It's been a tough month for Planned Parenthood. After the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released two undercover videos purporting to show employees talking about selling fetal tissue, right-wing lawmakers across the country are calling for total defunding of the women's health nonprofit.
Though Planned Parenthood maintains that the videos were heavily edited to remove the employees' repeated statements that fetal tissue is only donated, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is spearheading a federal investigation to prove otherwise. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood in his own state, as has Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
A group of 65 Minnesota lawmakers are calling on Gov. Mark Dayton to follow suit. The problem is, Minnesota's Planned Parenthood doesn't even have a tissue donation program.
Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Jen Aulwes says that although some other affiliates across the country give women the option to donate their aborted fetuses to science, the Minnesota branch doesn't have any way of doing so even if patients specifically ask for it.
"We definitely stand by all our sister affiliates around the country who do have those programs," Aulwes says. "We haven't made a conscious decision not to have one. We just happen to not have that particular program in place."
Fetal tissue donations contribute to all kinds of medical research, playing a role in the creation of the polio vaccine and the search for a cure to Parkingson's Disease. Aulwes says none of the legislators who signed the letter to Dayton actually checked with Planned Parenthood Minnesota first to see if it had such a program to investigate.
Dayton said he would not grant the 65 Republicans an investigation. Instead, he offered a bewildered restatement of the obvious: "As far as I'm concerned there's no basis for an investigation at taxpayer expense into a private nonprofit organization that has stated they don't engage in those practices here in Minnesota."
Still, Republican lawmakers press on, unconvinced that Planned Parenthood should be taken at its word.
Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) just wants Democrats to look into it. "The letter that was sent out was written in a way that was very matter-of-fact and in a way that I was truly hoping that Democrats would say, 'Yes, we do need to look into this in Minnesota to make sure it's not happening here,'" she says. "I could really change the tone of that letter but I really, truly wanted an investigation, and I'm not doing it for political reasons. It's astounding that the pro-choice community has been basically silent on this."
Planned Parenthood may say that fetal issue is only being donated and not sold for profit, but the undercover videos did reveal the callousness of the people in the abortion industry, Scott says. "How can you talk about crunching baby bones and parts while you're dining? That I think is off-putting to a lot of people."
Of course Planned Parenthood would deny doing anything illegal, she says. Lawmakers need to make sure that local research hospitals like Mayo Clinic and U of M aren't in the market for fetal tissue.
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