TIME Planned Parenthood

Activists Release Fourth Planned Parenthood Video

Planned Parenthood President Feldt
Mario Tama—Getty Images

The video shows a Colorado-based doctor

A group of anti-abortion activists released another video featuring a Planned Parenthood representative talking about fetal tissue donations.

The fourth video released by the Center for Medical Progress shows Colorado-based Dr. Savita Ginde discussing and later demonstrating the procurement of fetal tissue. In the video,which was secretly recorded, Ginde can also be seen discussing reimbursement costs.

A Los Angeles court had issued a temporary restraining order against the group from releasing any further footage surreptitiously taken of officials with a California company, but the new video was recorded in Colorado and is not affected by that order.

The video was produced in an the same vein as three others released by the group which claim Planned Parenthood is involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood, however, has repeatedly denied that is the case. In an op-ed for the Washington Post Wednesday responding to the other videos, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards apologized for the tone used by employees featured in them, but said they show nothing illegal.

“While predictably these videos do not show anything illegal on Planned Parenthood’s part, medical and scientific conversations can be upsetting to hear, and I immediately apologized for the tone that was used, which did not reflect the compassion that people have come to know and expect from Planned Parenthood,” Richards wrote.

The release of the video came Thursday as the Senate sought to vote to defund the medical services provider, though the measure is unlikely to pass a key legislative hurdle.

TIME cyberattacks

Planned Parenthood Targeted by Hackers

"We are taking every measure possible to mitigate these criminal efforts"

Planned Parenthood says it has informed the FBI and Department of Justice of a malicious attack on its servers by activist hackers who are threatening to leak the personal data of its staff.

The activists have “called on the world’s most sophisticated hackers to assist them in breaching our systems and threatening the privacy and safety of our staff members,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president at PPFA.

The hack, originally reported by the Daily Dot, appears to have been motivated by anti-abortion sentiment. “Trying to mold an atrocious monstrosity into socially acceptable behaviors is repulsive,” one of the supposed hackers told the website. “Obviously what [Planned Parenthood] does is a very ominous practice. It’ll be interesting to see what surfaces when [Planned Parenthood] is stripped naked and exposed to the public.”

Laguens called the hackersextremists who oppose Planned Parenthood’s mission and services” and said Planned Parenthood was “working with top leaders in this field to manage these attacks.”

The reported breach comes as the organization defends itself against videos from an anti-abortion group that show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has said the videos are edited and are part of a “smear campaign.”

TIME North Dakota

North Dakota’s Strict Abortion Ban Overturned

Jack Dalrymple
Mark Humphrey—AP North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple asks a question during a meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee at the National Governors Association convention on July 12, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn.

The last abortion clinic in the state can stay open

A federal appeals court has struck down North Dakota’s ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, invalidating one of the strictest abortion restrictions in the country and allowing the state’s sole abortion clinic to remain open.

In 2013, North Dakota passed a ban on abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks in some cases. The law was passed specifically to test the constitutional limits of abortion rights—when he signed it, North Dakota Gov Jack Dalrymple called it “a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade,” and noted he expected legal challenges. Before the most recent appeal, the law had already been deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2014. The most recent federal appeals court decision permanently blocks the law, but the state can still appeal to the Supreme Court.

The law was first blocked in 2013, which allowed North Dakota’s last abortion clinic, Red River Women’s Clinic, to remain open throughout the whole legal battle.

“No woman should ever have to fear her constitutional rights could disappear overnight by virtue of where she lives,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the Eighth Circuit also struck down Alabama’s 12-week abortion ban. And in June, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked a law in Texas that would force more than half the state’s abortion clinics to close.

 

TIME Reproductive Health

Why We Still Need Fetal-Tissue Research

Planned Parenthood President Feldt
Mario Tama—Getty Images

Two sting videos that claim to implicate Planned Parenthood in the illegal practice to selling fetal tissue for a profit prompted a Congressional investigation of the organization. But it doesn’t mean that research on fetal tissue is wrong. Or that it should be stopped.

