By Marina Peña and Madison Mills
Congress averted a government shutdown on Wednesday after sending President Obama a spending bill, which partly continued the federal funding of Planned Parenthood.
Most Republicans in the House voted against the bill — 151 GOP lawmakers were against the bill compared to 91 who supported it — following the release of undercover videos in July that raised questions about the legality of using aborted fetuses for research.
The Center for Medical Progress, which is an anti-abortion organization, created these videos by having actors pose as buyers for a company that acquires fetal tissue for medical research. The videos include discussions between the actors and Planned Parenthood executives on how doctors can alter abortion procedures to deliver the types of organs researchers may want. The videos contain some graphic images, including the remaining parts of aborted fetuses.
One of the more scandalous videos includes talks about the compensation Planned Parenthood receives for the donation of each tissue. Planned Parenthood officials, however, say it only charges for the costs of maintaining the fetal tissues and transporting them, and that they make no profit off these donations.
Nonetheless, the broader issue the videos call into question is whether it should be legal to use the tissues of aborted fetuses for medical research.
Supporters of fetal tissue research point to the medical developments that have come about from fetal tissue research, such as important vaccines for polio and rubella. And more recently, possible treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes.
In his 2009 testimony, Samuel M. Cohen, a microbiologist at the University of Nebraska, argued that obtaining cells from legally obtained abortions should be considered “ethically permissible” and necessary because it can lead to “lifesaving purposes”.
Meanwhile, critics question the morality of using aborted fetuses for research — or any purpose for that matter. Some of their other objections include the belief that fetal tissue donations will lead to more abortions and that doctors will change how they perform abortions according to the needs of researchers.
For Republican opponents and critics of Planned Parenthood, abortion rights and fetal tissue transplants will continue to be a contentious issue. Congressional hearings with Planned Parenthood and House Republicans have begun to investigate the content presented in the videos and are scheduled to continue.
We talked to USC students who have used Planned Parenthood about their experience. The opinions they expressed are their own, and do not represent the opinions of the Annenberg Media Center.