Upset about fetal tissue donation? Stop funding for birth control, obviously!


Crossposted from

What Does Planned Parenthood Do?

The GOP majority in the Senate held a vote to defund Planned Parenthood on Monday morning, with conservatives taking to the floor, one after another, to engage in lugubrious, sanctimonious theatrics about the “selling” of fetal tissue.

During the debate in the Senate, Republican lawmakers sought to highlight those shocking videos showing Planned Parenthood arranging for the sale of aborted babies.

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said, “The American taxpayer should not be asked to fund an organization like Planned Parenthood that has shown a sheer disdain for human dignity and complete disregard for women and their babies.”

“The barbaric practice of conducting abortions in a way that promotes harvesting fetal organs, or profiting from such practices, has no place in modern society,” said Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana. “Planned Parenthood’s disgusting practices should not receive a dime of taxpayer money.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats should not protect Planned Parenthood’s federal funds “just to protect some political group. “Women deserve better, and our country deserves better.”

Several people have noticed the oddity of these anti-choicers not going after the biotech companies that are conducting the research on the fetal tissue, and thus creating the demand for it. There is also the matter of Republicans, including some currently holding office and pretending that fetal tissue research (“sales”) is the worstest thing ever having voted to approve it in the not-too-distant past.

I’ve asked some people (both right wing and not) flipping out over this “scandal” if they intend to refuse any medication or treatment (and there are many) developed through fetal tissue research and have yet to receive an answer to that. I’ll let Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason, a conservative/libertarian publication, explain why the hyperventilating is so much disingenuous nonsense:

Maybe my mindless-moral-revulsion factor just isn’t finely-tuned enough, but I can’t understand why anyone who is 1) not against abortion per se, 2) not against research using human stem cells, and 3) not against organ and tissue donation should suddenly be moved to indignation by the combining of these things. If tissue from fetuses that are going to be aborted anyway might help bring about future medical progress, and the women having abortions fully consent, what’s the problem?…

…Some have suggested that Planned Parenthood’s actions may be okay, but that Nucatola’s “callous” tone is the issue. I’m not sure what to say about this except . Either you think harvesting tissue from aborted fetuses is wrong, or you don’t; the fact that a medical professional doesn’t sugarcoat the process when talking about it shouldn’t make a difference.

As Vox’s Sarah Kliff points out, “fetal tissue has historically played an important role in scientific research because of fetal cells’ ability to rapidly divide and adapt to new environments. In the 1980s and 1990s, researchers had looked at fetal tissue transplants as a possible treatment for Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.” Researchers also used fetal tissue in developing multiple vaccines, including the Rubella and polio vaccines.

In the tradeoff between possibly of saving untold lives versus the visceral ickiness one might feel about harvesting fetal tissue, it’s sad to me that so many people put more import on the latter.

…At the risk of being deemed history’s greatest monster, I’m not sure why we shouldn’t encourage more women (who are already) having abortions to donate the fetal organs and tissue to science. People who say this would encourage more abortions are either being disingenuous or have no understanding of how human nature works (man, I was really psyched about having a child, but now that I know I could give its remains to science, abortion all the way!). Even if you’re personally opposed to abortion—even if you think it should be 100 percent illegal—as long as abortion is legal and happening, isn’t it better that some good might come out of it?


One might think that this “OMG FETUS PARTS BEING SOLD!l!” posturing on the part of right wingers is yet another excuse for their ongoing attack on Planned Parenthood, which provides non-judgmental health care to (mostly young and poor) and sexually active people. That includes abortion but also contraception and STD screening and prevention guidance. One might be right about that, since I’m not aware of a single Republican Senator (or anyone else blubbering over these videos) expressing a willingness to suffer from Parkinson’s Disease so as to end this research.

And people who truly want to end abortion on demand, without also being invested in punishing women for having sex and denying their traditional gender role, don’t attack providers of contraception, sex ed, and STD treatment. They just don’t.


  1. And then there’s this. …

    In 1988, during the Reagan administration, a panel of experts from the National Institutes of Health overwhelmingly voted in favor of allowing scientists to study biological material obtained from legal abortions. By a 19 to 0 vote, the group concluded that the practice should be considered morally acceptable because aborted fetal tissue is analogous to cadaver tissue, which is often used in scientific research.
    And in 1993, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle voted to legalize fetal tissue research, even in cases when the samples were obtained from legal abortion procedures, when they approved the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act.
    Spurred by pressure from groups looking for cures for degenerative diseases, that legislation lifted a previous ban on using fetal tissue in scientific research put in place during the Reagan administration. McConnell voted in favor — along with several other staunchly pro-life Republican lawmakers, like John McCain, Orrin Hatch, Fred Upton, and Lamar Smith.
    In addition to the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act, the Senate had several other opportunities to vote on the issue of fetal tissue donation during the 1990s. Each time, a bipartisan majority indicated support for the practice. In 1992, for instance, most Republicans — including McConnell — voted against a proposal to limit fetal tissue research to samples procured from miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. In 1997, the Senate voted down an amendment to the Udall Parkinson’s Research Act that would have prohibited funding for research on aborted fetal tissue.

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