The first video released in mid-July that was secretly made by the Center for Medical Progress, a group that includes well known anti-abortion activists, centered around one question: What happens to the fetuses that result from abortions performed at Planned Parenthood? A second surreptitiously filmed video by the same group was released Tuesday. Its central question: Whether Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of such tissue. (The group insists it does not.)

Fetal tissue is valuable for medical research; the National Institutes of Health spent $76 million on fetal research in 2014, and fetal tissue has contributed to vaccines for polio, rubella and chicken pox. While recent efforts to transplant fetal tissue to treat conditions like Parkinson’s haven’t been as consistently successful, it’s still critical to scientific progress.

In the video, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services, notes that the fees Planned Parenthood charges are within laws that govern fetal tissue procurement; the fees cover the expenses of handling, storing and shipping the material, not for the material itself. But in calling for the Congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood’s practices, House Speaker John Boehner said: “When an organization monetizes an unborn child — and with the cavalier attitude portrayed in this horrific video — we must all act.”

But there’s a blurring of the ethical and political lines here that is both intentional — and intentionally misleading. It’s one that’s always shadowed anything involving fetal tissue in this country. Fetal tissue research was initially allowed under specific conditions and approval by a government Ethics Advisory Board (EAB). During the 1980s, however, as controversy over the source of the fetal tissue — mostly abortions, and primarily elective ones — became increasingly politicized, a moratorium was placed on fetal tissue studies, and the EAB was disbanded. The restriction was lifted in 1993, but the work continued to be a challenge.

The ethical and political conflicts erupted again in 1998, when researchers studying excess IVF embryos and fetuses from elective abortions made breakthroughs in understanding stem cells, the pre-cells of everything that develops in the human body. The promise represented by these stem cells, which because of their developmental potential can possibly be manipulated to replace diseased or ailing cells, raised anew the questions of whether studying tissues from unused embryos and aborted fetuses was ethically — and politically — acceptable.

MORE: Why Planned Parenthood Provides Fetal Cells to Scientists

The resulting debate hampered stem cell research in the U.S. for nearly a decade, after the George W. Bush Administration prevented federal research money from being used to study excess embryos that couples had donated after IVF. Researchers wanting to pursue this work had to find private funding or leave the country, which some did. President Obama lifted the restriction in 2009 — and now, the controversy has erupted again. And as in times past, science is getting muddied by politics.

“This video is primarily aimed not at fetal tissue research but at Planned Parenthood,” says David Magnus, director of the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics. “I don’t think this is about the use of tissue that is already discarded. I think it’s about abortion itself. The fact that it’s not clear whether there is any actual problem in terms of [Planned Parenthood’s] behavior highlights the fact that this is politically motivated.” Several Republican presidential candidates have also criticized Planned Parenthood’s practices, invoking the organization’s “disregard for the culture of life” and it’s “penchant for profiting off the tragedy of a destroyed human life.”

There’s no evidence on the video that Planned Parenthood makes a profit from fetal tissue. Nucatola is recorded as saying the organization pays anywhere from $30 to $100 per specimen, and that those fees cover administrative and handling costs, not the cost of the tissue itself. (Those costs are far lower than what other companies that broker exchange of tissues from hospitals and abortion clinics to those who want to study them charge.)

Women who decide to have abortions are asked after they make their decision about whether they want to donate the fetus to research. But not every woman is even given the choice. Similar to marijuana laws, in which there is a disconnect between federal and state policies governing its legality, federal law allows donation of fetal tissue if there is no payment involved, and it doesn’t influence the woman’s decision to have an abortion, while state policies may differ.

