As a medical doctor and a mother of three, I’m deeply disturbed by recent, shameful attacks on Planned Parenthood. I find the resulting rush to take federal funds away from this health care provider to be typical of many debates in Washington – hyperpartisan, deceptive, and almost completely devoid of fact. After spending a lifetime devoted to science, I feel compelled to set the record straight.
An extreme anti-women’s group that calls itself the Center for Medical Progress, a name George Orwell would find amusing, deceptively cornered medical staff from Planned Parenthood, secretly videotaping them without their consent and heavily editing the footage in order to shock and disgust people, attempting to leave the false impression that laws were violated in the process of donating tissue for medical research. That claim has been widely debunked, rightly so.
Planned Parenthood provides more care than any other organization in the country to keep women healthy and prevent unintended pregnancies, providing birth control, cancer screenings, and sexually-transmitted-infections testing to 2.7 million people annually. The notion that politicians in Washington would use a fabricated issue like this to step between women and their health care professionals at Planned Parenthood and defund their mission is abhorrent to me. It is as out of place as a member of Congress barging into my operating room while I was performing surgery on a patient.
Donating tissue for research
Often, serious medical issues do not manifest themselves until the middle or latter stages of a pregnancy, leaving many couples with the heartbreaking decision to end a pregnancy after months of carrying their child. For some couples, donating tissue for critical medical research to help another family avoid debilitating diseases is the one small positive that can come from their own medical ordeal. While this practice does not take place in Minnesota, a handful of Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country do offer women the option to donate tissue for medical research, utilizing a highly technical medical process to preserve organs and tissue and safely transporting them to reputable research organizations — all in compliance with strict federal law.
As is the case with opposing stem cell research, right-wing groups are trying to impose their extreme political views to not only stop women from making their own medical decisions, but also to prevent valuable medical research when it involves any fetal tissue. As a doctor, I know fetal tissue research has made it possible for life-saving prenatal surgical procedures. Doctors can now perform surgery in the womb and correct fatal and nonfatal abnormalities in the heart, spine and other areas thanks to fetal tissue research. Groups like the one that is attacking Planned Parenthood not only want to eliminate birth control and outlaw all abortions, including in cases of incest and rape, they would almost entirely shut down avenues of research in prenatal surgery as well as limit advances in fighting diseases like Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and cancer.
Truth is the first victim
Sometimes, in the overly partisan world that is today’s Washington, the truth is the first victim. In this case, the wholly dishonest attacks on Planned Parenthood not only have little basis in fact, but actually seek to victimize women, taking away not only their right to make their own medical decisions, but also taking away cancer screenings and other vital care. In the process, millions more families could be cut off from groundbreaking research that can save lives. Rather than progress, as their phony name implies, this group wants to take women and medicine backward.
It’s time for medical professionals to stand up and speak the truth. I stand with Planned Parenthood.
Dr. Mary Lawrence is a candidate for U.S. Congress in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District and a former professor at University of Minnesota Medical School.
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