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Planned Parenthood moves to deflect attention

Planned Parenthood says its decision earlier this week to begin absorbing the cost of collecting and storing fetal tissue samples for medical research was not an admission of guilt or an acknowledgment that the samples were illegally sold for a profit.

COWART: Defunding will deprive women

COWART: Defunding will deprive women

Rather, the decision was the organization’s way of removing the issue as a talking point from their detractors in the wake of surreptitiously recorded videos implying that money was the motivating factor in the tissue collection program, said Vicki Cowart, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which covers 29 clinics in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and southern Nevada.

Cowart, in Albuquerque on Friday to meet with Planned Parenthood staffers, supporters and donors, said the series of videos appeared to show Planned Parenthood doctors and employees negotiating fees for aborted fetal tissue with people pretending to be representatives of a biomedical research firm, CMP, Center for Medical Progress.

In reality, the CMP reps were anti-abortion advocates who secretly recorded conversations with Planned Parenthood doctors and employees, and, then, it’s alleged, selectively edited and pieced together videos to negatively portray Planned Parenthood.

“If Planned Parenthood wasn’t doing anything wrong, there would be no need to change the policy regarding charging for tissue samples,” said Tara Shaver, senior policy adviser with the anti-abortion group Protest ABQ. “They’re trying to come out from all the scrutiny, but it doesn’t do anything to help their case.”

The videos, posted online in July, also got the attention of members of Congress, some of whom tried unsuccessfully to shut down the government budgetary process if Planned Parenthood were not defunded. “There are now five different congressional committees investigating Planned Parenthood,” despite the videos being thoroughly discredited, Cowart said. “Let’s be clear, the real goal of the defunding efforts is to deprive reproductive health-care to women.”

Nationwide, Planned Parenthood sees more than 2.7 million patients each year, about 15 percent of them men.

In New Mexico, more than 20,000 people visit their clinics; a quarter of them are on Medicaid, which is source of most of federal funding the nonprofit receives.

Less than 3 percent of the services provided nationwide are abortion-related. By law, the federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives cannot be used for abortions.

In New Mexico, it performs about 1,880 abortions yearly.

About 80 percent of abortions nationwide are done within the first 14 weeks and most of the women are mothers who were already on some form of birth control that for one reason or another did not work, said Cowart.

Up to 40 percent of the abortions are done via the RU486 abortion pill.

Only a small percentage of abortions conducted are late-term procedures.

“Most of these are much-desired pregnancies where something has gone horribly wrong and the mother’s life is in danger or there’s a problem with the fetus,” she said.

The larger part of Planned Parenthood’s services is cancer screenings, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy testing, cholesterol and blood pressure testing, birthing classes, vasectomy services, educational programs and more.

Depriving people of these services, said Cowart, is “just messing around with people’s health-care, and that’s just wrong.”

Said Shaver: “Just because Planned Parenthood provides other services doesn’t negate the fact that they kill babies.”