Governor Abbott’s “LIFE” Initiative is Outrageous—and Pointless

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On Friday, Governor Greg Abbott unveiled his latest attack on Planned Parenthood called the “LIFE” initiative in response to a series of heavily edited videos that strongly imply that Planned Parenthood and its affiliates are profiting from the sale of fetal tissue.

Through this “LIFE” initiative, Abbott wants to:

  • Eliminate all taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood
  • Further expand the availability of adoption services so people can better understand their “options”
  • Make it illegal for abortion doctors to alter procedures to preserve fetal body parts
  • Criminalize any exchange of fetal tissue “for any purpose whatsoever”

Here are my top two reasons why Governor Abbott’s “LIFE” initiative is outrageous:

Reason 1: There is simply no proof that Planned Parenthood has sold fetal tissue for profit.

Don’t take my word for it?

How about Cecile Richards’? The President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America took to the internet to respond to these heavily edited videos:

“The allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true. Our donation programs – like any other high-quality health care providers – follow all laws and ethical guidelines. Over our 100-year history, we have continually engaged leading medical experts to shape our practices, policies, and high standards – and always will.”

Still not sold? Look at PolitiFact’s take: this Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking website has a great rundown of what we do and don’t know about these videos:

“Part of the video shows Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, telling undercover activists that tissues can be obtained for fees in the $30 to $100 range … But the 1993 law also makes allowances for “reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.”

The fees Nucatola discusses in the video likely fall under that definition, experts told PolitiFact.”

And if you’re still not sold, here’s this: none of the Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas currently collect fetal tissue for medical research purposes. Therefore, Governor Abbott’s “LIFE” initiative seeks to solve a non-existent problem. It’s a tremendous waste of energy that could be put to use solving real challenges that face everyday Texans, like fixing our state’s inequitably funded public school system, or finding a Texas solution to Medicaid expansion. Instead, Governor Abbott wants to keep playing political football with women’s health care.

Reason 2: Governor Abbott is not a medical professional

Which is why, on Sunday, PolitiFact rated Governor Abbott “Mostly False” on the following statement:

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 8.17.12 AM

The Tweet reads, “After Texas defunded Planned Parenthood, both the Unintended Pregnancy & Abortion Rates Dropped. #txlege #Stand4Life.” The Tweet has since been deleted.

Per PolitiFact:

Abortions were already declining before the described defunding while data directly gauging unintended pregnancy rates since the defunding don’t yet exist.

So, half this claim draws on cherry-picked statistics, the other half lacks factual backup and the full statement implies causation, which is unproved. We rate this declaration Mostly False.


This kind of misinformation and outright lies are incredibly dangerous, especially when they’re coming from the verified Twitter account of the Governor of Texas.

On top of his willful ignorance about how we can decrease abortion rates and unintended pregnancies, our Governor wants to criminalize the exchange of fetal tissue “for any purpose whatsoever.” But studying fetal tissue has been extremely valuable in medical research since the 1930s, and has helped us create vaccines for chickenpox, rubella and polio. In recent years, fetal tissue has advanced treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s.

So, even if the Planned Parenthood Affiliates in Texas wanted to participate in this program, which has been historically proven to help scientists save lives, Governor Abbott wouldn’t allow them to … because scoring political points is more important to him.

One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime. And it’s important to note that not only women have abortions: transgender men and gender nonconforming people need access to abortion care, too. You probably know at least one person who has had an abortion or has gone to a Planned Parenthood for health care.

And with each attack on this organization, fewer people are able to get the care that they need. Governor Abbott’s “LIFE” initiative is just one more blow to an organization that has undergone a huge number of cuts in the past two legislative sessions alone. Earlier this year, legislators passed a budget that removes Planned Parenthood from the state’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program, meaning thousands of low-income Texans will lose access to life-saving screenings.

Governor Abbott is just taking the typical “business as usual” approach to defunding Planned Parenthood, and it’s getting old. Wouldn’t it be radical if he proposed an initiative that increased funding for sex education and removed ineffective abstinence-only programs from our kids’ schools? Or if he sought to find a way to increase access to affordable birth control?

But it’ll never happen, because Republicans are all about choice—choice to carry a gun, to choose where your kids go to school or to choose to discriminate against LGBT people—until it comes to a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body. Then, all bets are off.


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