Editorial: Don't buy the Planned Parenthood smear

Like many of you, I was initially repulsed by the Planned Parenthood videos. A casual discussion of using fetal tissue for medical research is not a lunchtime conversation most of us would have, and the initial impression painted a big, fat target on the organization's back.

That, of course, was the intent of the videos, made by an anti-abortion group.

But it's all hogwash.

When Congress reconvenes, this issue will be forced upon us again, with indignant lawmakers demanding that Planned Parenthood be defunded, and maybe its employees drawn and quartered for good measure.

Don't be fooled. Like many of the fake scandals that grip the Beltway, this one is full of hype, hyperbole and hypocrisy.

Hype: The videos don't show what they pretend to show. The actors who baited Planned Parenthood staff wanted some statement that the organization could profit from providing fetal tissue for research. Staffers showed again and again that they wouldn't do that, and with good reason: Doing so is a crime. If critics have the evidence, show it. If not, let it go.

Hyperbole: There's always plenty of this when Planned Parenthood is discussed. Remember Sen. Jon "not intended to be a factual statement" Kyl, who said 90 percent of Planned Parenthood's operations were abortions? (Actual number: 3 percent. Most of the services provided were for contraception, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screenings.)

Then there was the claim that the organization "lost" $1.3 billion in funding over six years. Not true, according to the Government Accountability Office and PolitiFact, which rated the claim "Pants On Fire."

In this case, commentators and cartoonists have painted Planned Parenthood as a seedy organization that sells baby parts on the black market. It's a seductive concept, but it just ain't true. With patient consent, fetal tissue is donated for medical research, as it has been for decades. Like not having polio or rubella? The vaccines were developed from this research. There's also work going on to treat Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.

For women choosing to end a pregnancy - and it's her body, so it's her decision - the fact that some good can come from that choice is comforting.

We should also remember this: By law, federal funds cannot be used to provide abortion services. If that's happening, hold the organization accountable. If not, let it go.

Hypocrisy: For starters, GOP presidential candidate and neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has called for defunding Planned Parenthood, has actually conducted fetal tissue research.

There are also six Republican senators who are shocked - shocked! - to learn that this research is happening, even though they voted to allow it in 1993: Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Richard Shelby, Daniel Coats, Thad Cochran and Chuck Grassley.

Gentlemen, you disgrace yourselves.

The prediction is that this issue will be front and center when Congress resumes business. Let's save ourselves the headache and tell our lawmakers to leave well enough alone; after all, there are many, many other topics to address.

Planned Parenthood provides needed services, and yes, sometimes those include ending a pregnancy.

That's a wrenching decision for all involved, but it should be self-evident that a woman's choice belongs to her - not the government.