Health

Why It Matters That Yet Another State Has Cleared Planned Parenthood Of Wrongdoing

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, prior to testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

After a four month long investigation, the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Washington State has been cleared of any allegations of wrongdoing or illegal activity. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced on Monday that there is no evidence that Planned Parenthood performs so-called “partial-birth abortions,” or that any of the clinics sell fetal tissue for profit.

His letter stated that his office “found no basis to believe that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue or profiting from fetal tissue donations,” and that procedures performed by Planned Parenthood are of a “legally authorized medical procedure.”

Washington now joins the list of many other states where investigations have fallen flat. However, these findings in Washington are particularly meaningful for one major reason: Washington is one of the only two states where the organization currently offers abortion patients the option to donate fetal tissue for medical and scientific research.

Republican state officials started launching investigations into Planned Parenthood affiliates in early August, after a misleading series of videos released by Center for Medical Progress accused the organization of illegally profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. The heavily edited videos have been widely referenced by GOP lawmakers in attempts to defund the health clinics and have resulted in state-wide investigations.

So far, they have all come up empty. Officials in states like Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Missouri 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.

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards confirmed last month that her group’s affiliates will no longer accept any reimbursements for the cost of collecting and transporting fetal tissue samples. Richards explained in her statement that, although it’s legal for abortion clinics to receive reimbursement for the costs incurred by fetal tissue donation, her organization is taking steps to “completely debunk the disingenuous argument” that Planned Parenthood is improperly profiting from this practice. She also pointed out that Planned Parenthood’s role in fetal tissue research is “an extremely small part” of what they do — just 1 percent of the health centers facilitate tissue donation for scientific research.

Despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing, Richards was still grilled by the GOP lawmakers for more than five hours in October as they questioned whether or not Planned Parenthood deserves taxpayer support. Thanks to the renewed momentum against the group, anti-choice activists and lawmakers have gone through tremendous efforts in their crusade against Planned Parenthood’s health clinics — such as dropping the organization from government-run charity campaigns, banning Planned Parenthood employees from speaking on college campuses, and cutting Medicaid funding to clinics that do not perform abortions in the first place.

One of the biggest chunks of Planned Parenthood’s budget comes from providing health services, like birth control consultations, STD testing, and cancer screenings, to people enrolled in Medicaid. Abortions make up 3 percent of the clinic’s total services and federal funds are prohibited from being used for abortion by law.