GOP Sen. Darling Opposes Fetal Tissue Bill, Has ties to Planned Parenthood

Credit: Watchdog.org from AP file
Credit: Watchdog.org from AP file

Despite numerous videos showing Planned Parenthood officials scheming to sell fetal body parts for use in scientific research, a leading Republican state senator in Wisconsin is opposing a bill that would ban the use of aborted fetal tissue in scientific research in the state. Sen. Alberta Darling, a Milwaukee-area Republican, has in recent years supported pro-life policy measures, but this latest legislation may be a bridge to far for the former Planned Parenthood board member.

According to WKOW television in Madison, Darling is skeptical of a plan backed by numerous legislative Republicans, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, that would force scientific and medical research in the state to not use tissue that comes from aborted fetuses. At an Assembly hearing on the legislation on Tuesday, the dean of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health told legislators that if women stopped having abortions, the subsequent reduction in fetal tissue available for experimentation would hurt the University’s research.

“We don’t want to cut off research and a lot of the research that we do in Wisconsin is leading the nation in terms of finding solutions to diseases that affect all of our citizens all over the country,” Darling told WKOW. The long-time lawmaker indicated she’s completely fine with researchers using fetal tissue from abortions as long as the research is done in a way that is, “acceptable and has an ethical boundary.”

Media Trackers was the first to report on the University of Wisconsin’s use of fetal tissue from a California-based supplier with ties to Planned Parenthood. Late Tuesday, the University confirmed the Media Trackers report.

Before being elected to the state Assembly in 1990, Darling was a member of Planned Parenthood’s board of directors. In the middle of a tough recall election in 2011, Darling, now a state senator, claimed she left Planned Parenthood before being elected to the legislature. However, Planned Parenthood disputed that claim, supposedly releasing documents to Patch.com that proved Darling served on the board until 1995, well into her career in state government.

Darling’s biographical entry in the current edition of the Wisconsin Blue Book, a definitive guide to state government, omits any reference to her work at Planned Parenthood. But prior editions of the Blue Book do mention Darling serving on the board of Planned Parenthood. The 1991, 1993, and 1995 editions all mention it (page 36 of the linked PDF files), and according to Planned Parenthood, Darling left the board sometime in 1995.

Since her departure from Planned Parenthood, Darling has supported some key pro-life initiatives, including a 2011 effort backed by Gov. Scott Walker (R) and other pro-life Republicans to cutoff the flow Title V public money to Planned Parenthood.

Darling’s effort to cut funds from Planned Parenthood stung the organization, with Nicole Safar, policy director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, complaining to The CapTimes in 2012 that Darling was abandoning them. “Sen. Alberta Darling, who was co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, 15 years ago was on our board of directors,” Safar pointed out. “She served on our board for almost 10 years. So at some point, these issues were important to her. She actually wrote the motion in the state budget to defund us. And we couldn’t get a meeting with her either.”

Whether or not Darling eventually comes around and supports the legislation banning experiments on fetal body parts obtained in abortions remains to be seen.

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