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Planned Parenthood controversy continues as second video released and investigations mount

A still from the second Planned Parenthood video release
A still from the second Planned Parenthood video release
via YouTube

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Planned Parenthood is under sustained fire after the release of two videos in as many weeks that bring to light their practices surrounding fetal tissue donations.

The Planned Parenthood program came into being after a 1993 bill that legalized research on fetal tissue. The following is a statement from Eric Ferrero, Vice President of Communications for Planned Parenthood:

“In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases. Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different. At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does -- with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards. There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood.  In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.

“A well funded group established for the purpose of damaging Planned Parenthood’s mission and services has promoted a heavily edited, secretly recorded videotape that falsely portrays Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research.  Similar false accusations have been put forth by opponents of abortion services for decades. These groups have been widely discredited and their claims fall apart on closer examination, just as they do in this case.”

The non-profit’s president, Cecile Richards, appeared last Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week,” and defended the organization by saying it has “broken no laws.” Several federal investigations have begun to ascertain whether that argument is true, and California state Attorney General Kamala Harris has opened her own investigation.

As 10 or more videos are expected to come out in the following weeks and months, how will Planned Parenthood weather the criticism of its fetal tissue donation program and policies? To what extent does the controversy entail an issue of messaging instead of content? And more to the point, is their program legal?


John Eastman, Professor of Law and Community Service at Chapman University

David Magnus, Director, Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics and professor of pediatric medicines and biomedical ethics at Stanford School of Medicine