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Planned Parenthood Launches Campaign Against Defunding Efforts, Pledges To Continue Fetal Tissue Donation

Planned Parenthood Launches Campaign Against Defunding Efforts, Pledges To Continue Fetal Tissue Donation

August 18, 2015 — Planned Parenthood on Tuesday announced an advertising campaign aimed at protecting the organization from any additional defunding efforts in Congress in the fall, Politico reports (Palmer, Politico, 8/17).

Background

An antiabortion-rights group called the Center for Medical Progress recently released a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood that depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation. CMP secretly filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations and only receives reimbursement for costs associated with such donations, which is legal. Meanwhile, supporters of Planned Parenthood said the videos are part of a decades-long campaign against the organization.

Earlier this month, the Senate blocked legislation (S 1881) -- introduced in the wake of the videos -- that would have cut off more than $500 million in federal funding for Planned Parenthood. However, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said a government shutdown over the issue is unlikely, some lawmakers have suggested the defunding measure's failure could set up a fight over whether to include funding for Planned Parenthood in the federal budget this fall (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/12).

Campaign Details

According to Politico, Planned Parenthood's broadcast and cable ad campaign will run in four states -- New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has collected more than 900,000 signatures from people who are opposed to the defunding efforts. Additionally, more than 340 outside organizations have issued statements in support of Planned Parenthood. Further, Planned Parenthood released polls showing that a majority of people in states integral to the 2016 presidential and Senate elections oppose defunding the group.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood also have been vocal at recent town hall meetings and in thanking lawmakers -- such as Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) -- who have backed the organization.

Dawn Laguens, vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said the defunding efforts are an "obviously coordinated attack to get rid of abortion in this country, to recriminalize abortion in this country, to destroy Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood stands up for women's rights, freedom and ability to access care that women and their doctors decide they need" (Politico, 8/17).

Planned Parenthood Promises To Continue Fetal Tissue Donations

In related news, Planned Parenthood officials said Monday they are looking into other ways they can donate fetal tissue for medical research after one company involved in the donation process ended its association with the group, the Sacramento Business Journal reports (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 8/17).

The company, StemExpress, announced its decision to stop working with Planned Parenthood following CMP's videos, some of which use footage involving current and former employees at StemExpress as part of its effort to target Planned Parenthood. CMP also released internal StemExpress documents pertaining to its work with Planned Parenthood (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/17).

Linda Williams, president and CEO at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, and Heather Saunders Estes, president and CEO at Planned Parenthood Northern California, in a joint statement acknowledged the terminated relationship. They added, "Because fetal tissue donations are critical to life-saving medical research, we will be exploring other options" (Sacramento Business Journal, 8/17).

HHS Warns Ark. Over Effort to Cut Off Medicaid Funding for Planned Parenthood

In other related news, HHS has warned Arkansas' Medicaid agency that it could be violating federal law by attempting to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, Politico Pro reports (Ehley/Mershon, Politico Pro, 8/18).

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Friday announced that he had ordered the state Department of Human Services to end its Medicaid provider contract with Planned Parenthood within 30 days. According to Hutchinson's office, the governor believes the decision is legal because the contract permits the state to end the agreement with 30 days' advance notice.

HHS has sent similar warnings to officials in Alabama and Louisiana, which also have moved to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/17). In a notice to the states, HHS said Medicaid law authorizes beneficiaries to obtain services from any qualified provider, including Planned Parenthood. As a result, the states' defunding efforts could violate the law by restricting beneficiaries' access to the provider of their choice (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/13).