“State and local policies, as best I can tell, are patchwork, and there is no consistency across states with regard to how [fetal] tissues are used, whether or not they are allowed to be used, etcetera,” says Debra Mathews, assistant director for science programs at the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University. According to the Guttmacher Institute, six states currently prohibit fetal tissue research on aborted fetuses; three states have introduced similar statues that were struck down. And adding to the confusion, some states prohibit experimentation on “live” fetuses, attempting to make distinctions between the state of the fetus following the procedure.

Such opaque policies, and the highly contentious nature of discussing anything involving fetuses, makes it nearly impossible to fully inform women and discuss their choices in an objective way. With embryonic stem cell research, which involves use of embryos that couples donate for research, Mathews notes that there were discussions about the ethical and moral questions involved. “I don’t know that we have had robust conversations about fetal tissue,” she says. “It’s very difficult to talk about. Abortion politics in this country make it very difficult to have discussions about the use of these tissues.”

And that’s led to a situation that’s far from open when it comes to the fate of fetal tissue from abortions. “There is important research, good research, involving fetal tissues,” says Mathews. “But we have not been transparent about it. In so far as this increases the transparency, and helps us to have a conversation about the research being done, and folks are following the rules that do exist, I think that’s important.”

MORE: Here’s What Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards Had to Say to David Koch

That may be nearly impossible, however, if conservative politicians continue to corral abortion positions and fetal research positions into the same ethical pen. Magnus notes that those opposed to abortion can still support fetal tissue research, and that the two stances aren’t as mutually exclusive from an ethical perspective. “The analogy is often made of organ procurement. ‘I’m not in favor of car accidents or people shooting each other. But if tragedies happen, and somebody is shot or there is a car accident, then being able to have something good come out of that is seen largely as a good thing.’”

One question the Congressional investigation will consider is whether the decision to donate the tissue influences the way in which abortions are performed at Planned Parenthood — if it does, that too is unlawful. But it would only be unethical if it compromises the health of the woman in any way. In the video, Nucatola discusses the fact that the way the abortion is performed should be the same for every woman, regardless of whether she agreed to donate the fetal tissue or not. But she does admit that “some people will actually try to change the presentation [of the fetus]” and that “you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, …we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part…and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

Planned Parenthood’s president Cecile Richards issued an apology for the tone of the discussion, acknowledging that “This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.”

But Richards defends the way that Planned Parenthood performs abortions as ethical and legal. “Our donation programs, like any other high-quality health care providers, follows all laws and ethical guidelines. [Women and families’] commitment to life-saving research, developing treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s is important and compassionate. And it should be respected, not attacked,” she said in a video responding to the allegations.

But as long as the dialogue about the science and the medical potential of fetal research is entwined in the political debate over abortion, that respect — and the lives that can potentially be saved from these studies — will be hard to come by.

TIME health

Hardly Any Women Regret Having an Abortion, a New Study Finds

The conclusion comes after a three-year research period involving nearly 670 women of all social backgrounds

Ninety-five percent of women who have had abortions do not regret the decision to terminate their pregnancies, according to a study published last week in the multidisciplinary academic journal PLOS ONE.

The study was carried out by researchers from the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at UC San Francisco’s School of Medicine, and from the university’s division of biostatistics.

Its conclusions come after a three-year research period in which nearly 670 women were regularly surveyed on the subject of their abortions. The sample group was diverse with regard to standard social metrics (race, education, and employment) and on the matter of what the study calls pregnancy and abortion circumstances. Financial considerations were given as the reasons for an abortion by 40 percent of women; 36 percent had decided it was “not the right time;” 26 percent of women found the decision very or somewhat easy; 53 percent found it very or somewhat difficult.

The authors of the study concluded that the “overwhelming majority” of the women participating in the study felt that abortion had been the right decision “both in the short-term and over three years.”

These results offer a statistical retort to the claim that women who have abortions suffer emotionally as a result, as anti-abortion campaigners claim. Previous studies cited in support of this claim, researchers said, “suffer from shortcomings, leaving the question of women’s post-abortion emotions unresolved.”

