Vail Daily column: Planned Parenthood program helps advance health research |

Vail Daily column: Planned Parenthood program helps advance health research

If you or a loved one were fighting for their life, then would you draw the line at treatments that were developed from or used fetal tissue? Before you answer that question consider that thanks in part to research using fetal tissue, most of us never contracted polio or rubella. Polio, a disease that used to affect thousands and paralyzed many, was eradicated in America by 1979.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, fetal tissue has been used in the development of numerous vaccines in addition to those for polio and rubella, including measles, mumps, shingles, hepatitis A and B and rabies.

Researchers use fetal cells to study developmental abnormalities or to repair damaged tissue or organs. Fetal cells have the ability to replicate many more times than adult cells. Also, in procedures involving implantation, fetal cells illicit a lower immune response than adult cells.

Fetal tissue research has numerous applications according to the American Society for Cell Biology.

“The transplantation of fetal cells into the brains of Parkinson’s patients has allowed some patients to regain speech, speed of movement and quality of life.”

Fetal tissue has been used in research to better understand and develop interventions for SIDS, type I diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Down’s syndrome. Larry Goldstein, a biologist at the University of California, is trying to help paralyzed people walk again using fetal stem cells.

Women undergoing an abortion donate the fetal tissue. The women receive no compensation for the donation. Planned Parenthood previously charged a fees ranging from $30 to $100 to cover the expense of storing, packaging and shipping the tissue. They have since eliminated even those small fees. Only two of Planned Parenthood’s 700 clinics provide fetal tissue for research.

This summer, the Center for Medical Progress, an advocacy organization that has nothing to do with medicine or progress but rather exists solely to block women’s access to legal and safe abortions, released videos edited to such an extent to obliterate any semblance of accuracy. These videos purported to show that Planned Parenthood profited from the sale of fetal tissue. This allegation, had it been true, would have been a violation of federal law. There is no proof, none, that Planned Parenthood profited from the sale of fetal tissue.

That did not stop the Texas Health and Human Services Commission from informing Planned Parenthood last month that it would no longer provide Medicaid reimbursements for services provided at Planned Parenthood’s 35 Texas locations based on evidence from the Center for Medical Progress videos. Texas did this despite the fact that no Texas clinics supply fetal tissue to researchers. These videos were not part of a legitimate law enforcement agency investigation but created instead by a non-governmental group. These videos were so doctored that they have been thoroughly discredited. Nevertheless, a Texas government agency used the videos as a basis for making a policy decision that will affect the health of thousands of women.

The attacks on Planned Parenthood are coming at both the state and federal level. Rep. Scott Tipton recently voted along with his Republican colleagues to establish a select investigative panel in the House Energy and Commerce Committee to investigate abortion and fetal tissue donation. Tipton would severely restrict a woman’s right to choose. He recently voted for the 20-week abortion ban and to defund Planned Parenthood. Now taxpayer dollars will be devoted to investigating an issue prompted by the same fraudulent videos Texas lawmakers are basing policy decisions on. Tipton failed to brag about this vote on his website’s list of press releases, which is a pity because I for one wondered why the House Energy and Commerce Committee is investigating a women’s healthcare issue.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards was right — these videos are a ploy to further restrict access to safe a legal abortions by demonizing Planned Parenthood. The Vail Daily missed it when they issued Richards a “miss” for mischaracterizing the public’s reaction to the videos. She understood and issued an apology for the casual tone of her subordinate’s remarks, “This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.”

Planned Parenthood, by providing fetal tissue for medical research, is doing a public good that everyone of us has derived health benefits from, if even indirectly.

Claire Noble is the author of “State-Sponsored Sex and Other Tales of International Misadventure.” She can be found online at or follow her on Twitter @byClaireNoble.

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