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Controversial Planned Parenthood videos could cost American women big-time

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine, Cosmopolitan.com,...

The Planned Parenthood video controversy: Everything you need to know

Planned Parenthood has been getting a lot of attention lately, and it seems there is a lot more to come.

A series of undercover videos showing employees of the non-profit discussing fetal tissue donation have been released in recent weeks, prompting Senate Republicans to schedule a vote on a bill that would restrict federal funding to the organization, which provides contraception and reproductive health services to 2.7 million American women (and men).

The first video — which was released to the public on July 14 by anti-choice group The Center for Medical Progress  — shows Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood's Senior Director of Medical Services, discussing the organization's fetal tissue donation program under the assumption that the people she was talking to were employees of a company looking to procure fetal tissue for research purposes. The Center for Medical Progress took almost three hours of footage and edited it into an eight-minute clip that made it appear that Planned Parenthood makes money from retrieving certain tissue during an abortion procedure.

Since the first video was published, many people have been questioning what has been happening at Planned Parenthood. Now, a handful of Republican politicians are trying to capitalize on this controversy by attempting to schedule a Senate vote that could ostensibly defund Planned Parenthood — cutting monies that help fund cancer screenings, HIV testing and other non-abortion services.

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The edited video, however, may make things confusing for some people, as it leaves out key points and information, like the fact that Planned Parenthood is not breaking any laws and not actually profiting from tissue donation, but merely attempting to cover operational costs.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards released a statement after the first video came to light, in which she confirms that they're not doing anything illegal.

Planned Parenthood stands behind our work to help women and families donate tissue for medical research when they wish to. It is always their decision.

I thank those women and families who have chosen tissue donation at some point in their lives. Your commitment to lifesaving research, developing treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, is important and compassionate, and it should be respected — not attacked.

We know the real agenda of organizations behind videos like this, and they have never been concerned with protecting the health and safety of women. Their mission is to ban abortion completely and cut women off from care at Planned Parenthood and other health centers.

Since then, two other videos have been released from The Center for Medical Progress. One released on July 21 was, again, heavily edited and showed another Planned Parenthood official discussing tissue donation. The third video, released on July 28 shows a Planned Parenthood official in Denver discussing pricing of fetal organs.

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Planned Parenthood officials continue to say that everything they are doing is not only legal, but useful in order to progress scientific research. However, Republicans in Congress are hard at work, attempting to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding (although the federal funds that Planned Parenthood already receives are spent on a variety of women's health care, but does not actually cover abortion).

Republican Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul sponsored a bill this week that will ensure that Planned Parenthood will no longer be allowed to receive any federal funding. "I think the time is now to discuss whether taxpayer dollars should be going to such a gruesome procedure,” the Kentucky Republican said in a Fox News appearance on Sunday. If the bill passes, it could impact many women across the country, especially poor or rural women who depend on Planned Parenthood for their regular women's health care.

Planned Parenthood once again issued a response, this time from executive Dawn Laguens:

It's outrageous, not to mention wildly unpopular, that politicians are using this widely discredited attack against Planned Parenthood to push through legislation rolling back women's access to healthcare… This failed in 2011 and it is going to fail again.

With the House about to take a month-long recess, it remains to be seen what will come of this bill, if anything, and whether or not The Center for Medical Progress has anymore undercover videos waiting to be released. Until then, the future of Planned Parenthood lies in the balance.

More: Celebrities speak out for Planned Parenthood

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