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From Health Law Daily, October 14, 2015

Planned Parenthood turns down donation reimbursement, hopes to quiet volume of attacks

By Bryant Storm, J.D.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced that Planned Parenthood health centers involved in donating tissues after abortions for medical research will no longer accept reimbursement for the reasonable expenses of those donations, despite the fact that such reimbursement is allowable by law. The announcement—a letter from Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health—comes in response to what Planned Parenthood calls an “anti-abortion political agenda,” levied by Planned Parenthoods political opponents. The organization placed great emphasis on the fact that its current practices already exceed legal requirements and now will go far beyond the legal standard in the hopes of maintaining patients’ ability to legally donate tissue while discrediting the “false charges” of political critics.

Videos. In July, 2015, the antiabortion advocacy group, The Center for Medical Progress, began releasing undercover videos, which purported to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue to research companies—behavior, that, if actually occurring, would violate federal law. The controversy prompted efforts to defund the organization, state and federal investigations, and a politically charged hearing led by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (see Funding fight on fire: House hearing gets heated over Planned Parenthood, September 29, 2015). Planned Parenthood officials have continually denied any wrongdoing, citing the fact that only a limited number of the organization’s clinics provide fetal tissue, provide for donations on a voluntary basis for patients, and only recoup actual costs incurred as part of the donation process.

Response. Planned Parenthood made the decision to stop receiving reimbursement in order to combat efforts to pass “politically motivated legislation in Congress and in state legislatures across the country to deny women access to basic health care and to impose medically unnecessary restrictions on safe and legal abortion.” The letter acknowledges that supporters of Planned Parenthood have asked the organization not to bow to political pressures. Richards’ letter addressed those fears by stating that “we will never bow to political pressure and we will never back down from advancing women’s health every way we can.” The letter went further to call the claims against Planned Parenthood “outrageous” and note that the claims, “which have been widely discredited and debunked, are the worst kind of political interference in women’s health.” Planned Parenthood asserts that the real issue is not about fetal tissue donation, but, instead, is a thinly veiled attempt “to ban abortion in the U.S. and block women from getting any health care from Planned Parenthood.”

Commentary. Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), said that Planned Parenthood’s announcement was “a good, tangible result of the collective efforts of the House in investigating Planned Parenthood. It is helpful in taking away some questions surrounding their transactions involving fetal tissue.” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, called the decision “relatively easy,” pointing to the fact that “this was a small number of affiliates who have been able to do this and a small amount of money.” Opponents are incredulous, with individuals like Lila Rose, president of the antiabortion group Live Action, asserting that the letter doesn’t negate the fact that Planned Parenthood “is breaking the law.” Planned Parenthood remains steadfast noting that with its new position it is “going even further in order to take away any basis for attacking Planned Parenthood to advance an anti-abortion political agenda.”

Companies: Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Live Action; The Center for Medical Progress

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