I stand with Planned Parenthood signs

In case it needs to be said: Planned Parenthood is not illegally selling fetal tissue

The latest undercover “sting” video seeking to discredit Planned Parenthood is here. In this selectively edited video, a group called the Center for Medical Progress charges that the reproductive health clinics are “selling” fetal tissue and organs. 

The person behind the Center for Medical Progress, a group of self-described “citizen journalists” monitoring medical ethics which didn’t seem to be doing much until it launched its “investigation” into Planned Parenthood, is the former research director for Live Action, the anti-choice group that put out similarly misleading videos targeting the organization over sex-selective abortions and sex-trafficking.

As in the previous videos, this latest “exposé” exposes no evidence of any scandal. As Planned Parenthood explained in a statement:

In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases. Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different. At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does — with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards. There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood. In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.

Of course, the fact that the video doesn’t show the wrongdoing it purports to hardly matters. As many others have pointed out, the accusation of “selling” fetal tissue is mostly just an excuse to put the image of fetal tissue in people’s minds. It’s hard to listen to someone talk so explicitly and clinically about the process for a second-trimester abortion. Like most medical procedures, it’s gruesome. Plus, for some, the fact that a fetus could grow into a human being no doubt adds another layer of emotion to their visceral reaction. But neither of those facts changes the reality that it’s also necessary.

As Jessica notes, “The man behind [the video] wants you to be horrified enough that you’ll nod along in agreement – or at least stand by – as Republican politicians erode women’s rights to reproductive health… Not because the organization has done anything illegal, but because people don’t like watching a doctor describing abortion in a matter-of-fact way over lunch.” Like pretty much the entire anti-choice movement, it’s relying on a strategy of manipulating emotions and ignoring facts.

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St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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