Accusations that Planned Parenthood inappropriately profits off the sale of aborted fetuses are part of a “concerted attack” against both the organization and women’s ability to choose whether to have an abortion, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Thursday.
“I think it is unfortunate that Planned Parenthood has been the object of such a concerted attack for so many years,” the Democratic front-runner said at an event in Greenville, South Carolina. “And it’s really an attack against a woman’s right to choose, to make the most personal, difficult decisions that any woman would face, based on her faith and the medical advice that she’s given.”
The comments represented Clinton’s first mention of the controversy, spurred last week by an organization called the Center for Medical Progress. The organization had secretly filmed a Planned Parenthood employee discussing the cost of handling fetal tissue samples. The employee, Dr. Deborah Nutacola, had believed she was speaking with buyers from a biological company, but was actually meeting with actors working for the organization.
The footage can certainly be unsettling at times, as frank details about medical procedures are often gross — particularly, as ThinkProgress’ Tara Culp-Ressler pointed out last week, when Nucatola talks about the “menu” of fetal tissue and organs that patients may choose to donate. But fetal tissue donation and research is legal, as scientists have found the blood and tissue can be used to find cures for diseases.
The real controversy, though, has been over whether Planned Parenthood is profiting off the sale of that tissue. Since the footage emerged, Republicans in Congress and GOP presidential candidates have called for investigations into that very question. To that effect, Clinton said she didn’t have all the details.
“I don’t have all the facts,” she said, “but Planned Parenthood has apologized for the insensitivity of the employee that was taped, and they will continue to answer questions from Congress and others.”
Clinton’s is not the first to assert that the footage represented a larger attack on Planned Parenthood and pro-choice polices in general. The Center for Medical Progress’ secret video effort was led by David Daleiden, an abortion opponent and activist who has been making videos to discredit the organization for years. The group has also been connected to some of the most adamant anti-choice activists in the country. To that effect, Democrats in Congress are calling for their own investigation into the Center for Medical Progress.
Clinton appears to be the first Democratic presidential candidate to issue a direct response to the accusations against Planned Parenthood. She said she hoped the footage would not hamper the organization’s efforts to provide women’s health services, particularly to low-income communities.
“Planned Parenthood still remains a very important part of the whole healthcare delivery system, particularly but not exclusively for poor women,” she said. “I strongly believe that we need to make sure it can do that well into the future.”