Death, Taxes and Attacks on Planned Parenthood

Attacks on Planned Parenthood are as inescapable as death and taxes.

The most recent episode in this never-ending effort began with a doctored tape of an interview obtained under false pretenses . But let’s ignore the dishonesty. Let’s assume that medical employees of the organization were flip and “cold blooded” in their conversations about fetal tissue research—which is essentially the message the editing was intended to convey.

What facts would that change?

As the unedited tapes clearly show, and subsequent investigations confirm, Planned Parenthood isn’t selling fetal tissue or profiting from its use in medical research. Some affiliates, in states where the practice is legal, are assisting medical researchers by making such tissue available when the patient has authorized it, and being reimbursed for the costs incurred in that process.

The availability of embryonic stem cells and fetal tissue for research has led to cures for many diseases and saved many lives. As with stem cells, the choice is between using fetal tissue for lifesaving research or destroying it. Which of those options is truly “pro life”? Much the same moral calculus is involved when transplant surgeons harvest organs from people who’ve just died in order to prolong the lives of those with organ failures. (Most of us wouldn’t care to watch either grisly procedure.)

More to the point, most of Planned Parenthood’s services have absolutely nothing to do with abortion.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky treats 65,000 patients annually, the vast majority of whom are low-income women who would not otherwise get needed Pap tests, breast exams, STD testing and treatment, and birth control. A not-insignificant number are low-income men who come for testicular cancer exams.

The importance of the testing services provided by Planned Parenthood became painfully obvious when state funding cuts forced closure of Scott County’s Planned Parenthood, in southern Indiana, leaving the county without a testing facility. The resulting HIV epidemic is costing the state far more than it “saved” by closing the clinic—and that doesn’t take into account the likely increase in teen pregnancies or the negative health consequences for poor women unable to afford pap smears and other lifesaving services.

Proponents of defunding Planned Parenthood glibly assert that these services can be provided elsewhere. They can’t. Not only is there no other network or organization with the capacity to replace Planned Parenthood, there is no other organization willing to raise significant private funds—as Planned Parenthood does—to supplement inadequate government funding and ensure that women are not denied health care simply because they can’t pay for it.

These recent attacks on Planned Parenthood are part and parcel of what has been called–aptly– a “war on women.” Over the past five years, state-level lawmakers have passed nearly 300 new restrictions on reproductive health access. A report from the Roosevelt Institute lays it out:

In the first quarter of 2015, lawmakers in 43 states introduced a total of 332 provisions to restrict abortion access, which is increasingly out of reach for women throughout the country. Republicans have voted more than 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has dramatically improved women’s health coverage and access. In the fall of 2013, the party orchestrated a costly government shutdown motivated by their opposition to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate. And in June, House Republicans proposed eliminating funding for Title X, the federal family planning program.

When conservatives talk about “women’s health” funding, they aren’t talking about funding for abortion. Federal law already prohibits public dollars from being spent on abortion or abortion-related care. They’re talking about funding for family planning and other reproductive health services (pregnancy counseling, cancer screenings, STD treatment, etc.), which mainly comes through Medicaid and Title X, two programs that are consistently in conservative crosshairs.

So here’s the bottom line.

Genuinely pro-life people can oppose abortion and still support the other life-saving work done by Planned Parenthood—which is the only work being funded with tax dollars. Of course, if what they really oppose is women’s moral autonomy, as the efforts to restrict access to birth control strongly suggest, then the deaths of poor women denied access to critical medical care is just unavoidable collateral damage.

At the end of the day, there’s reality and there’s rhetoric. The reality is that women did not start getting abortions after Roe v. Wade. They just stopped dying from them.

Research confirms that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is by providing women with reliable birth control–and the best way to reduce deaths from abortion is by supporting high quality clinics like those operated by Planned Parenthood.


  1. Once again, thank you for your continued reliable common sense information. Your one line pretty much sums it up:

    “At the end of the day, there’s reality and there’s rhetoric. The reality is that women did not start getting abortions after Roe v. Wade. They just stopped dying from them.”

  2. Flip and “cold blooded” or direct and to the point regarding fetal tissue donation for medical research? “Just the facts, ma’am.” My granddaughter is an RN at Riley Hospital for Children; one of the six-member team specializing in pediatric heart surgery. Were she to explain the bloody procedures involved in her job; would she be considered flip and “cold blooded”? Medical procedures are not tender and loving events; this includes fetal tissue donations for medical research. I have already arranged to donate my body to Indiana University Medical Research facility; I included a request to please study my inner ears to possibly learn more about Meniere’s disease and Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo which has rendered me profoundly deaf and disabled due to severe vertigo and imbalance. Think about the necessary medical procedure to reach my inner ears. My right inner ear was removed in 1992. To perfom this surgery, after shaving the right side of my head they had cut off my right ear, leaving it attached by the flap of facial skin and lay my ear on my cheek. They then drilled a hole in my head to access and remove the inner ear. Do you find this information flip and “cold blooded” or did you learn a previously unknown medical fact?

