Recently released documents showing Planned Parenthood provided University of Wisconsin fetal tissue for biomedical research have triggered new outcry from anti-abortion groups, who claim the nonprofit lied about those donations.
Documents obtained from UW Jan. 22 through an open records request by the conservative nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom confirmed UW received fetal tissue donations from Planned Parenthood in 2010.
Chelsea Shields, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life, said Planned Parenthood had covered up these donations. She said the group made several statements in the summer claiming they had never made tissue donations in Wisconsin.
But in the statements Shields referenced, all from the summer of 2015, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said at the time they did not currently donate fetal tissues — not that they had never done so.
One of those statements referenced a July 2015 quote from Nicole Safar, a lobbying director of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
“The organization does not make tissue donations from any abortions performed in Wisconsin,” Safar said in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.
UW Health spokesperson Lisa Brunette said prior to the release of the documents Friday, UW officials had already acknowledged multiple times researchers had used donated fetal tissue.
Two recently published UW studies used the fetal tissues that Planned Parenthood donated, Brunette said. One study published in May 2014 focused on brain development within the first two trimesters. The second study, published in July 2014, focused on fetal cardiac development.
“The allegation that the university is lying about it is flat-out wrong,” Brunette said.
With Planned Parenthood no longer providing tissues to UW, Brunette said the university now solely relies on five national tissue banks.
But Shields said the recently released UW documents were not condemning UW statements, rather they were proving that Planned Parenthood statements can’t be taken at face value.
“What we find to be very disingenuous was the fact that they tried to distance themselves from the fact that they did this,” Shields said.
Furthermore, Shields said the state should not allow the fetal tissue industry to exist in Wisconsin’s research field, because it creates an “unethical dependence” upon abortion-derived fetal tissue.
In a statement, Iris Riis, Wisconsin Planned Parenthood spokesperson, said the organization has been clear in saying they do not currently donate fetal tissue to UW.
Riis said Planned Parenthood’s focus is on delivering essential health care and they will not allow others to distort their services.
“If anything, this study underscores just how unnecessary a ban is and the important research at stake,” Riis said. “It is clear that nothing illegal or improper took place, no reimbursements were given and the study produced valuable, lifesaving information.”
This article was updated to reflect the intended meaning of Shields’ arguments surrounding research and fetal tissue.