The new study is careful to avoid generalities. It discerns between having lingering emotions after an abortion and regretting the abortion altogether — two distinct responses that pro-lifers tend to conflate — and concludes that post-abortion emotional reactions are normal, but almost inevitably taper over time, and that ultimately, very few women altogether regret terminating their pregnancies.

“Certainly, experiencing feelings of guilt or regret in the short-term after an abortion is not a mental health problem; in fact, such emotions are a normal part of making a life decision that many women in this study found to be difficult,” the study reads. “Our results of declining emotional intensity… [find] steady or improving levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction, stress, social support, stress, substance use, and symptoms of depression and anxiety over time post-abortion.”

TIME Supreme Court

Supreme Court Keeps Texas Abortion Clinics Open for Now

Blocks restrictions from going into effect until the court decides whether to hear appeal

The Supreme Court voted Monday to temporarily block several abortion restrictions in Texas until the court decides whether to take the case on appeal.

The Court voted 5-4 to grant an emergency reprieve from the restrictions, which would have forced many Texas abortion clinics to close. Earlier this month, a lower court upheld the two restrictions, which would have required abortion clinics to meet the same building, equipment and staffing standards that surgery hospitals must meet, and required physicians who administer abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. If upheld, the restrictions would force half the abortion clinics in Texas to close, leaving the state with fewer than a dozen clinics. Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Anthony M. Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were the five majority votes, according to SCOTUSblog.

The Fifth Circuit Court previously sided with the Texas legislature, writing that the restrictions “protect the health and welfare of women seeking abortions,” and adding that “there is no question that this is a legitimate purpose that supports regulating physicians and the facilities in which they perform abortions.” Major medical groups like the American Medical Association say that the restrictions “impede, rather than serve, public health objectives,” and reproductive rights advocates say they’re expressly designed to restrict access to abortion.

“We are grateful the Supreme Court has stepped in to protect women’s access to safe, legal abortion, for now. Restricting or banning abortion blocks women from getting safe medical care,” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said in a statement. “This dangerous law never should have passed in the first place — which is why we need to elect leaders who will champion women’s health and rights.”

The Supreme Court decision does not strike down the restrictions—it merely prevents them from going into effect until the Court decides whether or not to hear an appeal from the clinics. If the law stays as it is, the abortion regulations in Texas will be among the most restrictive in the country.

The Court is also hearing a similar case from Mississippi, involving the requirement that doctors get admitting privileges at a local hospital. If the Court upholds that restriction, the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi may be forced to close. The Court may issue a decision on that case as early as Tuesday.

TIME Poland

Women’s-Rights Groups Plan to Deliver Abortion Drugs to Poland by Drone

The move is designed to circumvent strict Polish laws on abortion

Four women’s-rights organizations based in Germany and Poland are planning to deliver WHO-approved abortion pills by drone from Germany to a Polish border town.

The drone will carry the drugs from Frankfurt an der Oder to women across the river in the Polish town of Slubice, in a bid to get around Poland’s restrictive abortion laws

The delivery will also hopefully bring attention to the discrepancy between Poland’s abortion laws and those of other European countries, says one of the organizations involved, Women on Waves.

Poland, a staunchly Roman Catholic country, is one of the few places in Europe where women can only get a legal abortion if there is proof of rape or incest, if the mother’s life is endangered, or if the fetus is severely malformed.

The drugs scheduled for delivery on June 27 are mifepristone and misoprostol. They can be taken without medical supervision for pregnancies of less than nine weeks, Women on Waves says. Inducing miscarriage is not an offense under Polish law.

Women on Waves adds that, since the drone won’t be flying through controlled air space and weighs less than 5 kg, it does not require authorization from the Polish or the German government.

