A U.S. women's reproductive health group, bowing to protests from anti-abortion activists, said Tuesday that it would no longer accept any payments from companies that use aborted fetal tissue for scientific research aimed at curing diseases.
Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions and provides health services for 2.7 million women in the U.S., has long said it did not sell the tissue for profit, but accepted payments to cover its expenses. The group now says it also will not accept the expense money, even though U.S. law permits such reimbursement.
Planned Parenthood has long been the focus of opponents of legalized abortion in the United States, especially in recent months after an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress released clandestinely filmed conversations with Planned Parenthood medical staffers as they discussed fetal tissue transactions with the research companies.
The anti-abortion group accused Planned Parenthood of selling baby parts for profit, a contention Planned Parenthood adamantly rejected. Only about a half dozen of Planned Parenthood's 700 U.S. health centers participate in the fetal tissue program.
Anti-abortion lawmakers in Congress have launched investigations into Planned Parenthood's operations. However, they were unsuccessful last month in their attempt to eliminate $521 million in federal funding that mostly covers cancer screenings, contraception and other nonabortion activities. They plan to try again when a temporary spending plan for the government expires in mid-December.
Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, told the government that the group's "policies on fetal tissue donation already exceed the legal requirements. Now we're going even further in order to take away any basis for attacking Planned Parenthood to advance an anti-abortion political agenda."
Anti-abortion activist David Deleiden, who conducted the filming of the Planned Parenthood officials, called the changed policy "an admission of guilt."
But one Planned Parenthood critic in Congress, Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, described it as "a good, tangible result" of the congressional investigations of the group.