Setting the Record Straight

A recent column by Cam Winton in the Southwest Journal (Aug. 13–26 edition) requires a response. Let me share some facts and set the record straight. 

In recent weeks, an organization that opposes safe and legal abortion used secretly recorded, heavily edited videos to make outrageous claims about Planned Parenthood’s ethics and practices. The smear campaign has been widely discredited, and called out for what it is: a coordinated effort by anti-abortion activists with a history of violence to close Planned Parenthood’s clinics and end access to safe and legal abortion.

The smear campaign has focused on fetal tissue donation. Planned Parenthood in Minnesota does not, and has never had, a fetal tissue donation program. But often women ask our physicians if it is possible to donate tissue for research, and we have no way of accommodating them.

However, some Planned Parenthood organizations around the country do have these programs in place so patients can opt to donate fetal tissue for medical research. Here is what the respected New England Journal of Medicine said regarding this matter in an Aug. 12, 2015, editorial: “When women have made the decision to terminate a pregnancy, Planned Parenthood allows them the opportunity to have the fetal tissue that would otherwise be discarded be used by qualified researchers to help answer important medical questions.  The organization does so carefully, following all applicable laws and ethical guidelines  . . . Planned Parenthood, its physicians, and the researchers who do this work should be praised, not damned.” 

It goes on to say, “We are outraged by those who debase these women, this work and Planned Parenthood by distorting the facts for political ends.”

Some politicians have aligned themselves with this extremist and discredited group and have begun to use this fraud campaign to justify legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, which would cut women off from birth control and lifesaving cancer screenings

That’s right — the vast majority of our patients come to us for family planning services, essential cancer screenings, and STD testing and treatment. These services help women and men take control of their lives so that they can pursue their goals and plan their families for when the time is right for them. Fully 65 percent of our patients do not have private insurance and require assistance to afford care. Taxpayer-supported safety–net programs like Title X are absolutely indispensable in supporting health care costs for these patients.

Sadly, the politicians who have aligned themselves with the smear campaign are not concerned with the facts. They don’t care that Title X only supports family planning, and not abortion. They are willing to cut thousands of patients off from critical health care in order to satisfy their political agenda of defunding Planned Parenthood and banning abortion.

Nothing is more important to Planned Parenthood than the health and safety of our patients — 65,000 of them every year in Minnesota. The women and men who come to Planned Parenthood don’t come to make a political statement. They come because they need quality, compassionate health care. And we’re committed to always being here to provide it.

Sarah Stoesz is President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.