Are you disturbed and upset about the series of videos secretly taken by the anti-abortion organization Center for Medical Progress that exposes Planned Parenthood and people posing as fetal-tissue procurers haggling over the price of “baby parts”? Whether you support a woman’s right to chose an abortion or not, the videos aren’t pretty. They are unsettling in part because they are so clinical. But, a conversation between an organization harvesting organs from donors and a research lab would be upsetting, too.
That women having an abortion can chose to have the fetal-tissue donated for scientific research is a little known fact now coming to light. In July, Time wrote about a woman who underwent a late stage abortion of a much-wanted baby after she found out the fetus was missing essential organs. The woman found comfort in donating the fetal-tissue knowing her pain could benefit someone. Now Yahoo Health is releasing pieces almost weekly on abortion and fetal-tissue donations including one that explores the 26-year old man behind the ‘sting’ videos and a recent article on why women decide to donate their fetal tissue – or not to donate it – after an abortion. Even the popular site Whisper that lets its 10 million monthly users tell their true opinions and secrets is getting into the mix. The site recently asked women who had had an abortion if they had donated the fetal-tissue or not. One ‘whisper’ asked if someone could point out the verse in the Bible that states God is against abortion. After the Planned Parenthood sting videos, many are using the anonymous site to sound off on abortion.
But, what does this mean for us, women of color? Whether we live in the US, Caribbean or Africa, whether our governments want to talk about it or not and whether we “whisper” to one another what happened to us, abortion is a reality we’re very much familiar with. It has happened to us and/or women we are close to. Shaming us, providing misinformation via sting videos or making the procedure more difficult to get will only make the situation worse for women of color.
Also, jumping into the fray Religion News Service (RNS) has highlighted a few key ethical points to keep in mind:
- The use of fetal tissue in medical research is legal — and scientifically valuable. Vaccines against polio and rubella were developed using fetal issue and fetal cells are essential in developing treatment for Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and other degenerative diseases. Fetal cells are an invaluable tool for the study of eye diseases, diabetes and muscular dystrophy.
- Planned Parenthood isn’t the only provider of fetal-tissue. There are others like StemExpress which claims to the be largest supplier of maternal and fetal blood and tissue globally. Where’s the sting video on them? Fetal-tissue collection is taxpayer-funded ($76 million last year) and $30 – $100 per specimen reported on the videos is a reasonable fee (factcheck.org), less than the thousands of dollars other institutions may charge.
- According to both religious and secular experts, fetal-tissue harvesting can be ethical, too.
As the fallout from the videos continues to unfold and more people are talking about women who volunteer to have their fetus’ cells used for research, it is clear that the Center for Medical Progress aims to take down Planned Parenthood and doesn’t intend for a reflective, in-depth, multidimensional discussion around the topic to take place. May we find some comfort by gaining a greater understanding and spiritual insight around abortion and the many lives it affects.
Photo courtesy of lifenews.com