This week, an anti-abortion group claimed it had video of a top Planned Parenthood staffer talking about selling fetal tissue. Predictably, the pro-life contingent freaked out — Fox News' panicked headline read, "SHOCK VIDEO: Planned Parenthood sells dead baby body parts" — adding fuel to the already raging anti-abortion fire. The video was quickly revealed to have been heavily edited — and by a group with a history of such distortions — in a way that warps the reproductive healthcare organization's involvement in tissue-donation programs. But this video, and others like it, are more than just a single shot in the culture war, they're actively silencing women by creating a climate of shame around talking about abortion. On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood released a strong statement in response to the video and the anti-abortion group that edited and released it. "These outrageous claims are flat-out untrue, but that doesn't matter to politicians with a longstanding political agenda to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood,” it said. “Women and families who make the decision to donate fetal tissue for lifesaving scientific research should be honored, not attacked and demeaned.” If women are afraid that conversations about legal, safe, scientifically supported medical procedures and practices are being recorded, it's likely to reinforce the stigma and shame that still surrounds abortion in so many communities. “As a reproductive-health advocate, I've been aware that the anti-choice community stands at the ready to twist words or take them out of context, if it serves their own agenda,” Jenni Dye, a former executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, told us in an email. “In fact, moments like this are why so many people who have privately shared their stories with me are afraid to speak up publicly about reproductive health. They don't want their personal stories twisted by extremists.”
What we need is to listen to and honor what different women need after an abortion.
Aspen Baker, Exhale
Some people have shared their experiences, and the movement to create more space for those stories just happens to be having its own moment in the spotlight. Aspen Baker cofounded Exhale, a group that focuses on supporting women and men post-abortion, to create what she calls a “pro-voice” approach, where people who have had abortions can talk without feeling judged. "Women should have a say in what happens to the remains of their fetus after an abortion," Baker told us. "Sometimes a woman wants her doctor to just take care of it, sometimes she wants to be able to donate parts to help...babies, and sometimes she may want to take the remains home so she can say goodbye. What we need is to listen to and honor what different women need after an abortion." When Planned Parenthood first responded to the video, a spokesperson pointed out that this is not the first time someone has claimed the group is involved in illegal human-tissue sales. As Jezebel reported, it’s an accusation that has been thrown around at least three times in recent years. The fact that a claim has no basis in reality hasn’t stopped anti-choice activists from promoting it; there are dozens of abortion laws based on questionable science and discredited studies. State legislatures have enacted 51 abortion restrictions this year, and a total of 282 have become law since 2010. And with activists already using this new video to argue for more states to defund Planned Parenthood — something Republicans in Congress already want to do — there could be scary consequences for women, who already face huge hurdles to reproductive care.