Reproductive Rights

Manufactured Indignation: Lankford, Inhofe Lead Attack On Planned Parenthood

Image of James Lankford

It appears members of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation are a major part of the current orchestrated attack on Planned Parenthood.

Right now, the obvious question seems to be whether U.S. Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe knew beforehand about the so-called “sting” videos produced by an anti-abortion group that show Planned Parenthood officials speaking about fetal tissue used in stem cell research.

In other words, have they and other Republican political leaders been in on the video sting, or manufactured scam, from the beginning and are just now feigning surprise and indignation? What did they know and when did they know it? Don’t expect corporate media outlets here to do any digging to answer that question.

Lankford has helped to author a Senate bill to supposedly defund Planned Parenthood. Inhofe has presented a bill that would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the organization. For good measure, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine wants to pass legislation prohibiting any companies that donate to Planned Parenthood to receive federal contracts. (Wouldn’t that be a violation of the First Amendment?)

All of this is because these Republican politicians and others are against abortion, which is only a small fraction of the procedures Planned Parenthood actually performs in its clinics. In fact, Planned Parenthood performs ZERO abortions in Oklahoma. That’s right. None.

So let’s be clear: Planned Parenthood provides vital reproductive and health care primarily to women in our communities throughout the nation. These services include providing birth control and conducting screenings for breast and cervical cancer. The abortion procedure accounts for only 3 percent of its overall work.

This non-controversy centers around videos secretly recorded by a group called Center for Medical Progress, a shadowy anti-abortion group. They show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue used in important stem cell research. For the record, Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization. It does not profit from selling fetal tissue. It only recovers minor costs for preserving and transporting medical specimens.

The videos, according to Planned Parenthood and other officials, have been selectively edited to sensationalize the issue. The point of the videos is to create visceral reactions and give politicians like Lankford and Inhofe cover to attack Planned Parenthood. Embryonic and fetal stem cell research has been going on for years. The videos reveal nothing new.

It’s true that a majority of Lankford’s and Inhofe’s constituents are undoubtedly opposed to abortion, but, again, Planned Parenthood performs no abortions in Oklahoma. Their efforts, if successful, would not change the availability of the abortion procedure here in Oklahoma. Eliminating Planned Parenthood’s ability to collect Medicaid dollars for its services will not end abortion in this country nor will it mean the overall demise of the organization. It will only make it more difficult for women to receive vital reproductive health care.

Lankford, Inhofe and Bridenstine are directly attacking women in their legislation. Their legislative efforts are utterly sexist at their core and especially cruel to impoverished women. The so-called Republican “war on women” is more than just sloganeering. These patriarchal extremists and their fellow chauvinists are using the non-controversy for personal political gain and to promote their religious beliefs.

In the end, it’s highly unlikely any of this legislation will get signed into law. It’s certain at this point that President Barack Obama would veto any bill based on secretly recorded videos representing the work of fanatics and impostors. Obama has expressed his strong support for Planned Parenthood in the past.

It’s certain as well that this manufactured controversy, fueled now by overwrought and sanctimonious indignation, will backfire on Republicans in the 2016 general election.

Inhofe So Disgusted

Image of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe

It’s no surprise that U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe has joined in the attack on Planned Parenthood after secretly-recorded videos were released by what the health organization’s president calls “militant anti-abortion activists.”

Those videos, produced by a group calling itself Center for Medical Progress, reveal no new information but only sensationalize the use of fetal tissue obtained after abortions for life-saving and breakthrough stem cell research. The videos show doctors discussing the process of obtaining the tissue.

Inhofe, along with other senators, has called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assist in investigating the matter, but the problem is there’s nothing to investigate. Embryonic and fetal tissue has been used in medical research for years. Inhofe and his fellow senators can, of course, try to shut down this type of medical research or try to ban abortion altogether but the “gotcha” videos reveal nothing new and are tremendously unethical.

In an overly dramatic statement about the issue, Inhofe said:

I am disgusted that Planned Parenthood chapters are selling fetal body parts for profit. The casual discussion of abortion, dismemberment and sale of babies in these videos is alarming and shows a true lack of moral conviction. Our nation should not be condoning the act of killing our own children or allowing these corrupt organizations to sell body parts for profit. This isn’t about being Pro-Life or Pro-Choice anymore, this is about our country’s moral conscience, and I will not stand for such horrid actions like this taking place on American soil.

