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Planned Parenthood attack part of political agenda

Planned Parenthood is the most trusted women's health care provider in this country. Approximately one in five women in the United States has relied on a Planned Parenthood health center for care in her lifetime. At Planned Parenthood, nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our patients. That is why we are fighting back and calling the latest attack on the organization what it is: part of a decade-long campaign of making false charges, deceiving the public and terrorizing women and their health care providers, all with the goal of cutting people off from access to critical health care services.

In Maryland, women and families have been coming through our doors since 1927 because they know that Planned Parenthood of Maryland provides the very best in reproductive health care to all who seek it. Our care providers, nurses, health care assistants, educators, volunteers and other staff work tirelessly to deliver high-quality, compassionate care. Each year, we provide health care services to 40,000 patients and reach 10,000 students with evidence-based reproductive health education. It is estimated that our health centers provide care that helps women avoid over 5,000 unintended pregnancies and prevent over 2,000 abortions every year. Still, access to safe and legal abortion as an option is a critical part of the health care we deliver. Women must have the right to their own health care decisions, made with complete information.

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A series of deceptively edited videos released over the past several weeks are consistent with a long standing pattern of outrageously false charges and fraud from an extremist group determined to defund Planned Parenthood and to restrict a woman's freedom to make the health choices that are best for her and her family. Nothing in these videos suggests any violation of law on the part of Planned Parenthood or any of its employees. Posing as a biomedical company, this group secretly recorded physicians for hours and then concocted false stories through selective editing. The full videos demonstrate that the suggestion that Planned Parenthood profits from women's decisions to donate fetal tissue is false. This group obtained footage through deceit and unlawful behavior, including possible violations of state recording laws, federal tax laws and falsified state identification.

The real agenda here is becoming clearer every day. These false claims are being used to advance a political agenda to defund Planned Parenthood. What would "defunding" mean? It could mean 1.5 million individuals who receive basic primary and preventive health care, cancer screening and contraception under Title X — the nation's family planning program — might slip through the cracks and go without essential care. Programs that rely on federal grants for cancer screening, teen pregnancy prevention, evidence-based education, and sexually transmitted infection and HIV testing might disappear. The approximately 1.5 million patients who visit Planned Parenthood with Medicaid could lose a vital source of health care.

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While we at Planned Parenthood of Maryland do not participate in tissue donation programs, those affiliates in the country that do facilitate tissue donation do so according to the highest ethical and medical standards, with full informed consent and according to the wishes of the patients, just like any other high-quality medical center. Fetal tissue donation has the potential to contribute to life-saving medical research on an array of diseases. Similar false accusations about fetal tissue have been put forth by opponents of abortion services for decades. These groups have been widely discredited and their claims fall apart on closer examination, just as they do in the case of these manipulated videos.

Women, men and youth don't come to Planned Parenthood to make a political statement, they come for health care. At Planned Parenthood, care is much more than the services we provide; it is our approach to care. We believe everyone deserves high-quality, affirming, compassionate, affordable health care, as well as complete education and information so they may make the health care choices that are right for them. Whether it's a student's first class on safer sex, a young woman's first visit to explore birth control options, a young man requesting HIV testing, or a woman coming in for a well-woman exam, Planned Parenthood provides person-centered expert care to our patients. We are grateful to those in the Maryland community who stand with us and stand with those who rely on us for care each year. We will continue to be here for our patients and their families and communities, no matter what.

Dr. Amina Chaudhry is the interim president & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland; she may be reached at events@ppm.care.

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