Planned Parenthood Isn't The Only Organization That Donates Fetal Tissue, So Why Is It The Only One Being Punished For It?
Earlier today, Planned Parenthood announced that it is making a change (although the change will probably not satisfy the organization's critics): Planned Parenthood will no longer receive reimbursement for fetal tissue donation for cover the cost of things like transportation and tissue handling. Only one percent of Planned Parenthood's clinics donate fetal tissue, and these centers will continue to do so; they just won't receive any monetary help for it, even though these reimbursements are 100 percent legal and expected for all OBGYN centers who donate fetal tissue for medical research. Donated fetal tissue, the practice of which has been in place since the 1930s, is used for things such as vaccine research and stem cell research for diseases like Alzheimer's; indeed, we have fetal tissue donation to thank for the creation of polio vaccine. So given the widespread and longstanding nature of this entirely legal practice, why is Planned Parenthood the only organization being penalized for it? Why are any organizations being penalized for it at all?
Exactly how donated fetal issue is used, and who it is used by, rarely comes up in the public debate. Opponents of Planned Parenthood continue to say that the organization sells baby parts for profit, even though the videos produced by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress used to bolster this view have been shown to be heavily manipulated. But the truly hypocritical part about the opposition is how the criticism of the practice of fetal tissue donation specifically targets a women's health organization — but not the many, many other medical organizations that use fetal tissue in medical research.
According to TIME, the National Institutes of Health spent $76 million on fetal tissue research in 2014. The NIH even has its own tissue bank, which includes plenty of fetal tissue (that's right: our own government). Smaller abortion providers also often have tissue donation services, as do fertility clinics. Why fertility clinics? When mothers undergo in vitro fertilization, they often have to choose between several fertilized embryos; this means that mothers who choose to go through IVF — a medical practice I think is great and is the reason that many people I love are alive today — may essentially abort several embryos that pro-life groups consider to be babies all the time. The tissue from these services are usually donated to fetal tissue suppliers like Advanced Bioscience Resources or StemExpress.
Furthermore, though many scientists are understandably mum these days about how their research benefits from fetal tissue donations, many hospitals and universities have tissue banks that store fetal tissue attached to them. And pretty much every university that you'd want your kid to go to uses them in medical research, reports The Seattle Times — researchers at Columbia, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Yale, and the University of California in Berkeley all used fetal tissue last year. Scientific advances may eventually lead to fetal tissue research becoming phased out, but right now, the demand is expected to continue apace for the next few years.
Again, I ask: Why is Planned Parenthood being penalized for the practice? Unless the government is planning on defunding all scientific organizations and research that use fetal tissue, the singling out of the women's health organization makes no sense. And even if that is the endgame, it still makes no sense. Fetal tissue donation is necessary and legal, just as abortion and all the other services Planed Parenthood provides are necessary and legal. Attacking them leads to a very slippery slope — and what's at the bottom of that slope isn't going to be good.