    The GOP will never accept, understand or admit the fact that Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using tax dollars for anything related to abortion simply because they REFUSE to, it would work against their political platform. The donation of fetal tissue for medical research involves proper “shipping and handling” costs; the article I read stated the patient who donates fetal tissue pays for these costs as she does for the abortion. We can, and will, continue stating this fact and hope it reaches those Republican voters still willing to listen to common sense.

  3. I wonder if other medical facilities collect fetal tissue for research. My sister who has worked at a local Catholic hospital told me back when that that hospital collected stem cells for research. Do they also collect the tissue from babies who are stillborn or aborted due to miscarriage? If so, why are they not under attack from right wing religious fanatics? And what happens if NO fetal tissue or stem cells are allowed to be used for research? Maybe medical science has developed far enough for those folks.

  4. Doesn’t the Affordable Care Act replace the need for Planned Parenthood? All of the “medical procedures” mentioned in your article are mandated and provided by the government. In addition, one of the benefits provided by the ACA is free contraception. Why the need to spend taxpayer dollars on both?

  5. Most hospitals perform abortions; is the Republican party ignoring them because they are now Big Business? Tax dollars go into hospitals.

  6. You’ve hit another home run Sheila. I hope each of your readers shares this blog message with their email list.

    As you have indicated, the woman who has an abortion is the person who decides whether fetal tissue is donated for research – NOT Planned Parenthood. But if the donation and expenses to preserve and ship tissue are of such concern, why didn’t congressional Republicans craft language to prohibit THAT rather than defund all the critical health services provided by Planned Parenthood?

    Many have forgotten or never knew that the catalysts for Roe v. Wade were illegal, back-alley or self-induced, unsafe, and often deadly abortions. Roe v. Wade has saved the lives of many mothers whose health or poverty can’t support more children. Thank you for reminding us of that too. No one has said it better than you.

  7. @KenWright- Your assumption is that people would have easy access to all the “medical procedures” (not sure why you chose to put those words in quotes). Not everyone needing services is living in a large city with public transportation and multiple agencies to provide “medical procedures”. Rural and poor communities where the services are likely most needed are those that have few or none to offer, like Scott County.

    Then consider the social consequences of those decisions. Would you like to walk through a gauntlet of picketers to get your “medical procedures” taken care of? Would you like to be at the mercy of Those Who Know Best when making decisions about contraception?

    Not too very long ago, women and men who were deemed “feebleminded and epileptics” were forcibly sterilized by the state of Indiana. Most often these were marginalized groups who had no wealth or power to fight back. Instead of eugenics, now we have religious social conservatives who would prevent those same people from making decisions about reproduction.

    Donald Trump’s remarks about illegal immigrants should sound very familiar to those who know our past history. Those same arguments were used to pass eugenics laws during the early 20th century.

  8. @KenWright – In the many states where the Medicaid expansion was not implemented, there are still many people caught in the gap where they do not qualify for either Medicaid or insurance subsidies. Planned Parenthood is one of the options to meet their basic health care needs.

    In addition, a large part of the taxpayer dollars going to PP are actually Medicaid reimbursement. So for families that do qualify for Medicaid, when they go to PP for pap smears, std testing, contraception, PP is reimbursed by Medicaid funds for these services, just like any other medical facility would be. So it’s not a double stream of spending, it’s just part of the flow of Medicaid dollars. Cutting PP out of this funding source would not save taxpayer dollars, they would either go to other providers ( assuming that there are enough other gyn providers who accept Medicaid reimbursement), or they won’t get the services, and taxpayers will end up footing the bill for more pregnancies and children on Medicaid in the future.

  9. A connection not normally made can be between evolution, climate change and Planned Parenthood.

    They all are threats not to God but to the business of religion as they call into question the free will of mankind and the supremacy of the shamans.

    When one looks at life rationally the evidence of God is in everything and where. It’s grand beyond our imagining. Most especially life and the ration of humanity. Our role in it is to understand it, an endless task.

    So we do using the tools that have evolved for us.

    So sex is compelling. Men and women build lives as they’re able. Good and bad things happen. The sex that created my most lasting achievement, my family, is the same sex that could result in consequences that could absolutely bury more fragile circumstances. So we each and all decide moment by moment what to do with our time and if we’re lucky sex is an occasional choice. And learning an often one.

    The Universe looks on with wonder at what a few bazillion brain cells can do with a handful of matter and a daily dose of energy and the miracle of interconnected life.

