We soon will find out whether Marco Rubio is a hypocrite. In the days to come, we'll observe whether the Florida senator and presidential candidate really is outraged that embryos or fetuses are not carried to term but "harvested" for profit or otherwise.
In an interview with a CBS affiliate in Iowa last weekend, Rubio claims Planned Parenthood clinics are "saying 'We're going to take the fetal tissue of aborted fetuses.' Because now what you've done is you've created an industry. You've created an incentive for people to be pushed into abortions so that those tissues can be harvested and sold for a profit." Asked whether it is a "stretch" that they are "pushing people into abortions," the Senator responded
If you go to one of these centers, young women are provided with very few options. In many places, they’re not told anything about, for example, adoption services that might be available to them. In essence, you come in and it’s already predetermined. This is what this place does. It provides abortions, and we are going to channel you in that direction.
I just think you’ve created an industry now — a situation where very much, you’ve created an incentive for people not just to look forward to having more abortions, but being able to sell that fetal tissue — these centers — for purposes of making a profit off it, as you’ve seen in some of these Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Rubio supports the GOP effort in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, even going so far as to call it "a human rights issue," which sort of cuts women out of the class of human beings (on another occasion, Fox News host putting words in his mouth, below). He is aghast that some of the organization's affiliates are "able to sell that fetal tissue- those centers- for purposes of making a profit off it."
They're not making a profit from it, as the absence of indictments indicates. Still, the myth that an appalling "industry" has been created to transfer fetal tissue is intriguing. Associate law professor Margo Kaplan writes
My husband and I used in vitro fertilization to conceive both our children. The process involved extracting my eggs, fertilizing them in a lab and implanting a healthy embryo inside me. Many patients — like my husband and me — produce more embryos (also called “pre-embryos” before they are implanted) than they can use. So clinics cryogenically freeze them until patients choose to use them in another IVF cycle, dispose of them, donate them to scientific research (which results in their destruction) or offer them to an infertile couple. After two years and careful thought, we chose to donate ours to research. We hope our choice will help doctors find cures for debilitating and fatal illnesses such as Huntington’s disease and ALS.
Like our fertility clinic, Planned Parenthood allows women to donate to medical research tissue from an embryo or fetus they will not carry to term. Like our clinic, Planned Parenthood receives no profit for this, only reimbursement for its costs (indeed, the full, unedited version of the video that sparked recent Republican outrage provides evidence that Planned Parenthood does not profit from giving women this choice).
Yet there are striking differences between my experience and that of a woman seeking an abortion. In Pennsylvania (where my fertility clinic is located), a woman seeking an abortion must receive state-directed counseling designed to discourage her from the procedure. She must then wait at least 24 hours until she can continue. In other states, women are forced to undergo unnecessary and invasive ultrasounds, watch or listen to a description of the ultrasound, and hear a lecture on how the embryo or fetus is a human life. Clinics in some states must provide them with medically inaccurate information on the risks of abortion. After all that, women often cannot have an abortion without waiting an additional one to three days, depending on the state.
In contrast, all my husband and I had to do was sign a form. Our competence to choose the outcome of our embryo was never questioned. There were no mandatory lectures on gestation, no requirement that I be explicitly told that personhood begins at conception or that I view a picture of a day-five embryo. There was no compulsory waiting period for me to reconsider my decision. In fact, no state imposes these restrictions — so common for abortion patients — on patients with frozen embryos. With rare exceptions, the government doesn’t interfere with an IVF patient’s choices except to resolve disagreements between couples.
Kaplan notes "both IVF and abortion involve the destruction of fertilized eggs that could potentially develop into people." "The disparity between how the law treats abortion patients and IVF patients," she recognizes, reveals "an ugly truth about abortion restrictions: that they are often less about protecting life than about controlling women's bodies." (It could additionally be the conservative notion that the more babies, the better.)
That applies to most Republican members of Congress. If Senator Marco Rubio and his colleagues go after fertility clinics with half the antagonism they have directed at Planned Parenthood, they will be seen as models of consistency and integrity. Don't hold your breath.