TIME abortion

Abortions Fall in Nearly Every U.S. State, Survey Finds

Abortion Bush Abbott
Eric Gay—AP Pro-life supporters try to disrupt anti-abortion supporters as they march to the Texas Capitol during a Texas Rally for Life in Austin on Jan. 24, 2015.

Even in states where abortion rights are protected

Abortions across the United States have decreased some 12% since 2010, according to a new survey on the most recent data from states’ health departments.

Data analyzed by the Associated Press in a report released Sunday indicates a roughly 15% drop in states that have proposed aggressive anti-abortion laws, including Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Missouri. Similar declines were also seen in states that continue to allow access to abortions, like New York and Washington.

While abortion-rights supporters attributed the drop to greater access to contraceptives and a falling teen pregnancy rate, the report noted, anti-abortion advocates pointed to a cultural shift in which more women are choosing to carry their pregnancies the full term.

[Read more at AP]

TIME Scott Walker

Walker Defends Rape and Incest Position on Abortion Bill

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during a meeting with area Republicans on April 19, 2015, in Derry, N.H.
Jim Cole—AP Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during a meeting with area Republicans on April 19, 2015, in Derry, N.H.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is under fire from Democrats for supporting legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, including in cases of rape or incest.

The unannounced presidential candidate told reporters Monday that he would sign a 20-week abortion ban proposed by the Badger State legislature, regardless of whether it includes rape or incest exemptions.

“I think for most people who are concerned about that, it’s in the initial months when they are most concerned about it,” Walker said. “In this case, it’s an unborn life, it’s an unborn child, that’s why we feel strongly about it. I’m prepared to sign it either way they send it to us.”

A version of the bill passed by the Wisconsin House of Representatives does not include exceptions for rape or incest but does have a provision permitting abortions that would save the life of the mother. It would also allow the mother or father to seek civil damages against a doctor who carried out an abortion after 20 weeks.

The issue is a potentially perilous one for Walker. Polls show broad support among voters, including a majority of Republicans, for legal abortions in at least some instances, such as when the pregnancy is caused by rape or incest. The last three Republican presidential nominees—Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush—all backed such exemptions.

Walker’s political opponents painted his position as extreme. “Once again, Scott Walker has placed his own rigid, backward ideology ahead of the best interests of the people of his state,” said Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “Already, this bill takes away a decision that should be between a woman and her doctor. Already, it doesn’t allow for any exceptions even for survivors of rape or incest. And now, shocking new details show that Scott Walker wants to go even further to take away a woman’s say in her own health. Rape survivors deserve more protections under the law, not less.”

Democrats have had political success in recent years skewering conservatives for ill-considered statements about women’s health. In 2012, Barack Obama earned the support of 56% of female voters, compared to 44% for Romney, after the Democrats made the GOP’s alleged “war on women” a centerpiece of campaigns up and down the ballot. Walker is not the only national Republican to face questions on the issue as the 2016 campaign gets underway. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul found himself in hot water shortly after announcing his presidential campaign two months ago when he wouldn’t say whether he would support exceptions to abortion bans.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Walker’s political committee, Our American Revival, defended the governor’s stance. “A majority of Americans agree with Governor Walker that life after five months should be protected,” she told TIME. “Governor Walker has been very clear that he will sign a bill passed by the legislature to ensure the state of Wisconsin protects life after five months.”

“What’s far outside the mainstream in this country is the Democrat Party’s disregard for babies capable of feeling pain,” Strong added. “It’s unfortunate that far-left extremists are eager to twist an issue that most Americans have consensus on.”

Walker’s position on the bill is not new. In a March letter to the conservative Susan B. Anthony List, the two-term governor said he would sign the 20-week abortion ban and advocate for it on the federal level.

Such a stance could be a boon to Walker’s hopes of capturing the Iowa caucuses, which are dominated by social conservative activists. But they could backfire on the all-but-certain presidential contender by leaving him vulnerable to partisan attacks, especially should he become the Republican nominee.

