In recent weeks we’ve watched as a campaign of deception has been launched against Planned Parenthood. Let me be clear: Planned Parenthood does not sell fetal tissue. Some Planned Parenthood organizations in other states do assist women who wish to donate tissue for lifesaving medical research. Planned Parenthood Arizona does not have a tissue donation program at all.
We do provide quality health care to tens of thousands of Arizona women, men and couples every year, including cancer screenings, treatment for sexually transmitted infections and birth control. Our standards are guided by national authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Our patients know the lengths to which we go to protect their health and their futures. So do their family and friends.
More than four decades since Roe v Wade, most Americans continue to believe that women themselves are best qualified to make their own health care decisions. The majority who hold this view is diverse: Some are personally opposed to abortion while others are not. What unifies them is the belief that neither government nor abortion opponents should make this health care unavailable for women who need it.
In the face of their failure to change public opinion, anti-abortion groups like the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), led by president Cathi Herrod, have adopted increasingly aggressive and blatantly dishonest tactics to stigmatize abortion and discredit Planned Parenthood. Some time ago they realized they weren’t going to win hearts and minds by admitting they aimed to ban abortion entirely. The latest attack was launched July 13 in the form of a video purporting to show Planned Parenthood “sells” fetal tissue.
The tactic of using heavily-edited, illicitly-obtained video footage to attack women’s access to reproductive health care is not new — there have been dozens of these misleading videos in recent years. To gain access to Planned Parenthood staff at national meetings and in our own health center, the perpetrators set up a bogus “bio research” company and adopted fake identities. The leaders of this effort have promised more videos. We should expect them to be 100% disturbing and 100% misleading.
The story this video tells – along with another released just days ago – follows the same old pattern of misrepresentation. Countless news agencies and reporters have discredited the videos and organization and people behind them. Trusted fact checking and anti-fraud websites have determined that the videos misrepresent the facts and are not accurate.
The lies that permeate this attack campaign help explain Cathi Herrod’s faux outrage: In a recent fundraising email, Herrod wrote that “there is clearly smoke here, and now the onus is on Bryan Howard and Planned Parenthood to prove there is no fire.” In light of Herrod’s partnership with Gov. Ducey, no one is surprised he jumped on the bandwagon by announcing his own investigation – even though Planned Parenthood Arizona does not have a tissue donation program.
The pattern of dishonesty and disingenuousness is painful to watch. In another example from just a few months earlier, Herrod backed SB1318, a law that requires doctors and the state’s own Health Department to lie to women about medication abortion by telling them it may be reversible. Although there is no recognized medical research to support the claim, the legislature passed SB1318 and Gov. Ducey signed it.
There is something fundamentally wrong with a movement whose leaders cannot make their point without employing deception.
The real onus is on Cathi Herrod and her Center for Arizona Policy to abandon dishonest, deceptive tactics and engage in an honest discussion that leaves the ultimate decision about abortion where it should be: in the hands of each woman as she determines how to chart her own path in life.
-Bryan Howard is the President of Planned Parenthood Arizona and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona