Planned Parenthood will no longer accept any reimbursements for the costs of collecting donated fetal tissue for medical research, the organization's president revealed Tuesday. Planned Parenthood's president said he's hoping the changes will end the debate over whether or not to continue federal funding for the public health nonprofit.
This summer, Planned Parenthood came under fire after an anti-abortion group published a covertly-shot video of the organization's senior director of medical services discussing the use of donated fetal tissue for research, a practice where tissue is harvested from aborted fetuses at the mother's request to donate to research. The cost of collecting the tissue is then reimbursed by medical companies who receive the tissue, a practice that anti-abortion groups have billed as "selling fetal tissue."
The resulting controversy has pushed Congress into a stalemate on budget decisions, as Republicans insist they won't pass any budget that continues funding the public health group.
Now, in a publicly released letter to the director of the National Institutes of Health, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards has announced that, though the practice of collecting and donating fetal tissue will continue, the organization will no longer accept any reimbursements for the costs of the procedure. Richards said the decision was made to try to end attacks on Planned Parenthood's overall funding.
"The real goal of these extremists has nothing to do with our fetal tissue donation compliance process but is instead to ban abortion in the US and block women from getting any health care from Planned Parenthood," Richards wrote. "Today, we're taking their smokescreen away and pushing forward with our important work on behalf of millions of women, men, and young people."
Fetal tissue, a rich source of stem cells, has been used in medical research around the country for decades. The tissue can only be collected if it's donated by the mother of an aborted fetus, which some of Planned Parenthood's patients opt to do. But it's a controversial subject, and Planned Parenthood's legal practice of accepting reimbursements in exchange for the tissue makes it even more touchy for some people. Richards is hoping eliminating that exchange, and just absorbing the expense of collecting the tissue, will end the debate going forward.
"Planned Parenthood's policies on fetal tissue donation already exceed the legal requirements," Richards wrote. "Now we're going even further in order to take away any basis for attacking Planned Parenthood to advance an anti-abortion political agenda."