It's hard to imagine a tougher venue for Planned Parenthood — accused of illegally selling fetal tissue in controversial videos — than a grand jury convened in a deeply conservative Texas county with a Republican prosecutor.
But when these citizens scrutinized the facts and the manipulated videos, they came to this conclusion: There was no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. Then they took another surprising step and indicted two of the videomakers for tampering with government documents during filmmaking, a development further shredding the videos' credibility.
Numerous investigations in other states also have failed to find that Planned Parenthood engaged in illegal activity. This was a smear campaign, not a journalistic investigation. That reality should inform the simmering, ill-informed debate generated by these videos in Minnesota over policies and state laws governing medical research on fetal tissue and organs.
Research using tissue voluntarily donated by women who have abortions takes place in the University of Minnesota's world-class laboratories, just as it does at academic health centers around the globe. The research at the state's flagship university is poised to yield vital insights into the treatment of diabetes, spinal cord injuries, AIDS and Parkinson's disease, among others. The state's politicians should not interfere with this valuable work. Freshman Rep. Abigail Whelan, R-Anoka, and 21 other GOP legislators need to drop their harmful, high-profile effort to restrict medical research at the U.
In a Star Tribune commentary published Jan. 16, Whelan and colleagues said it is the "duty of the Legislature" to request that the university "prohibit all research" on aborted human fetal organs. Their reasoning: The publicly funded U should "remove itself" from controversy over this research. The commentary also accused the U of violating state laws on organ donation and tissue disposal — interpretations of statutes that were not supported by an outside legal expert an editorial writer consulted.
U officials have said that fetal tissue research is too important to halt and that its scientific work does not violate any Minnesota or federal laws. In response, Whelan said she will do "everything I can to address the issue, including offering legislation.''
Whelan repeatedly clarified in a statement that she's not advocating a prohibition on all research involving fetal tissue. Her efforts are focused on ending scientific inquiry at the U only on tissue donated after abortions. "It is important to make a distinction between aborted and miscarried fetal tissue,'' she said.
But what Whelan is advocating would effectively shut down fetal tissue research at the U. The amount of material obtained from miscarriages is very small, and even if developed appropriately, would not be enough for scientific inquiry.
How Whelan's initiative would aid the anti-abortion cause is unclear. Prohibiting this type of research would not reduce the number of abortions. Tissue donation is not why women have the procedure. Instead, if Whelan's effort succeeds it would put Big Government in the laboratories of the state's flagship academic health center and, more alarmingly, in the path of medical advances. That is not healthy public policy.