Well, it seems that the Trump administration’s commitment to persecute all things Planned Parenthood is beginning to take hold. Last December, the Senate Judiciary Committee (“SJC”) released a 547-page report demanding that the Justice Department find evidence that Planned Parenthood, its affiliates, and several medical research companies illegally sold tissue from aborted fetuses. Yesterday, it was reported that the FBI has asked the Senate for unredacted documents it obtained from abortion providers. According to “sources familiar with the document request,” it is a sign that the FBI may be investigating Planned Parenthood and other organizations for the alleged illegal sale of fetal tissue and body parts which had been the subject of a widely-discredited video.
The heavily-edited video made by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (“CMP”), purported to demonstrate that Planned Parenthood financially profited from the illegal sale of fetal tissue following abortions conducted on its premises. Planned Parenthood has vehemently denied these allegations on numerous occasions, and has been unwavering in its position that with regard to abortion regulations, it not only follows the law, but exceeds legal requirements.
The recent FBI request was made to SJC chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a 26-year Senate veteran who has championed the fetal-tissue charge against Planned Parenthood for some time. This is a good time to point out that the Department of Justice has already investigated Planned Parenthood with regard to fetal-tissue allegations. Twice. And neither investigation resulted in any prosecution or finding of wrongdoing.
Dana Singiser, Vice President of Government Affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, had this to say about the start of an FBI probe:
“Planned Parenthood strongly disagrees with the recommendations of the Senate Republican staff to refer this matter to the Justice Department, especially in light of the fact that investigations by three other Congressional committees, and investigations in 13 states including a Grand Jury in Texas, have all shown that Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong. These accusations are baseless, and a part of a widely discredited attempt to end access to reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has never, and would never, profit while facilitating its patients’ choice to donate fetal tissue for use in important medical research.”
The [almost nonexistent] chances of the FBI’s request actually resulting in federal prosecution notwithstanding, Grassley and likeminded conservatives have taken the next step in circumventing the legislative process for their own ends. An attack on Planned Parenthood does not tackle the difficult question, “What should the law say about abortion?” but rather, it proceeds with the far simpler conclusion that its subject has violated existing laws.
For decades, there has been a necessarily complex and often inflammatory legal, moral, and philosophical debate about how best to balance women’s right to reproductive freedom and privacy against the right of society to protect a developing fetus. A witch-hunt against Planned Parenthood lacks any such nuance. At issue is longer an individual’s right to terminate a pregnancy, but rather, “selling baby parts” – an incendiary and propagandized characterization created for its power to rally even moderate pro-lifers. This newer, more streamlined war on reproductive freedom promises to be as damaging as it is popular. While conservatives (and likely, many moderates) continue their crusade against Planned Parenthood-as-criminal-wrongdoer, the organization and others like it will drown in costly, politicized, and endless investigations and legal battles. The most unfortunate consequence continues to be that the many women who rely on Planned Parenthood for health assistance unrelated to abortion will be harmed. Not far behind, though, is the general erosion of our collective standards for framing important legal issues.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.