In an effort to move beyond recent controversy, Planned Parenthood announced Tuesday that it will no longer accept reimbursement for any fetal tissue it provides to medical researchers.
The organization has been the subject of negative attention in recent weeks following the release of highly edited sting videos recorded by an anti-abortion group alleging that Planned Parenthood illegally profits from its fetal tissue donation program.
NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports that "Planned Parenthood points out that reimbursements are legal but says it wants to debunk accusations that it's just out to profit. Officials also say they won't stop providing fetal tissue to researchers when women request [it]. They say such research can lead to life-saving treatments."
In a letter sent to the National Institutes of Health, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said the recent accusations against her group are "categorically false" and that the goal of the organization's critics has "nothing to do with our fetal tissue donation compliance process."
"Today, we're taking their smokescreen away and pushing forward with our important work on behalf of millions of women, men, and young people.
"The participation by a handful of our affiliates in supporting women who choose to make fetal tissue donation has always been about nothing other than honoring the desire of those women and contributing to life-saving research and cures. In order to completely debunk the disingenuous argument that our opponents have been using — and to reveal the true political purpose of these attacks — our Federation has decided, going forward, that any Planned Parenthood health center that is involved in donating tissue after an abortion for medical research will follow the model already in place at one of our two affiliates currently facilitating donations for fetal tissue research. That affiliate accepts no reimbursement for its reasonable expenses — even though reimbursement is fully permitted under the 1993 law."
Jennifer reports that only three affiliates with Planned Parenthood provide fetal or placental tissue:
"One — in Washington state — already takes no reimbursement, even though it is legal to do so. Planned Parenthood Vice President Dawn Laguens says its affiliates in California and Oregon will now follow suit. ...
"Planned Parenthood says it does not mean to suggest other providers should stop receiving legal reimbursements."
Laguens tells Jennifer that the change to Planned Parenthood's reimbursement policy will undercut further attacks from critics. "It pulls the rug out from under these false attacks and shows beyond a shadow of a doubt what the attention and support of Planned Parenthood is for women who want to make these important donations to life-saving research," Laguens said.
Late last month, Planned Parenthood was the subject of a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing. As the Two-Way reported, the hearing lasted for five hours, with some of the most contentious line of questioning coming from Republicans who questioned whether the organization should continue to receive federal funding.