In July 2015, the Center for Medical Progress released a string of videos that essentially cast Planned Parenthood as a front for a satanic cult that offers abortion care in order to achieve its real goal: harvesting dead-baby body parts for money.
Over glasses of wine in restaurants, in beige-walled workplaces and generic hotel ballrooms, CMP “investigators,” posing as buyers from a fake company called BioMax Procurement Services, secretly recorded discussions with Planned Parenthood doctors and directors about the alleged sale of fetal tissue. The outcry triggered by this footage quickly escalated into right-wing hysteria over baby-part sales, gruesome dissections, and feticide. Committees were formed, investigations were launched, and abortion opponents riled themselves up in righteous outrage over Planned Parenthood’s pink-coated brand of evil that offers fetuses up to ritual sacrifice and profits in the process.
This outrage was sparked by lies and stoked by misinformation. The videos were heavily edited to reflect the narrative that CMP founder David Daleiden and his pro-life supporters wanted to be true. Planned Parenthood representatives were discussing the fully legal and defensible practice of offering patients the ability to donate fetal tissue for critical medical research. However, despite the fact that not one of the 17 subsequent investigations into the allegations yielded any evidence of wrongdoing, and that a grand jury in Texas indicted Daleiden and CMP employee Sandra Merritt for tampering with governmental records, the videos continue to cause harm. They gave right-wing groups and lawmakers the moral ammunition they needed to open a new front in the attack on abortion—fetal-remains legislation.
In 2016 alone, 28 states have introduced legislation relating to the disposition of fetal remains. Nine of these bills have passed; of these nine, five are in effect and four are being legally challenged. States are also using administrative bodies, like their departments of health, to lay down additional and unnecessary regulations surrounding what happens to fetal tissue.
These mandates fall into two main categories. The first restricts the donation of fetal tissue for research and experimentation, a practice that has contributed to lifesaving advances in scientific and medical research since the 1930s, and bans its sale—an unnecessary provision, since the sale of fetal tissue is already a federal crime. Today these bans may affect research into treatment for Ebola, HIV, and Alzheimer’s.
The second type of regulation governs how abortion providers dispose of aborted tissue that is unsuited to medical research. Clinics generally treat aborted tissue like other human tissue by contracting with medical-waste companies that dispose of it in a safe and sanitary way. Now states including Indiana, Texas, Louisiana, and Ohio have gained ground with requirements that all aborted tissue be buried or cremated, so that “unborn infants” are afforded the same respect and dignity as human beings. These politicians want funerals for fetuses.