Planned Parenthood Foundation provides easily accessible and affordable birth control, preventive health care measures, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, and medically safe and legal abortions resulting in vast improvements to the health of millions of women and children. The controversies surrounding Planned Parenthood does not negate the evidence that women, men, children, and families have reaped great benefits to their health since the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.
The Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group based in California, released eight videos alleging Planned Parenthood violated federal law; first, selling fetal organs and tissues and, second, manipulating abortion procedures to procure intact fetuses. This conservative, anti-abortion group hired actors to go undercover as pro-choice, record and interview Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services at Planned Parenthood Foundation. David Daleiden led this manipulative deceitful attack as another attempt to terminate the foundation’s federal funding.
The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 prohibits partial-birth abortions procured by intact dilation and extraction, (“intact D&E”). Under this law, 18 U.S.C. §1531,”Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.” In the Supreme Court decision of Gonzales v. Carhart, Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion upholding the Partial-Ban Abortion Act solely when the physician intends to perform an intact D&E, not the more common partial-birth abortion.
Differences exist between the more common partial-birth procedure known as dilation and evacuation and the illegal intact dilation and extraction method. The former first ensures fetal death has occurred before beginning the surgical abortion procedure. Whereas, the latter, “the person performing the abortion deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus until, in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother.”
Congress’s intention behind the Act is that no partial-birth abortion exists that is medically necessary and consequently cannot put the safety of a mother first. However, the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart, only upheld the Partial-Ban Act solely to intact dilation and extraction and, furthermore, left open the possibility of an as-applied challenge if rendered medically necessary.
The paramount goal of an abortion is safety and care for the mother and her health. Mr. Daleiden alleges that Planned Parenthood is performing illegal partial-birth abortions. In one of the videos, Dr. Nucatola explains their success in receiving fetal organ tissue because the doctors perform abortions by using ultrasounds to ascertain the best location to grab the fetus with forceps. Any diversion of an abortion procedure for the purpose of gaining organ research is extremely unethical and it would defeat the primary purpose of the foundation providing safe, legal abortions.
Mr. Daleiden also alleges, “Planned Parenthood’s criminal conspiracy to make money off of aborted baby parts.” It is against federal law to sell fetal tissue. The foundation claims it makes no profit, but rather, the actual costs, including the cost to transport tissue to research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field. Dawn Lagues, Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President, stated, “this was always about one thing – honoring the desire of women to contribute to lifesaving research. It was never about money.” Participating in this not-for-profit research is a voluntary and legal way to contribute towards creating successful vaccinations for diseases including Parkinson’s, polio, rubella, and chicken pox.
Irrespective of Planned Parenthood’s letter to Congress that proves the videos are heavily edited and inaccurate, the foundation announced they no longer will accept legal reimbursements from research in hopes to end another political anti-abortion attack.
Federal funding is imperative to Planned Parenthood providing women access to preventive care, life-saving screenings, and family planning services. While Federal funding is prohibited from paying for any abortions, these anti-abortion attacks on such an honorable and respected foundation will have devastating impacts. Restricting woman’s right to access medically safe, legal abortions and accessible preventive health screenings jeopardizes the health of women, their families, and our nation.