Last week, a group of forensic video researchers strongly suggested that the videos shot at a variety of Planned Parenthood facilities by a group called the Center for Medical Progress were "substantially manipulated." A video filmed at a Houston clinic that's served as the fuel for a storm of conservative vitriol against the women's health provider was perhaps the most edited, the researchers said. Discrete segments of the video were stitched together in order to make them appear seamless — and to make Planned Parenthood personnel appear as if they were admitting to federal crimes, namely the altering of abortion procedures in order to preserve tissue for donation to fetal tissue research programs and the subsequent donation of that tissue.
The state has started both criminal and civil investigations, and held a state Senate committee hearing at which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton suggested that the real problem was the continued existence of legal abortion in the state. Paxton, Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have adopted the phrase "baby parts" and added it to the likes of "traditional marriage" and "religious freedom" on their greatest hits collections.
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Late Friday afternoon, Abbott tossed out more catnip to his rabidly anti-choice following. The governor rolled out what he's calling the LIFE Initiative. t's a four-point plan that would stop two things that are already illegal, criminalize something that hasn't happened in the state in five years and somehow stop funding for Planned Parenthood — which has already be excluded from receiving any state funds in 2011 and, as of September 1, will not be eligible to receive any money that it previously would have under the joint state-federal Breast and Cervical Cancer Services.
"Gruesome — and potentially illegal — harvesting of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood cannot be allowed in Texas. Treating unborn children as commodities to be sold is an abomination. The barbaric practice of harvesting and selling baby body parts must end," Abbott said in announcing the initiative.
Included in the LIFE initiative is a plan to make partial-birth abortion a felony. "Partial-birth abortion" is a term of art coined by the anti-abortion movement to refer to a late-term abortion procedure known medically as dilation and extraction. It was made illegal across the United States in 2003. Abbott would also make changing abortion procedures to preserve fetal tissue illegal, which is confusing, because it is already illegal. It's among the reasons Planned Parenthood is under criminal investigation. Fetal tissue donation itself would also be banned if Abbott gets his way. No Planned Parenthood in Texas has participated in fetal tissue research since 2010, despite its tremendous medical value.
Abbott's LIFE announcement comes after a legislative session during which he vetoed bills that would make it easier to save the lives of overdosed drug addicts and mentally ill people who are a danger to themselves.