Some conservative Republicans seek to outlaw abortion in the United States. They have now accused an NGO, called Planned Parenthood, of selling fetal organs and body parts for profit, and encouraging women to have abortions in order to expand such operations.
Planned Parenthood operates nearly 700 health centers across the nation. It provides birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. The organization is also the largest abortion provider in the country, making it a primary target for group's seeking to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
40% of the NGO's budget comes from federal funding. Planned Parenthood is under sustained attack from congressional Republicans, some of whom want to defund it on grounds that the government should not be paying for abortions.
The group's president Cecile Richards said in testimony before a congressional panel investigating the organization, "Planned Parenthood is proud of its limited role in supporting fetal tissue research. Using fetal tissue in lifesaving medical research is legal and fewer than 1% of Planned Parenthood health centers facilitate the donation of such tissue for research. Donating fetal tissue is something many of our patients want to do, and regularly request."
The scandal mushroomed in 2015 when anti-abortion activists released videos they secretly recorded of the NGO officials who were discussing the use of aborted fetal tissue for medical research. The activists, releasing edited footage from hours of recordings, accuse the Planned Parenthood officials of discussing a change of protocol to preserve intact certain organs, which would be illegal.
However, Planned Parenthood has strongly denounced their accusers. The organization insisted that the only money discussed in the video was the legal compensation for transportation, administrative and other costs incurred. Richards said, "The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood, based on heavily doctored videos, are offensive and categorically untrue."
The group is broadly backed by Democrats and in recent months, the Republicans have fought vigorously to end all federal aid to the organization, with many refusing to vote for government spending legislation that does not defund Planned Parenthood. Richards argued, "Such a move would adversely affect lower-income families dependent on Planned Parenthood's contraception programs and cancer screenings. 78% of the group's patients are at 150% of the poverty line or below."