In the midst of a controversy surrounding the release of undercover videos that critic say appear to show officials from Planned Parenthood casually discussing the sale of fetal tissue, Oregon’s top Democrats remain united in support of the organization.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to talk about it.
The Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, has in recent weeks released a series of undercover videos that it says show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs and tissue harvested from aborted fetuses. Sale of such tissue for profit is prohibited by federal law, though researchers can reimburse providers for the cost of its collection and preservation. The videos also appear to show officials discussing alternative abortion techniques to provide more intact organs.
Planned Parenthood says the videos are highly edited and present exchanges out of context. It claims the organization and its employees have done nothing wrong and that the videos are meant to promote an anti-abortion political agenda.
A spokesperson for Gov. Kate Brown issued a terse, one-sentence statement in response to questions about the videos.
“No matter what happens in other states or at the federal level, Governor Brown is committed to Oregon providing comprehensive health services to all women, and Planned Parenthood has been a long-standing and effective partner in that effort,” the spokesperson said.
Brown’s office did not comment on whether the governor had seen any of the videos, or whether the allegations and the organization’s use of state funding warranted investigation.
Since 2008, Brown has received $20,000 in campaign contributions from EMILY’s list, a pro-choice group, and about $10,000 from EMILY’s List Federal Fund. Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon has given $3,500 to Brown. The president of Southern Oregon Planned Parenthood has personally donated $150.
Brown spoke at a Planned Parenthood “Day of Action” rally in April of this year and accepted the the Pro-Choice Champion award from them in 2012. Her first job, as a lobbyist for the Women’s Rights Coalition, was funded in part by Planned Parenthood.
Brown chose Jeanne Atkins as her replacement as secretary of state when she succeeded former Gov. John Kitzhaber. Atkins led the Women’s Rights Coalition when it hired Brown in 1991 and also worked as a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood.
Speaking through a spokesperson, Atkins said she had no “official reaction” as an office holder.
“My personal belief… is that ethical questions about medical care and medical research are best resolved among medical professionals… I hope Oregonians will listen thoroughly not just to the allegations but to the responses given,” Atkins said.
On social media, Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland) used the hashtag “#StandwithPP” to show her support for Planned Parenthood. Like Brown and Atkins, she declined to discuss the issue in detail.
“We know these to be politically-motivated attacks coming from a group with a questionable background,” spokesperson Molly Woon said. “We know Planned Parenthood to be a trusted health care provider.”
Abortion opponents were less retrained.
Oregon Representative Bill Post (R-Keizer) ran on a pro-life platform in 2014. Post said if he could, he would defund Planned Parenthood tomorrow.
“In political terms, when the founding fathers said, ‘Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,’ it’s pretty hard to have the last two without the first,” he said. “When a woman goes in for an abortion, I doubt she was thinking that the baby was going to be torn to pieces and sold off.”
Post plans to introduce a bill to stop all taxpayer-funded abortions in Oregon, which are performed by a number of service providers, during the legislature’s 2016 short session.
Data from the Oregon Health Authority list 105,441 abortions performed in Oregon over the last 10 years. In fiscal year 2013-14, around 43 percent of all abortions performed in state were taxpayer funded, Post said.