McConnell and Hatch Voted for Fetal Tissue Research
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pledged this week to fast-track a bill defunding Planned Parenthood. But the move to strip the organization of some $528 million in annual funding from the federal and state governments is more than a little ironic.
It was about Planned Parenthood, after all, that the then number two ranking Senate Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona acknowledged his 30-fold error that "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does" is related to abortion introduced the "not intended to be a factual statement" defense into the GOP lexicon. As Texas Governor Rick Perry learned the hard way in 2012, defunding the women's health care group would have tripled expenses for his state. (As the Guttmacher Institute explained, "every dollar spent on publicly funded family planning services saves $7.09 in public expenditures.) And Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for President, hadn't just previously been pro-choice and a donor to Planned Parenthood; his company Bain Capital profited from investments in a medical waste firm that, among other things, disposed of fetal tissue.
Oh, and one other thing. In 1993, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and current Planned Parenthood foes like Orrin Hatch (R-UT) voted for the bill which legalized the use of fetal tissue for medical research.
As Huffington Post reported:
In 1988, the Reagan administration began a moratorium on fetal tissue from elective abortions being used in scientific research. But Congress lifted that ban in 1993 when it passed the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act, which allowed research on human fetal tissue regardless of whether the tissue came from a voluntary abortion. McConnell voted for that bill, as did Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.), all of whom have condemned Planned Parenthood in the past two weeks for its involvement in the practice.
That bill, which passed the House by 283 to 131 and the Senate by a whopping 93 to 4, also included the backing of Orrin Hatch. But Hatch, among the first in the Senate to call for an investigation of Planned Parenthood in the wake of the doctored videos released by anti-abortion foes, has a good reason for supporting research using fetal tissue. That rare commodity among Congressional Republicans, Senator Orrin Hatch supports stem cell research.
That's right. As Hatch explained to Rachel Gotbaum in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 2007, the issue of stem cell research was a very personal one:
RACHEL GOTBAUM: You're a pro-life Republican.
ORRIN HATCH: That's right.
RG: Did something happen? Did a case come up? What was the turning point?
OH: Well, there was a case. I can't say that it was the only reason why my mind was changed, but there was a little Utah boy - he was 4 years of age - who was brought to me. His name was Cody Anderson. He was 4 years of age, and you can imagine the horror his family had when they found out that he had exactly the same virulent diabetic condition that his grandfather had, who died at the premature age of 47 due to complications of diabetes after a series of something like 27 painful and debilitating and ultimately unsuccessful operations. I can still remember that little exhausted boy falling peacefully asleep in his father's arms in my office as his family visited me in support of more funding for diabetes research. It dawned on me that we owe the best we can to these kids.
The next month, Hatch described the possible life-saving cures that could be made possible by stem cell research from the availability of by the donation of fetal tissue he helped legalize:
"When I think about embryonic stem cell research, I imagine diabetics without insulin pumps. I imagine patients with Parkinson's disease who sprint rather than shuffle. I conceive of patients with spinal cord disease or injuries who stand up and walk again."
Of course, that was then and this is now. And now, men like Orrin Hatch and Mitch McConnell won't stand up to the right-wing activists enraged by the legal and routine practice by Planned Parenthood and others of preserving and providing fetal tissue as requested by their patients. If the anti-abortion forces succeed in blocking the Title X and Medicaid funds that constitute 40 percent of Planned Parenthood's budget, millions of women will lose access to contraception, cancer screening and STD tests. As a result, both Uncle Sam's overall spending and the body count of American women will go up.