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The mission of Planned Parenthood was brought under fire after now-debunked videos allegedly showed the organization selling fetal tissue.

Late last year, the pro-life group The Center for Medical Progress released videos that were later found to be heavily edited, showing representatives from a fake biotechnology company talking with Planned Parenthood officials about acquiring fetal tissue, according to Politico.

Planned Parenthood and the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued an investigation, but found no evidence of wrongdoing.

CMP founder David Daleiden said in a statement on the organization’s website that “Planned Parenthood’s desperate, 11th-hour attempt to pay their hand-picked ‘experts’ to distract from the crimes documented on video is a complete failure.”

In January, a Texas grand jury indicted Daleiden with felony charges of tampering with government documents and with a misdemeanor charge of purchasing human organs.

The jury found that Planned Parenthood had done nothing wrong.

Here in Central Florida, UCF students and alumni are working to inform the public and change their opinion about Planned Parenthood in the wake of this media storm.

VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood at UCF is an organization with a mission to educate students about the importance of reproductive rights and health.

“Our goal is to provide students with the information and resources they need to make healthy decisions about their bodies,” said VOX president Tayler Gautier.

She said the recent attacks on the organization are a distortion of the facts.

“The recent smear campaign against Planned Parenthood is a very artfully constructed misrepresentation of what Planned Parenthood actually does,” she said, adding that the organization also offers STI testing, birth control, family planning, prenatal care and cancer screenings.

Anna Eskamani, Planned Parenthood’s Southwest and Central Florida director of public policy and field operations and a UCF alumna, agreed with Gautier, calling the videos attacks on the organization.

“Attacks against Planned Parenthood are politically motivated and most recently they have been rooted in a thoroughly debunked smear campaign launched by two individuals who have now been indicted in the state of Texas,” Eskamani said.

Daniel Dupuy, a senior English major who was president of Students for Life at UCF last semester, said that he doesn’t believe organizations such as Planned Parenthood “should fight for rights that harm or otherwise marginalize other people.”

He said there is a myth surrounding activists against abortions that paints them as opponents of women’s healthcare in general.

“I’m all for affordable healthcare services to all women, be it check-ups with OB-GYNS, mammograms, cancer screening, STD testing … there’s this notion that pro-lifers are out to take away women’s healthcare, but this is not the case,” Dupuy said.

He added that he thinks Planned Parenthood is encouraging young people to have sex, and is therefore adding to the number of women seeking abortions.

But for Planned Parenthood’s supporters, the organization isn’t enhancing the number of abortions; it is giving women the autonomy they need to handle the issue.

“To me, Planned Parenthood stands for autonomy. The services that they provide allow people to take control of their bodies and thus their destinies,” Gautier said. “No one should be able to force people to have or not have children and, in my opinion, this is at the core of Planned Parenthood's philosophy.”

Eskamani agreed.

“Planned Parenthood granted me the ability to control my life and choose my destiny — to have full autonomy over my life and personal medical decisions,” she said. “That’s the value that we embrace and that’s the value I want others to know. Planned Parenthood providers care, no matter what.”

This story was originally published on February 3, 2016. 

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Deanna Ferrante is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter @deannaferrante or email her at DeannaF@centralfloridafuture.com.

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