Above: Anti-abortion supporters gathered Tuesday on the south steps of the Texas Capitol for the #WomenBetrayed rally.
Buoyed by the release of undercover Planned Parenthood videos, a few dozen anti-abortion activists gathered Tuesday at the Texas Capitol called on Texas lawmakers to defund Planned Parenthood.
Dubbed the #WomenBetrayed rally, supporters cheered as Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, read statements from Texas officials, including Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who have called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood. The rally preceded a Senate Health and Human Services Committee meeting on Wednesday, which Republican lawmakers called to investigate the fetal donation practices of the group’s Texas abortion facilities.
“We want to know what’s going on,” Pojman told the Observer. “If Planned Parenthood is breaking the law, I think people of the state of Texas need to know. If they are not breaking the law in any of their five, very large abortion facilities, then people need to know that too.”
It is legal for women to donate fetal tissue for medical research and abortion facilities may charge a fee to cover their overhead. The heavily edited videos, released by The Center for Medical Progress, a group that Planned Parenthood has labeled “extremist,” purport to show illegal activity, something Planned Parenthood says is preposterous.
But zealous anti-abortion legislators see the videos as proof of a great evil.
“This is no different than what happened in Nazi Germany, no different than during the experiments,” said Representative Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, the author of House Bill 2, the sweeping anti-abortion law that has shuttered more than half the abortion clinics in Texas.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America has defended its fetal-tissues program as legal and part of an effort to find cures for diseases. The videos, the group has said, amount to crude propaganda.
“A well funded group established for the purpose of damaging Planned Parenthood’s mission and services has promoted a heavily edited, secretly recorded videotape that falsely portrays Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research,” said Eric Ferrero, a Planned Parenthood spokesman, in a statement.
At the rally, anti-abortion leaders sought to put the videos in the larger context of the so-called pro-life movement.
“Abortion is a very grave harm, it is a harm in society, we don’t think it should be going on, especially with all the alternatives available to abortion in the state of Texas,” Pojman told the Observer. “But [the videos], I think add further insult to those innocent unborn children.”
Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director in Bryan who is now an anti-abortion activist, acknowledged that donating fetal tissue is legal, but called it a “loophole in the law.”
“They are getting profit from it,” she said. “I’ve seen that first-hand and that’s something that really needs to be exposed and needs to be understood and needs to be addressed in our current law.”
In an effort to defund Planned Parenthood, state leaders have dismantled Texas’ reproductive health care safety net over the last decade. This fall, the provider reopened a clinic in a mostly rural, Republican part of the state.