What You Should Know About the Planned Parenthood Controversy

August 4th 2015

Nicole Charky

Planned Parenthood, the country's largest family planning service, is embroiled in controversy following a series of hidden-camera videos produced by an anti-abortion group.

Why is Planned Parenthood in hot water?

The issue is Planned Parenthood's alleged role in gathering fetal tissue from abortions for medical research—a controversy that began with a series of online videos released by the Center for Medical Progress. The Center for Medical Progress claims that the video shows Planned Parenthood officials negotiating prices over fetal tissue from abortions that it performs. Planned Parenthood denied any wrongdoing and has said the healthcare service does not profit from fetal tissue donation.

Profiting from human fetal tissue sale is prohibited under U.S. law, which allows for donated fetal tissue for research.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said the organization makes “zero money from fetal tissue research,” reported the Huffington Post. She stands by the practice of donating, and she says the tissue is used for "Parkinson's research, Alzheimer's research, a whole host of important diseases,” Richards told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

“I think it's really important,” she added, “that in all of this political smear campaign that opponents of legal abortion have created, that in no way this taints the importance of fetal tissue research to solving and getting cures for some of the most important diseases we face as a country and as a people.”

Scientists use fetal tissue for research because the cells divide quickly and adapt faster than cells in adult tissue, according to U.S. News and World Report.

So how are these groups responding against Planned Parenthood?

On Monday, Republican senators tried and failed to get enough votes to strip Planned Parenthood of the federal funding it receives. It gets about $528.4 million combined from the federal government and state and local governments, although the bulk of that money comes from the federal government, according to the Washington Post. Many conservatives are asking Republican members of Congress to shut down the government this fall over the funding issue.

The videos have also led Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) to terminate the state's Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood, according to NOLA.com. This means Louisiana residents who use Medicaid will not be covered if they go to a Planned Parenthood facility. Jindal's announcement said:

"In recent weeks, multiple videos have surfaced showing Planned Parenthood Federation of America senior personnel and other employees describing how they actively engage in illegal partial birth abortion procedures and conduct these abortions in a manner that leaves body parts intact so that they can later be sold on the open market. Since these videos have surfaced, Governor Jindal has directed DHH to investigate Planned Parenthood's activities in Louisiana and also sent a letter to both the Louisiana Inspector General and the F.B.I. asking them to assist in the investigation."

While Planned Parenthood does not provide abortion services in Louisiana, it does offer family planning, cervical exams, and gynecology services for women in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

In the upcoming Republican presidential primary debate Thursday in Cleveland, Planned Parenthood is expected to be rallying cry for the candidates. Jindal is running for president, although he did not qualify for Thursday's debate.

What are the Republican candidates for president saying?

Here's how several of the Republican presidential candidates have responded so far via social media:

So what does Planned Parenthood actually do?

Often, people who are unfamiliar with Planned Parenthood's services believe that the healthcare provider only offers abortions. Planned Parenthood says that, in reality, just three percent of all its health services are abortion services. Politifact has looked into this issue -- they say that this number appears accurate, with the caveat that we have to depend on the stats released by Planned Parenthood. There is no independent data source.

According to Planned Parenthood, 80 percent of clients receive information and services to prevent unintended pregnancy, which prevents approximately 516,000 unwanted pregnancies annually. Other common services for women include Pap tests (400,000 annually) and breast exams (500,000 each year), which are critical in detecting cancer. Planned Parenthood also provides nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including 700,000 HIV tests.

A former front-desk worker at Planned Parenthood, Caitlin Abber, explained that clients at the clinic were diverse, and often, they just wanted one thing: to be heard.

Here's how other notable women voiced their support for funding the healthcare provider: