The controversy surrounding the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s practice of collecting fetal tissue from abortions for medical research continues unabated, but the organization is getting a boost in its political fight from some doctors.

Three Boston-based physicians recently authored an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine supporting Planned Parenthood and calling the objections to the use of donated fetal tissue for research an excuse to attack the organization.

Dr. George P. Topulos of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Michael F. Greene of Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate editor at the journal, and Dr. Jeffrey M. Drazen, editor-in-chief of the journal, called Planned Parenthood’s contraception services possibly the “single greatest effort to prevent the unwanted pregnancies that result in abortion” (doi: 10.1056/NEJMe1510281.).

“We strongly support Planned Parenthood not only for its efforts to channel fetal tissue into important medical research but also for its other work as one of the country’s largest providers of health care for women, especially poor women,” the doctors wrote. “In 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, Planned Parenthood provided services to 2.7 million women, men, and young people during 4.6 million health center visits.”

Dr. Topulos reported that he serves as a volunteer member of the medical committees of both Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Despite the publication of a strong defense of Planned Parenthood in a prominent medical journal, the medical community may be as divided on this issue as Americans generally. Several of the comments on the Aug. 12 editorial came from physicians who blasted Planned Parenthood and the New England Journal of Medicine for publishing the editorial.

The Boston doctors aren’t the only ones taking a public stand in support of Planned Parenthood. In the run-up to a failed attempt in the Senate to strip federal funds from the organization, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and several other medical societies wrote to congressional leaders, urging them to maintain federal funding for women’s health care through Planned Parenthood.

“Every day, we see the harmful impact that unequal access to health care has on women and communities across the country, and we therefore strongly support policies that improve access to affordable, quality health care. Policies that would deny Planned Parenthood public health funds only serve to cut millions off from critical preventive care, and we strongly oppose any effort to do so,” the groups wrote.

Planned Parenthood still faces scrutiny in Congress. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has begun an investigation into the allegations raised by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress that Planned Parenthood is illegally profiting off the use of fetal tissue in medical research.

On Aug. 7, GOP committee leaders sent letters to Planned Parenthood and three companies that it says either supply or procure fetal tissue. The committee is seeking information on the companies’ practices for collecting fetal tissue, as well as their justification for the prices they charge to researchers and their procedures for ensuring proper informed consent.

mschneider@frontlinemedcom.com

On Twitter @maryellenny

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