Exactly one year ago, the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released the first in a series of secretly recorded videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood sold fetal body parts after abortions.
The activists coordinated with Republicans in Congress before airing the videos in an effort to cause as much political damage to the family planning provider as possible. And while the heavily edited videos at first knocked Planned Parenthood on the defensive, a year later the organization is virtually untouched by the scandal. In fact, it appears to have emerged as the clear winner.
According to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, support for Planned Parenthood is higher now than it was in July 2015, when the first video was released. Forty-eight percent of respondents last month said they feel “very positive” or “somewhat positive” toward the organization, compared to 45 percent a year ago. The percentage of voters who feel somewhat or very negative about Planned Parenthood was basically flat, moving from 30 to 29 percent. The organization remains more popular than House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the National Rifle Association.
Planned Parenthood is also expanding its health centers, despite efforts by Republican politicians in 24 states to defund it. In the past year, the provider has opened new health centers in three states that are among the nation’s most hostile to reproductive rights: Louisiana, Mississippi and Kentucky. And 600,000 people have signed on as supporters and donors to Planned Parenthood since the attacks began, bringing the total to record 9 million supporters nationwide.
The fight was not always an easy one for Planned Parenthood, which has always insisted that it legally donates, but does not sell, fetal tissue for medical research after abortions. The House has voted eight times to defund the provider. The videos prompted Congress to establish a special committee to investigate the organization, and several Republican presidential candidates viciously attacked it during primary debates.
But so far, Congress’ investigation has turned up no evidence that the organization profited from fetal tissue donations, and 13 states that opened their own investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. Eight more states declined to even investigate the nonprofit, citing a lack of evidence.
David Daleiden, the activist behind the videos, stood by his accusations Thursday. “Planned Parenthood has claimed for one year that they made no money from baby body parts, but faced with an ever-growing body of evidence to the contrary, they have yet to produce anything other than press releases to back up their lies to the public,” he said in a statement.
But Daleiden lost his battle in January, when a grand jury in Texas that was supposed to be investigating Planned Parenthood cleared it of wrongdoing and indicted him instead. The scandal virtually melted away at that point, so much so that Hillary Clinton, a notoriously careful politician, chose to give her first speech as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
The women’s health provider celebrated its victories in a statement to The Huffington Post.
“We’re stronger today than we were a year ago,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the organization. “The extreme anti-abortion activists behind the videos are on a mission to ban abortion in this country ––they failed. Millions of patients still come to Planned Parenthood for essential reproductive health care and support for our organization has grown.”