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Editorial:  Planned Parenthood wisely moves on

Planned Parenthood offices in Thousand Oaks on October 2.

Planned Parenthood offices in Thousand Oaks on October 2.

(Los Angeles Times)

Planned Parenthood was right to stop taking reimbursement for donating fetal tissue to research programs, but not because anyone has proven that the organization did anything wrong.

A surfeit of undercover videos by an antiabortion group showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing how much they typically received for tissue donations, but they yielded no credible evidence that the organization was selling fetal tissue for a profit. Officials of the organization, one of the largest providers of reproductive healthcare in the United States, have insisted that they seek only to cover their costs in providing the tissue for medical research, which is legal.

But in light of the controversy stirred up by the videos, the decision to stop payments of any kind for fetal tissue takes away ammunition from critics who have been calling on the government to defund the organization. Those attempts have been unsuccessful so far, but anti-Planned Parenthood fervor continues, with five congressional committees investigating it — including a special House panel formed to look into the group.

Of Planned Parenthood’s 700 health centers, less than half a dozen are donating fetal tissue, and all are in just two states, Washington and California. And only in California were centers accepting reimbursement for the cost of tissue donations. That practice has now stopped. Any clinics that donate tissue in the future will do it for free. And there is every reason for Planned Parenthood clinics to continue donating fetal tissue, which is used by researchers studying such conditions as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors and spinal cord injuries.

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So much of the congressional assault on Planned Parenthood is rooted in the fact that it provides abortions, even though none of the federal dollars it receives can be spent on such procedures except in cases of incest, rape or danger to the life of the woman from the pregnancy. Besides, abortion is just a small part of the range of valuable health services its centers provide to women across the country, particularly those with low incomes. Planned Parenthood’s decision to forgo recouping its costs from fetal tissue donation should defuse the ginned-up controversy over this organization’s work.

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