January 5, 2016; New York Magazine
Readers may remember the “sting” video produced by David Daleiden in an attempt to expose Planned Parenthood for “selling baby parts” and the hearings set up immediately following to further investigate the situation. More than a year later, and coincidentally timed to coincide with a possible consolidation of political power on the issue, the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives convened by the House of Representatives to investigate any links between Planned Parenthood and any inappropriate sale of fetal tissue issued a 413-page final report this week. As it ended its work, the panel recommended that the National Institutes of Health stop funding fetal tissue research, and that Planned Parenthood be stripped of its federal funding, which is mostly made up of Medicaid dollars and constitutes 40 percent of the group’s funding on a national basis.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R–WI) followed that up quickly with a vow to include the defunding of Planned Parenthood in a fast-tracked budget reconciliation bill aimed at repealing the Affordable Care Act. Planned Parenthood receives more than $500 million annually in federal funding, and New York Magazine lays out a scenario where a bill may be signed into law as early as next month.
A report in Science Magazine points out that the report is also critical of research institutions, other abortion providers, and the companies that process and prepare fetal tissue for researchers, accusing some of them of making profits through selling fetal tissue, which is illegal.
Beyond that, the report asserts that “human fetal tissue research makes a vanishingly small contribution to clinical and research efforts.” (Science Magazine has fact-checked that, as well as other assertions in the report, and found them wanting in terms of adherence to the facts.)
Meanwhile, back to Planned Parenthood and its executive director, Cecile Richards. In Rolling Stone, Richards revealed some of what she thinks about how PPFA will handle the political struggles immediately ahead (and that whole interview is well worth reading). She spoke about the stances of the key incoming administration players in relation to abortion rights, but in the end, she acknowledged that the capacity of Planned Parenthood to hold off defunding depends not only on individual supporters (some of whom were also Trump supporters and who came out in droves to contribute to the organization as the election results came in) but also on support for the organization among other human rights and social justice groups.
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In terms of the organization’s appeal to individuals, you can see the kind of effort being made in this recorded Facebook Live Event by Planned Parenthood Action. Richards also spoke movingly on the natural coalition that must be strengthened to address any potential policy or lawmaking at the federal level harmful to Planned Parenthood and its mission over these next four years.
I will say, I’ve been doing this work a long time, not always at Planned Parenthood but in various progressive organizations. If there is one thing that his election did for the progressive community, it served as an enormous bonding experience. Over the last month, we’ve had meetings of some of the major progressive organizations. Folks recognize that our issues, our organizations and frankly our activists are all connected. Planned Parenthood patients are immigrants, they’re Muslims, they’re LGBT folks, they’re single parents, they’re students. And all of the attacks that folks are anticipating going forward are ones that are already engaging our activists as well. We feel a particular responsibility to stand with those who’ve stood with us as we’ve been under attack these many years.
I do believe that the world only rolls forward. That’s the way we have to look at this particular moment in time: as an opportunity to grow our movement like never before. If there’s one challenge that progressive organizations jointly share right now, it’s [how to harness the energy from] the outpouring of people who want to stand up and lead and be counted, and really put forth a different vision of the way this country should be going.