Scott Walker speech (copy) (copy)

Gov. Scott Walker, seen here delivering his inaugural address in January at the State Capitol, has signed some of the most aggressive anti-abortion measures in the nation into law while in office.


The release of a video showing a Planned Parenthood official discussing the distribution of fetal tissue to researchers fits right into Gov. Scott Walker's recent emphasis on abortion on the campaign trail.

"This is obviously a disturbing, disgusting act that they’re talking about," the Republican presidential hopeful told Fox News' Megyn Kelly on Thursday. "We’ve outlawed that in Wisconsin in the past. We need to be defunding Planned Parenthood, not only state by state, but I think, across the country.”

The timing of the video's release by an anti-abortion group also helps Walker, who on Thursday said he wanted to focus on economic priorities rather than social issues avoid doing just that. Given Wisconsin's economic standing, some see Walker's economic record as a weak spot.

After a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Thursday he told the Boston Herald, “It’s another example, with this latest video, of just how outrageous and disgusting some of the things they are involved with were.” 

And it's also good timing in that on Friday, Walker began a three-day swing through Iowa, where he's been appealing to social conservatives. 

The video is another blow to the embattled women's reproductive healthcare provider, with a nearly universal call among the bevy of GOP presidential candidates calling for defunding the organization.

In Wisconsin where, as Walker has been repeating often, "We defunded Planned Parenthood," state Rep. Jesse Kramer has called for an investigation into the state Planned Parenthood chapter for possible violations of state and federal law.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, another White House contender, has even suggested that he'll stall the federal highway bill in an effort to "defeat and defund Planned Parenthood."

Republican governors in Georgia and Indiana and the Ohio attorney general have ordered investigations of Planned Parenthood facilities. And GOP officials in other states are likely to follow suit.

Committees in the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives also have launched investigations.

In a statement Thursday, the national head of Planned Parenthood denied allegation that the group profits from the sale of fetal tissue.

"I want to be really clear: The allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true," Cecile Richards said in a statement Wednesday.

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But she apologized for the manner in which Deborah Nucatola, the group's head of medical services, discussed abortion procedures.

“Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide. In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion,” said Richards. “This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.”

Missing from the fray is the reason fetal tissue is in demand.

This NBC story provides some explanation. 

Unlike adult stem cells, fetal stem cells "have the power to morph into any type of cell in the body — blood, brain, bone or organ."

Since they're not fully developed, they don't cause life-threatening immune responses. They're currently being tested to treat Parkinson's disease, and also to restore nerve connection for people with crushed spinal cords.

"Just this week a team at the University of California San Francisco published a study showing that 95 percent of women who had abortions did not regret it," according to the NBC story. "Planned Parenthood said if a woman has decided to have an abortion, then donating the tissue otherwise bound for an incinerator at least helps medical science."

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.