Ventura County sheriff’s officials had no definitive answer Thursday as to why someone broke a window at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday night, then threw gasoline into the office and ignited it. But the firebombing comes after weeks of angry rhetoric and overheated allegations against Planned Parenthood, which has been mired in controversy since the release of a spate of videos purporting to show its staff discussing the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses.
Yet the highly edited videos do not show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue for profit; what they apparently do at a handful of clinics is donate it — with the permission of the woman having the abortion — for scientific research. The organization’s officials say they recoup their costs but never sell the tissue. Donating fetal tissue for research purposes is completely legal and scientifically valuable, albeit controversial.
But rational explanations have not stopped antiabortion rights activists and conservative members of Congress from denouncing the family planning provider, using what Sen. Dianne Feinstein called “toxic rhetoric.” At the recent Republican presidential debate, for instance, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the organization an “ongoing criminal enterprise,” and accused it of “bartering and selling the body parts of human beings.” In the weeks since the videos began appearing, there have been several theatrical congressional votes to strip Planned Parenthood of the millions of dollars it gets in federal funds, even though those funds go overwhelmingly for healthcare services other than abortion. (By law, federal money may be spent on abortion only when it’s necessary to protect the woman’s health or in cases of incest or rape.) The Obama administration has made it clear that the president would veto any defunding measure that reached his desk.
There is no evidence that the Thousand Oaks attack was a direct result of the anti-Planned Parenthood fervor. And it is certainly true that opponents of abortion and critics of Planned Parenthood have every right to speak their minds. Still, it is important to remember that as long as abortion has been legal in the U.S., abortion clinics throughout the country have been subject to arson and bombings. Abortion providers have been murdered. Now, in the midst of renewed anti-Planned Parenthood sentiment, the Thousand Oaks clinic — which does offer abortions — has been attacked.
No matter why the clinic was targeted, it’s time for Planned Parenthood’s critics to tamp down the histrionics and stick to the facts. Let’s keep the discussion civil, responsible and honest.