The resolution in the Senate to defund Planned Parenthood didn’t pass, but it did leave many unanswered questions.
While you were livin’ the high-life and making plans, something continued to move around you. What, life? No, American politics! This is ‘The Rundown.’ What is ‘The Rundown’ you ask? Other than a terrific action-comedy starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Stifler from ‘American Pie’, it’s our unique breakdown of major news stories that are currently hitting the political scene. In this edition we talk about Monday’s failed Senate vote to defund Planned Parenthood and the ramifications that it’s going to have in the future.
The Art of Making Mountains Out of Molehills
[WARNING: The video in the next link does contain some graphic images regarding to abortion procedures from the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress. You’ve been warned!]
This video is a part of five “sting videos” released by the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress throughout the month of July. In the video, actors from the Center for Medical Progress pose as buyers of fetal tissue for medical research. Even though the practice of selling aborted fetal organs and tissues for medical research is legal in the US – more on that in a bit – the video has caused controversy for the nonchalant nature in which Planned Parenthood executives referred to the aborted fetuses and the abortion procedures themselves.
That’s around the time when many social conservatives started to lose their collective shit. Many of them started claiming that Planned Parenthood was profiting from the selling aborted fetal tissue. Some were so angry they said they had become paralyzed with rage. Here’s a reenactment.
Suddenly Republicans, led by Sen. Rand Paul, were calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. The plan got such traction that even a few moderate Democrats promised they would support the measure. On Monday the vote came in front of the Senate.
It didn’t pass. But just barely.
In a 53-46 procedural vote, the measure to defund Planned Parenthood failed to get the 60 votes needed in the Senate. But it was too late, the once non-issue of defunding Planned Parenthood suddenly become a rallying point for many Republicans. So much so, Planned Parenthood opponents are now threatening a government shutdown, in part of a larger funding battle that is expected this fall.
It’s important to remember that when conservatives threaten a government shutdown over a certain talking point, it takes a very special kind of issue for it to make that a reality. You need an issue that rallies conservatives without angering them if for some reason you can’t come up with a compromise and the government does in fact go into shutdown mode.
This isn’t to say that the anger social conservatives feel over the Planned Parent videos aren’t genuine, but it’s hard to argue that this isn’t the policy window fiscal conservatives were looking for when going into the congressional budget debates this September. The defunding of Planned Parenthood has now become another bargaining chip that Republicans will demand – and more importantly Democrats will have to deal with – when budget talks commence.
Mountains out of molehills friends.
Understanding the Core Question
With so much emphasis around the potential defunding of Planned Parenthood, legitimate questions have been ignored in the process. The biggest one being the legality of selling fetal tissue for research purposes. Many conservatives are claiming that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissues and organs strictly for profit. For the record, Planned Parenthood has vehemently denied those claims.
So then, what is actually going on?
Well the controversy itself stems from the lack of knowledge of why researchers buy fetal tissue in the first place.
Medical researchers have been buying fetal tissue for decades now. Scientists use fetal tissue for a variety of purposes, but mostly it’s used in the research of diseases and other medical ailments. According to the New York Times, the National Institute of Health spent more than $76 million on research grants in 2014. That actually makes sense because fetal tissues are a rich source of stem cells, which make it possible to study the development of tissues and organs in a lab setting.
The commercial use of fetal tissue on the other hand is a massive legal grey area. Agencies can sell “donated” fetal tissue and organs, but not for a profit. Under federal law, organizations can only charge for processing and shipping involved in its transfer to labs and research centers. In other words, making a profit on the commercial selling of fetal tissues is incredibly illegal. That’s why in one of the videos a Planned Parenthood executive specifically says “we’re not in [the commercial use of fetal tissue] for the money,” when discussing the going price for fetal tissue. Conservatives however contend that there is a loop hole in the federal law that allows organizations – like Planned Parenthood – to charge whatever they want for transportation because the law doesn’t regulate how much they can charge.
With all the conversation that is happening over the Planned Parenthood tapes, a bigger bioethics question has been completely glossed over:
Is it ethical to use the remains of aborted fetal tissues and organs for scientific research?
It’s hard to argue the leaps in biological research that fetal tissues and organs bring, but considering the public uproar that has surfaced over the videos, maybe the general public is not as ok with the practice as it was assumed? Yet like in every pro-life/pro-choice debate, the core questions look to be set aside for political saber-rattling from both sides.
This is a shame considering these are vital questions to the pro-life/pro-choice debate. Honestly, both sides are hesitant to bring up these core questions, because if they were to lose, it could mean massive setbacks to their respective movements.
To have respectable legislation on the subject, we have to start having honest conversations about bioethics when it comes to the pro-life/pro-choice debate. But if defunding Planned Parenthood is the first response to questions in bioethics, then C-3PO is right.
(Photo Credits: Planned Parenthood, Flicker, Google Images, YouTube)