The ultra-conservatives are using the highly publicized death of the wild animal to denounce the lack of attention to the scandal of family planning.
“Look at all this outrage over a dead lion, but where is all the outrage over the Planned Parenthood dead babies?”* “That many in the national media are more concerned with #CecilTheLion than @PPact killing babies to harvest their organs is unconscionable.” These messages written on Twitter by Marco Rubio, Republican candidate for president, and Mike Huckabee, his fellow believer, give us food for thought. There is no respite indeed for the American ultra-conservatives who are going so far this weekend as to invoke the death of the famous Zimbabwean lion, killed a few weeks ago by a hunter and whose link with the American polemic over family planning remains a great mystery.
Planned Parenthood, the main family planning organization of the U.S., has long been the conservative activists’ pet peeve. Over the last two weeks, a group of Planned Parenthood opponents has disseminated a series of videos on the Internet supposedly showing the organization’s employees offering to sell fetal tissue. There is one scene featured in particular, shot during lunch between Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, Deborah Nucatola, and two actors who pretend to be representatives of a biomedical laboratory.
These actors were recruited by the Center for Medical Progress, a pro-life organization created in 2015, which describes itself as “a group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics.” The Planned Parenthood director explains in detail that under ultrasound guidance you can get heart, lungs and kidneys "intact.” This was more than enough to set the social networks ablaze! For the critics of Planned Parenthood, it is proof that the organization engages in “barbaric practices.”
“Barbaric Practices” vs. “Scientific Breakthroughs”
A couple of weeks after the release of the first video, the newspapers have blamed each other in their editorials and the controversy is getting bigger on social networks. While United States regulations prohibit the sale and purchase of human fetal tissue — acts considered a federal crime punishable by 10 years in prison — the donation of these tissues is, on the other hand, authorized for medical purposes with the consent of the patient. Research on fetal cells has been carried out for several decades in the U.S. and is supported by the American Medical Association (AMA). This research, conducted both in public and private laboratories, has enabled scientific advances, particularly in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and in the development of polio, rubella and chickenpox vaccines.
Planned Parenthood immediately issued a statement defending its actions, indicating that its fetal tissue donation program is governed by “the highest ethical and legal standards.” The statement adds: “There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood. In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field."
The White House expressed more than skepticism concerning the authenticity of the images released by the Center for Medical Progress: “We have seen this kind of tactic be attempted by other extremist organizations that have an ideological agenda,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest recalled last weekend. And he noted the threat that the government would use the presidential veto on any Republican initiative to reduce the budget allocated to the largest family planning organization in the US: “Any ideologically driven fiscal project trying to defund a nonprofit organization will face the presidential veto,” he said.*
Breitbart, The Blaze, Hot Air … all the American bloggers spoke out last weekend to make their arguments heard. What is at stake? Nothing less than the 2016 presidential campaign. The most conservative Republican candidates are desperately trying to stand out from the plethora of candidates for the nomination of their party. Sen. Ted Cruz has even expressed that he already anticipates he will make budget cuts, which usually occur in October with the beginning of the fiscal year, in order to close Planned Parenthood as soon as possible.
*Editor's note: While this quote is accurately translated, it could not be exactly and independently verified.