In a bid to neutralize attacks from conservative groups, Planned Parenthood announced Tuesday that it would no longer accept reimbursement for expenses incurred for donating fetal tissue to medical researchers.
The decision comes after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, released hidden-camera footage claiming to show Planned Parenthood doctors and fetal tissue firm officials discussing selling the tissue for profit, which would be illegal. Congress launched hearings into the videos, which Planned Parenthood maintains were heavily edited and manipulated.
Citing a desire to remove any basis for attacking her group's "limited" fetal tissue donation program, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards on Tuesday wrote to the National Institutes of Health to announce they would no longer accept financial reimbursement for expenses despite such practices being "fully legal, appropriate, and common among health care providers."
"This removes beyond the shadow of a doubt the ludicrous idea that Planned Parenthood has any financial interest in fetal tissue donation – and shows the real agenda behind these attacks," Richards said in a statement.
"Let it be clear once and for all that that they have nothing to do with concern over fetal tissue donation and everything to do with banning abortion in the U.S.," she said.
Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who is part of the House committee investigating Planned Parenthood, praised the group's decision.
“I’m glad to see Planned Parenthood is finally recognizing the need to end this disgusting practice. It's about time,” Blackburn said. “However, there are still many questions yet to be answered surrounding Planned Parenthood's business practices and relationships with the procurement organizations. This is exactly why the House is investigating abortion practices and how we can better protect life.”
In her letter, Richards wrote that just 1% of Planned Parenthood health centers currently donate fetal tissue for medical research.
The group also says that women themselves first had to choose to donate their fetal tissue for research.
"Our decision not to take any reimbursement for expenses should not be interpreted as a suggestion that anyone else should not take reimbursement or that the law in this area isn’t strong," Richards wrote in the letter. "Our decision is first and foremost about preserving the ability of our patients to donate tissue, and to expose our opponents’ false charges about this limited but important work."
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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