Planned Parenthood says a video of one of its executives bragging about selling fetal organs was heavily edited and that they haven’t broken any laws. It appears they might be right.
“A well-funded group established for the purpose of damaging Planned Parenthood’s mission and services has promoted a heavily-edited, secretly recorded videotape that falsely portrays Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research,” said Eric Ferrero, vice cresident of communications for Planned Parenthood of America, in a statement.
Alongside this “heavily-edited” video, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) also released a full two-and-a-half hour video. A team led by David Daleiden shot the video, posing as representatives of a start-up biotech firm in the business of buying fetal body parts for medical research.
CMP is a nonprofit group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances. The Human Capital project by CMP is a 30-month-long investigative journalism study documenting how Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted babies.
Planned Parenthood Responds
Despite CMP’s video, Planned Parenthood states it has not broken any laws: “In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases,” Ferrero continues. “Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different. At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does—with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards. There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood. In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.”
Here is CMP’s response to Planned Parenthood’s denials of wrongdoing:
Planned Parenthood makes two key admissions in their statement today: 1) aborted fetal parts are harvested at their clinics, and 2) money is exchanged in connection with this. They also tell several lies: 1) That proper consent is obtained from patients, 2) That Planned Parenthood does not make money off the body parts, and 3) that everything is legal.
The Center for Medical Progress has obtained an advertisement to Planned Parenthood clinics (http://www.centerformedicalprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/StemExpress-flyer.pdf) from StemExpress, LLC, one of the major purchasers of Planned Parenthood’s aborted fetal tissue. This flyer advertises 4 different times the financial benefit that Planned Parenthood clinics can receive from supplying fetal tissue, with the words: ‘Financially Profitable,’ ‘Financial Profits,’ ‘financial benefit to your clinic,’ ‘fiscal growth of your own clinic.’ The advertisement carries an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Medical Director Dr. Dorothy Furgerson.
None of this is standard across the mainstream medical field, but it is standard across Planned Parenthood’s insular and unaccountable abortion field.
Selling Baby Body Parts: Totally Legal
Despite CMP’s findings, if organs are not harvested “for the purpose of transplantation,” then what Planned Parenthood has done is legal. As reported by Joe Carter for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:
In light of the discussion, the video mentions two federal laws related to organ selling. Unfortunately, neither of these laws appear to be applicable to this issue or to the discussions in the video.
42 U.S. Code 274e prohibits the purchase of human organs, including any organs derived from a fetus, for the purposes of human transplantation. Because the fetal tissue is likely to be used for research purposes rather than be transplanted into a living human, this law most likely does not apply.
42 U.S. Code 289g covers the prohibitions regarding human fetal tissue and states that, ‘It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.’
In each of these laws, the term ‘valuable consideration’ does not include ‘reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.’
In the video the representative from Planned Parenthood (PP) makes it clear that the clinics ‘do not want to be perceived as, “This clinic is selling tissue, this clinic is making money off of this.’” Provided that the price set by the clinics is considered ‘reasonable payment’ for the services listed above, the PP affiliates are likely not violating any federal laws.
This law (42 U.S. Code 289g) prevents the solicitation of fetal tissue for transplantation and the ‘solicitation or acceptance of tissue from fetuses gestated for research purposes.’ What this means is that a buyer cannot solicit fetal tissue for transplantation or use tissue from a fetus that is known to have been created solely for the purpose of aborting the baby and extracting its tissue and/or organs.
But this seems to cover only human tissue that was acquired when the pregnancy was ‘deliberately initiated to provide such tissue.’ Tissue donated after an abortion for research purposes appears to be completely legal under federal law.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton lifted a moratorium on federal funding of research involving transplantation of fetal tissue from induced abortions. This policy has not changed. Because of this policy, tissue from aborted fetuses may be used for therapeutic purposes as long women donated the material following their decision to have an abortion.
Inducements to Perform Illegal Abortion Procedures
The video also raised questions about whether the clinics are using an illegal partial-birth abortion to protect organs. According to federal law, Carter reports, “The term ‘partial-birth abortion’ means an abortion in which the person performing the abortion—(A) deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus until, in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother, for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus”
Carter explains that because “the PP representative says that ultrasound is used so that the abortionist is ‘cognizant about where you put your graspers’ it is unclear on whether she is describing a partial birth abortion or a procedure that is taking place entirely inside the womb. The way she has framed the statement, however, provides her with sufficient plausible deniability. I believe it would be a mistake to place too much weight on such an ambiguous statement.”
What does this mean? Carter says it means that “this despicable practice of selling the body parts of aborted children is likely to be legal and an accepted, if not common practice. The video should serve as a disturbing wake-up call for the pro-life community.”
This Isn’t the First Time
However, this isn’t the first time the pro-life community has had this wake-up call. Back in 2000, ABC News did a three-month “20/20” hidden-camera investigation of a businessman whose company issued a price list charging for baby parts that went beyond the regular transport costs of donated fetal tissue. In the “20/20” investigation, Chris Wallace had an exclusive interview with a whistleblower who said the companies encouraged him to take fetal tissue obtained from women who had not consented to donate their fetuses to medical research.
Planned Parenthood’s president at the time, Gloria Feldt, condemned the practice: “It seems inappropriate. Totally inappropriate. Where there is wrongdoing, it should be prosecuted. People who are doing that kind of thing should be brought to justice.”
However, as National Right to Life reported at the time, Planned Parenthood supported the harvesting of baby parts for research and had at least one clinic that helped supply aborted babies to firms featured in Wallace’s “20/20” report.
After an investigation, it was found that the man who sold fetal body parts from the Kansas abortion clinic did not violate any federal laws. Miles Jones, the owner of Opening Lines, an Illinois company, had a price list that advertised costs for various body parts such, such as $999 for the brain of a fetal child at 22 to 23 weeks old. Jones told “20/20” in 2000 that he was able to make $50,000 a week from the sale of fetal body parts. Despite this fact, it was determined that Jones didn’t violate any laws.
At that, pro-life activists renewed calls to outlaw the sale of fetal body parts. Planned Parenthood, which wasn’t targeted in the investigation, insisted that it didn’t actually sell any baby parts, because the NIH Revitalization Act Congress passed in 1993 made this illegal. The act, however, allows for “reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.” According to National Right to Life, Planned Parenthood used this language as a way of collecting money. It seems they are continuing to use the same loophole.
What can be done? Follow Carter’s advice and call for Congress to investigate and defund Planned Parenthood. But, more than that, our legislators need to ban the sale of fetal tissue once and for all.