Planned Parenthood Calls for Blue Ribbon Panel on Fetal Tissue Research

Last review was during the Reagan administration in 1988 when fetal tissue donation was affirmed

Cecile Richards in Letter to NIH: Planned Parenthood is under attack for supposedly violating the 1993 law on fetal tissue research, when in fact we go above and beyond its requirements

Washington, DC — In a letter sent today to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins from Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the organization suggested the need to review research that has involved the use of fetal tissue and practices in the field.

Planned Parenthood provides preventive health care services to 2.7 million women, men and young people each year, following the highest medical and ethical standards. An attack by an organization obsessed with banning abortion and blocking women's access to care has thrown Planned Parenthood's limited participation in facilitating the donation of tissue into the spotlight. Although Planned Parenthood cares for patients across the country, health centers in fewer than five states facilitate donation. Nevertheless, despite the fact that this attack has shown no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, the organization has become the public focal point of the issue.

In 2014, the NIH funded approximately 150 projects involving the use of fetal tissue for research at some of the leading institutions and teaching hospitals across the country — such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, New York University, Brigham & Women’s Hospital/Massachusetts General Hospital, University of Washington, University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University. Fetal tissue research has contributed to a number of groundbreaking health innovations, such as the polio and rubella vaccines. It has been responsible for saving countless lives across the globe, and is currently being used for pioneering research on treatments for a wide variety of diseases and better understanding and prevention of maternal and fetal health conditions.

However, the last time such a review occurred was in 1988 during the Reagan administration, when a panel chaired by Arlin Adams found “a decisive majority [...] found that it was acceptable public policy to support transplant research with fetal tissue.”  Indeed, the recommendations of the panel achieved widespread, bipartisan support in congress in 1993, when current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton voted in favor of legislation legalizing that research. Planned Parenthood notes in the letter that 27 years after the panel, there is widespread confusion about fetal tissue research and that government officials, medical researchers, health care providers, and the public could benefit from a review of the research and the procedures surrounding it by an independent expert panel.

“At Planned Parenthood, we welcome reasoned debate aimed at ensuring the highest quality care and standards for the patients we serve, however what is happening on the Hill ─ Congressional committees or defunding ─ has nothing to do with improving health care or quality,” Cecile Richards says.

In the letter, she writes:

“This has led to an unusual situation. Planned Parenthood is currently under attack for violating the 1993 law on fetal tissue research, when in fact we go above and beyond its requirements.  As a result of a few doctored videos, Planned Parenthood is seemingly on trial for not complying with a law that does not apply to us, ignoring that our standards voluntarily adopt the substance and spirit of that law… While Planned Parenthood has been targeted to make our organization stand in for the field of fetal tissue research, in fact our role is limited.  Planned Parenthood affiliates operate in all 50 states, but at this time affiliates in fewer than five states help women donate tissue.”

For a copy of the letter, contact the Planned Parenthood media office at 212-261-4433 or [email protected]