Following the release of several inflammatory videos that suggest Planned Parenthood is improperly profiting from the sale of “aborted baby parts,” GOP lawmakers have been quick to condemn the national women’s health organization. However, their current strategies to attack Planned Parenthood are falling short.
Planned Parenthood officials say they’re simply helping their patients donate fetal tissue samples, which can help scientists develop new treatments for serious diseases. Anti-abortion activists, meanwhile, say the misleading videos released by the right-wing group Center for Medical Progress prove the organization is acting immorally.
In response, several state officials have launched investigations into their local Planned Parenthood affiliates, looking for proof that the group is breaking the law.
But so far, they’ve come up completely empty.
Officials in states including Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, and South Dakota have not been able to turn up any evidence that Planned Parenthood clinics are violating state laws and regulations regarding the collection of fetal tissue donations. Records obtained from other states, like Kansas, reveal that some Planned Parenthood clinics don’t even give their patients the option to donate this tissue.
“In every state where these investigations have concluded, officials have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing,” Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement released on Friday. “We’ve said all along that Planned Parenthood follows all laws and has very high medical standards, and that’s what every one of these investigations has found. This campaign by anti-abortion extremists is nothing less than a fraud.”
Donating tissue from aborted fetuses has been legal for decades. Scientists can use the biological material, which is a rich source of stem cells, to develop new ways to treat AIDS, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, cancer, and eyesight loss.
The mounting evidence regarding Planned Parenthood’s legal activities is dissuading at least some lawmakers from wasting their time. Despite some pressure from Republicans in his state, Idaho’s governor is refusing to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood, saying there’s not enough evidence to suggest any wrongdoing.
But in other states, the ongoing controversy swirling around Planned Parenthood shows no signs of abating, and scientific research could suffer as a result. Republican lawmakers in Arizona, Wisconsin, and California have recently taken steps to make it more difficult to donate fetal tissue. The legislation is moving quickly in Wisconsin, though Gov. Scott Walker (R) hasn’t yet indicated whether he’ll approve it if it makes its way to his desk.
State lawmakers have also pressed forward with attempts to strip Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer funding. This week, Utah and Arkansas became the latest states to end their Medicaid contracts with the organization. One of the biggest chunks of Planned Parenthood’s budget comes from providing basic health services — like birth control consultations, STD testing, and cancer screenings — to people enrolled in Medicaid.
This tactic is also unlikely to be successful for abortion opponents, though. States are not legally permitted from discriminating against qualified Medicaid providers, which has thwarted similar defunding efforts in the past. That’s why the Obama administration has already starting warning state officials that they shouldn’t end their contracts with Planned Parenthood.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood remains quite popular with the American public. The group is polling better than all of the GOP candidates for president.