First, Planned Parenthood officials have been adamant that they don’t sell fetal tissue for profit. They merely recover costs for preserving and transporting medical specimens. Second, the videos have come under much criticism for selective editing and slicing to support a political agenda. These are biased political videos not fact-supported journalism. The fact they were secretly recorded by an organization with a political agenda makes them obviously unethical and irrelevant.

In his overblown statement, Inhofe proclaims, “I will not stand for such horrid actions like this taking place on American soil.” This is incredibly bombastic. Why didn’t he make this same statement years ago? Again, the videos DO NOT reveal any new information. They simply sensationalize what’s been happening on “American soil” for years.

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, according to media reports, said the videos are part of an orchestrated attack on the organization. She fired back at the critics this way:

They're using these very highly edited videos, sensationalized videos, to try to impugn and smear the name of Planned Parenthood. These activists, these militant anti-abortion activists . . . do nothing to improve the health and safety of women. And if they had their way, women could no longer come to Planned Parenthood for birth control services, for breast cancer screenings, for cervical cancer screenings or any other health care.

Inhofe and some of his fellow senators, such as James Lankford, have obviously used the political stunt to try to rile up their voter base, but what does it even matter in conservative Oklahoma? Why fuel the anger when it’s not even necessary.

Planned Parenthood does incredible work in our communities, and this latest flap will eventually subside. But what’s telling is how unethical the anti-abortion movement has become. The secretly-recorded and selectively-edited videos only reveal the fanaticism of some zealots in the anti-abortion movement. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood remains crucially vital to women’s reproductive health in this country.

Unstated Intent

Image of state Capitol building and church

Despite what some of its supporters claim, Oklahoma’s latest disingenuous anti-abortion law is about doing away with the procedure, not about ensuring the safety of women.

The anti-abortion ideologues here have obviously believed through the years that it’s okay to use deception and rhetorical subterfuge in their legislative strategy because of the supposed religious sanctity of their cause, but one has to question the moral validity of a movement that dare not speak its name.

Gov. Mary Fallin recently signed into law Senate Bill 1848, which basically requires that abortion-clinic physicians must have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their facility. The bill actually states that one of the reasons for the new requirement is if “hospitalization of . . . a child born alive is necessary.”

State Rep. Randy Grau, an Edmond Republican and one of the sponsors of the bill, claims the bill is about the safety of women who have abortions, according to a media report. Let’s be clear that those who voted for the bill probably could care less about anyone seeking an abortion in the first place. This is about shutting down abortion clinics.

Even if we were to grant Grau a position of sincerity, here’s the simple logic that undercuts his logic: If an emergency situation arose during an abortion, an event that is extremely rare, the patient would be admitted to the closest hospital anyway by one of the hospital’s physicians.

The Oklahoma Medical Association opposed the bill, but on a limited basis, arguing “. . . we oppose legislation or regulations that would implement a standard of care or override a physician’s medical judgment.” That’s fine, but what about the rights of women who choose to have a legal and safe abortion? Shutting down abortion clinics directly affects the health of women here.

Tamya Cox, an attorney with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said two abortion facilities, one each in Oklahoma City and Norman, could be forced to close under the new requirements, according to an article in the Tulsa World. Another abortion facility in Tulsa is in compliance with the new bill, she said.

Cox said it can be difficult for doctors who perform abortions to get hospital admitting privileges because of the potential for negative publicity. Some hospitals also have religious affiliations that might compel them to refuse admitting privileges to physicians who regularly perform abortions.

The bill is part of the latest legislative strategy by the anti-abortion movement, which has already passed similar bills in four states, including Texas.

All these bills primarily impact low-income women who might not be able to afford to travel when seeking an abortion. This could lead to non-medically supervised abortions, which would, indeed, threaten women’s health and safety. Consequently, the bill could very well result in just the opposite of its stated intent.

Let’s hope the bill is challenged on constitutional grounds and is quickly discarded by the courts as another legislative error.

It’s easy for people to check out of the abortion debate because it’s so endless, but it really does impact all women. If religious fundamentalists are allowed to deny women basic rights to their own bodies through idealizing and sanctifying reproductive sexuality, then what else is next? Will they stop at abortion, at birth control? What other oppressive social controls will they deploy to prohibit women from making decisions about their own health, their own bodies?

Syndicate content