood: Why Research is the better path

This post is part of a regular blog series from the YDWA Women’s Caucus. Today’s post was written by Amy Veneziano.

A few weeks ago, an anti-abortion organization called The Center for Medical Progress released a video of a sting it ran against women’s health provider Planned Parenthood.

In the video, members of the organization posed as professionals in a medical procurement company in a meeting with Dr. Deborah Nucatola, the senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood. In the video, Nucatola clearly assumes she’s speaking with people representing themselves truthfully (their names are never given and faces never shown in the video).

The heavily edited video appears to show Dr. Nucatola casually discussing specimens, procurement procedures and sales over lunch. She explained that doctors can approach abortions in a certain way if they are told fetal tissue is desired, and if the woman having the abortion gives consent to donate the fetus. Fetal tissue includes organs, muscles and limbs. The tissue is used in scientific research.

Scientists at major universities and government labs have been using fetal tissue since it became legal to do so in the 1930s. They are studying topics ranging from blindness to birth defects and developmental disease, and examining adult-onset illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s and Type II diabetes, according to the American Society for Cell Biology. In fact, human fetal kidney cells were used to develop the polio vaccine.

Planned Parenthood, and Dr. Nucatola, says that the costs, which range from $30-$100 per specimen, cover the doctor’s increased time in performing the abortion, as well as some transport of the specimen.

The CMP bills itself as a group of ‘citizen journalists’ who go undercover to report on medical ethics and advances. They withhold their identities online.

Since the video’s release, and with CMP’s promise of more videos, Planned Parenthood has been under attack, with conservatives calling to defund the organization, which provides a tremendous amount of women’s health care — above and beyond abortion services — across the country and to women across the economic and racial spectrum. Hackers also broke into Planned Parenthood’s database and have apparently gained access to employees’ personal information, putting them at risk from extremists.

So far, everything Planned Parenthood has done in terms of fetal tissue procurement appears to be legal, from getting the woman’s consent to the costs it charges, which Linda Tracy, the president of Advanced Bioscience Resources Inc., another major supplier of fetal tissue, called reasonable in a New York Times article.

If not donated to science and research, the fetus and all associated matter would be disposed of as biowaste — and it seems research is a far better path.