It’s an issue the GOP has hoped to avoid. Since the 2012 election, Republican strategists have sought to neutralize the “war on women” trope by embracing over-the-counter birth control, championing female candidates and largely avoiding rape-related gaffes.

“The Democrats were painting us as the caveman party,“ says Katie Packer Gage, a former top aide to Romney and founder of Burning Glass Consulting, a firm that has focused on helping male Republican candidates talk about issues important to women.

Packer Gage acknowledged Walker’s comments could hurt him. But she said the 20-week abortion ban, if properly handled, could be a winning issue for Republicans in the general election. “We have [Democrats] a bit backed into the corner because the public support is there, even among women,” she told TIME. “Many people believe that if you haven’t figured this out in 20 weeks, well, the decision has probably already been made and you should probably go forward.”

Liz Mair, a Republican strategist and former adviser to Walker, noted that many women who support the right to an abortion draw a distinction between late-term abortions and those performed during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Mair, who supports a woman’s right to an abortion in the first trimester, argued it is extreme to support abortions during the final three months of a pregnancy if the mother’s life is not at risk.

TIME Health Care

How a New Study on Premature Babies Could Influence the Abortion Debate

Pro-life advocates say the research supports their arguments

A new study showing that a tiny percentage of extremely premature babies born at 22 weeks can survive with extensive medical intervention could change the national conversation about abortion, though the research is unlikely to have a major effect on women’s access to abortions in the short term.

Anti-abortion advocates said the study—which was published by the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday and found that 3.5% percent of 357 infants born at 22 weeks could survive without severe health problems if hospitals treated them—could benefit the anti-abortion movement by sparking discussion about the viability of premature babies.

“Some people are strongly committed to pro-life, some are strongly committed to the other side,” but many fall somewhere in the middle, said Burke Balch, director of the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics for the National Right to Life Committee, the non-profit advocacy organization. “The fact that those children could survive will affect those in the middle.”

The anti-abortion movement has tried to shift attention away from women who seek abortions—as in, debates on whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest—and instead focus on the unborn baby, using the argument that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks to justify state bans on abortion after that time. Some 13 states have banned abortion after 20 weeks, according to Naral Pro-Choice America, a non-profit advocacy organization. Other states, such as Wisconsin, South Carolina and West Virginia have started debating such measures this year. The 20-week bans, Balch said, are partially designed to bring the focus back to the child—and the new data on premature babies will make that easier. “It strengthens the persuasiveness argument, even if it doesn’t impact the legal argument,” he said.

While anti-abortion advocates hope the study will shift public opinion, the fact that a small number of babies can survive at 22 weeks with extraordinary interventions will likely not have a large impact on a woman’s ability to get an abortion today, experts said.

The Supreme Court has held that states can restrict abortions if the fetus is viable—able to survive outside the womb—even if the mother’s health is not threatened by the pregnancy. But there is no strict legal definition of viability; instead, it is determined on a case-by-case basis by the individual doctor. While it is possible that the study could affect a doctor’s decision about the viability of a pregnancy, doctors would usually focus more on the details of the specific case. And few doctors and clinics offer abortions at such a late stage anyway, experts added.

“Viability has never been a set number,” said Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the reproductive health non-profit. “It is determined by each doctor based on the woman and the pregnancy and it varies. That’s what the medical community has said and what Roe v. Wade says, and that’s unchanged by this study, which is about the extremely intensive care that is provided in some places.”

Though the new research has sparked discussion of abortion, its real relevance is for expectant parents researching the medical treatment available for premature babies, particularly those who may want to find out whether their hospital provides interventions to save babies at 22 weeks.

“I think it’s important information, especially for women excited about having a baby,” says Elizabeth Nash, an expert on state laws governing reproduction at the Guttmacher Institute, a research and advocacy group focused on reproductive health. “It’s much more tangential to abortion, except that abortion opponents will look to this information to try to restrict access, and that’s where we have to pay attention.”

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