    No, shamans, you are not in charge. Nor you CEOs, politicians and entertainers. We’re way bigger than you and when we organize, bond by democracy and behind our Constitution and the rule of law we’re something to behold. Our collective ability to learn has conquered the earth and using what we learned we’ll figure out how to live happily within what the Universe has and is allocating us.

    Bad news for those who believe that they are entitled to the biggest share. We’re the power when we’re free.

  10. Ken Wright. Obamacare is not health care or even healthcare insurance. It’s a subsidized marketplace with rules that protect people who are susceptible to marketing manipulation.

    Planned parenthood is a non profit attempt to serve women regardless of their circumstances for reproductive health needs .

  11. Sen. Joe Donnelly’s lame rationale for his vote to defund Planned Parenthood was that it was necessary, before he could vote affirmatively to support PP, to ensure that all PP clinics are complying with federal and state laws as to fetal donation. To follow this “guilty until proven innocent” reasoning to its logical end, had the Senate voted to deny funding to PP, then PP would either cease to operate or operate at a much reduced scale, making the proof that Donnelly purports to seek impossible to obtain. Donnelly’s vote was an assault on women’s health and women’s rights. He has earned a defeat in a Democratic primary.

  12. The Pro-Lifers want to force the biological mother to give birth to child. So after that what is is the Pro-Life Plan for the Mother and Child???? We have biological parents who for one reason or another have their offspring placed in Foster Care. I just wonder how many Pro-Lifers take in Foster Children, or how many of the Pro-Lifers Adopt Children.

  13. “The Pro-Lifers want to force the biological mother to give birth to child.”

    Try telling the truth.

    The Pro-Lifers want to protect the life of the child and prevent the mother from murdering him or her.

    I want to keep people from murdering you. Protecting you from harm doesn’t obligate me to create a plan for your financial or medical security.

  14. Hopper, who told you that preventing conception or early abortion is murder? Our laws which define murder don’t say that.

  15. My comment is written from two viewpoints, 1) as a political free agent with no partisan allegiance, and 2) as a female Boomer who’s had two abortions, one in 1974 and the 2nd in 1975.

    In the summer of 1974, my husband and I and our 2-year old packed our belongings and our graduate degrees into a two-vehicle caravan of one car w/out AC and a Uhaul and headed to a large eastern seacoast metropolitan area where we’d both landed excellent jobs. Along the way, we’d failed to consider the greater cost of living in a beach community, our total lack of family support on the East coast, and the undeniable fact that I was 8-weeks pregnant quite by accident.

    As living proof of no correlation between educational attainment and common sense, my husband and I delayed any serious speaking about abortion until I was pushing the 22-week gestational period. As a result of our failure to speak about an extremely uncomfortable situation, I finally had an induction abortion at 22-week gestational period in a large teaching hospital on the East coast, a hospital without any PP affiliation, only affiliation with my OB/GYN.

    As nothing more than personal first-hand anecdotal experience, I can say that I’d never recommend any female to wait until the 2nd trimester of her pregnancy to terminate. Basically, a late 2nd-trimester pregnancy is terminated via an induction abortion procedure where the female receives an IV Pitocin drip that induces labor in very short order, exactly the same procedure that some women elect for selecting the date of a child’s birth via induced labor. Additionally, an induction abortion is the only procedure that allows the procurement of intact fetal organs. The vacuum extraction procedure would yield nothing more than a semi-liquid result.

    Then, along comes 1975 shortly after my husband’s vasectomy where I found myself pregnant yet again, can we say fertile Myrtle? I wasted no time and had a 10-week gestational period vacuum extraction abortion procedure lasting only 10 minutes in my OB/GYN’s office.

    Moral of my story is that a late 2nd-trimester abortion offers far greater opportunity for the medical professional to manipulate the procedure in a manner to procure intact fetal organs for potential remunerative purposes with Online entrepreneurial presences who maintain catalogs listing their products for sale.

  16. Bill Clinton said that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”. I’ll bet that Planned Parenthood has done more than organized religion and all of the conservatives in the country to make it rare. Also safe.

  17. Having worked at Planned Parenthood while in college, I can tell you that more than 90% of their services are devoted to birth control and prevention or treatment of STDs. The overall goal at PP is to make sure that people don’t have to resort to abortion. People come to PP because it is a “pay based on ability to pay,” and they can get quality medical care.

    One has to wonder if there is a correlation between the HIV outbreak in southern Indiana to the closing of the PP clinic in Scott County in 2011. This article in HuffPost draws that straight line between the two.

  18. For people unaware of pregnancy termination procedures pre Roe v. Wade, see the film “Love With the Proper Stranger”, starring Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen. This film also delves into the emotional dynamics of promiscuity, especially girls from strict and punitive families. Well worth seeing if you get the chance.

Comments are closed.