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Alexandrea Boguhn

Author ››› Alexandrea Boguhn
  • Scientists Tell Mother Jones That "Bogus" Attacks On Planned Parenthood Undermine "Life-Saving Research"

    "People with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, And Other Afflictions Will Pay A Price" For Conservatives' Relentless Campaign Against The "Life-Saving Research" Provided By Fetal Tissue Donation

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Mother Jones highlighted scientists explaining that "the vilification" of Planned Parenthood in the aftermath of the "bogus" deceptively-edited videos smearing the reproductive health care provider may have serious ramifications on the "life-saving research" that fetal tissue donations enable.

    Since July, the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has released at least ten deceptively-edited videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood personnel were illegally selling fetal tissue for profit. Although multiple state and federal investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing, in the time since the videos were released multiple clinics across the country have been the targets of "terroristic" arson attacks on which cable news shows and leading newspapers around the country have remained largely silent.

    In an October 26 article Mother Jones reported that conservatives' relentless campaign to discredit Planned Parenthood using "bogus" allegations and "an anti-abortion group's deceptively edited videos" has "begun to undermine potentially life-saving research on diseases including diabetes, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's." Highlighting scientists explaining the ramifications the baseless attacks have had on their work, the article noted that labs that once "distributed 1,109 tissue samples to more than 60 researchers" in the last year now have "only five specimens in total." Gail Robertson, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison told the publication that the setbacks in research that have resulted from CMP's videos are "anti-progress ... we're in a fight for the future of cures to the diseases that will affect us all":

    Since July, an anti-abortion group's deceptively edited videos targeting Planned Parenthood for allegedly profiting off sales of fetal tissue appear to have prompted at least four arson attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics. And even though the allegations were bogus, the vilification of the women's health organization has done additional damage: Violent threats and a political chill in the wake of the videos have begun to undermine potentially life-saving research on diseases including diabetes, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. Fetal-tissue donation programs essential to such research have been shut down, supplies of the tissue to labs have dwindled, and legislation is brewing in multiple states that could hinder cutting-edge scientific studies.

    "It's anti-progress," says Gail Robertson, a veteran researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who uses cell lines derived from fetal tissue to study heart disease, including sudden cardiac death, the largest cause of natural death in the United States. "We're in a fight for the future of cures to the diseases that will affect us all."

    Since the 1990s, Robertson and her colleagues have developed pharmaceutical technology using cells from embryonic tissue known as the HEK line--research credited with saving lives from fatal heart disease. "If lawmakers were to say, 'You can't use HEK cells because they come from fetal tissue,' it would be impossible to continue my work in my lab," Robertson says. "It's something we use every single day."

    According to Theresa Naluai-Cecchini, a scientist at Birth Defects Research Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, the political controversy has hurt the work at her lab, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health and also supplies other scientific researchers with fetal tissue. "We are in the last year of funding, and if we are unable to supply tissue to the research community we would have to close," she says. "We may be able to obtain an extension, but the climate in DC does not look favorable in an election cycle."

    Naluai-Cecchini told the Seattle Times that over the past year her lab has distributed 1,109 tissue samples to more than 60 researchers elsewhere who are working on solutions for spinal cord injuries, eye disease, cancer, and HIV. That supply line relies on about two to three samples per day coming into Birth Defects Research Lab, which has long been the lab's norm. But over the past month, Naluai-Cecchini told Mother Jones, only five specimens in total have come in. If that trend continues, she says, "promising research would stop until a commercial alternative is found. The cost of research would increase dramatically, and new findings would take considerably longer."

  • Watch The Today Show Demonstrate How Media Should Talk About Consent And Campus Sexual Assault

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    NBC's Today Show demonstrated the importance of talking about consent and campus sexual assault by providing crucial context explaining the epidemic levels with which the crime occurs on campuses and noting that consent is an "important conversation" to help address it. 

    On October 1 California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a mandate requiring high schools in the state offer "courses to provide lessons in the prevention of sexual violence," as the Los Angeles Times reported. The new law was preceded by previous legislation in the state requiring "college campuses to improve policies to prevent sexual assault" and  "couples [to] affirmatively consent before engaging in sex."

    The October 16 edition of NBC's The Today Show highlighted the importance of addressing sexual violence in schools.Co-host Erica Hill explained how affirmative consent policies are working in California. The segment highlighted a teacher who has already implemented such policies in their classroom and found that "Kids understand. Kids actually want to engage in healthy relationships," and pointed to experts that note affirmative consent works in practice for young people. Hill provided crucial context for why such measures are needed, pointing out that "as many as one in five women is sexually assaulted or raped in college," and anchor Savannah Guthrie agreed that consent is "an important conversation":

    In contrast with Today's handling of the issue, media often dismiss the severity of campus sexual assault and cast blame on the victims rather than the perpetrators. Conservative media have spent years attempting to cast doubt on statistics finding that one in five women experience sexual assault while at college -- even as studies continue to reaffirm that undergraduate women experience high rates of sexual violence.

  • Fox News Ignores Investigations Finding No Wrongdoing By Planned Parenthood To Prop Up False Claims That The Organization Has Admitted Guilt


    Fox News is parroting anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress' (CMP) claim that Planned Parenthood's decision to stop accepting reimbursement for fetal tissue donations is an "admission of guilt," ignoring that state and federal investigations have already cleared the organization of wrongdoing.

  • New Study Further Undermines Conservative Media's Relentless Campaign To Discredit Prevalence Of Campus Sexual Assault

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Campus sexual assault

    A study conducted by the Association of American Universities (AAU) found that more than one in four undergraduate women have experienced sexual violence, further undermining conservative media's continuous efforts to deny the widespread problem of campus sexual assault.

    The September 21 AAU report found that "more than one-fourth of undergraduate women," or 27.2 percent of respondents from 27 colleges and universities participating in their research "said they had been sexually assaulted by force or when they were incapacitated," according to the New York Times. The Times noted that the study, which was "one of the largest" of its kind ever conducted and included responses from over 150,000 students, "bolstered findings from previous studies" which also uncovered high rates of sexual violence on campuses across the United States.

    Despite mounting evidence of the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and misconduct on college campuses, conservative media have continued to wage a relentless campaign to cast doubt on the seriousness of the crime. After Hillary Clinton released her proposal to address the "epidemic" of campus sexual assaults, right-wing media figures lashed out at statistics indicating the severity of the issue, claiming that the numbers are "not true," "debunked," and "totally bogus statistics" made up "under pressure from the radical, man-hating feminists" in the Obama administration. 

    Even as study after study similarly find high rates of sexual violence occurring on college campuses, conservative media continue to dismiss the findings going as far as to liken efforts to address the problem as "mass hysteria" akin to the Salem witch trials or claiming it is just a "war" on men.

    And their efforts to dismiss the reality of campus sexual assault contribute to a cultural environment where victims of sexual violence don't feel comfortable reporting the crime. According to the AAU's new study, on campus "even the most serious incidents" of sexual violence on campus often go unreported as survivors "do not consider it 'serious enough'" and "a significant percentage of students say they did not report because they were '...embarrassed, ashamed or that it would be too emotionally difficult."

  • "Shut It Down": The Government Shutdown Conservative Media Built


    Conservative media have paved the way for a government shutdown by championing Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and uncritically hyping deceptively-edited smear videos by the Center for Medical Progress -- even though state and federal investigations continue to find no wrongdoing by the health provider.