‘The money is not important. But it has to be big enough that it makes it worthwhile for me. . . . It’s been years since I’ve talked about compensation, so let me just figure out what others are getting and if this is in the ballpark, that’s fine. If it’s still low, we can bump it up. I want a Lamborghini.”
“So then you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”
“She gave me the scissors and told me that I had to cut down the middle of the face. I can’t even describe like what that feels like.”
These quotes are from the undercover videos filmed by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) during conversations with top Planned Parenthood directors and doctors, employees, and former employees.
But despite these chilling statements — and dozens of others just like them evidencing illegal fetal-tissue trafficking — Planned Parenthood and its supporters on the left continue to trot out tired excuses to argue that none of these things ever happened. This follows a disturbing trend in modern politics, in which the subjects of scandal (such as President Obama, many times over) simply deny the truth and, all too often, get away with it.
This tactic was on display yet again this week when a senior political reporter for the Huffington Post said the Republican-party platform falsely accused Planned Parenthood of selling baby parts. Another article by the same reporter lauds the organization’s “victory lap” one year later, saying investigations have “turned up no evidence that the organization profited from fetal tissue donations.”
And just last Sunday, ABC host George Stephanopoulos asserted to Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus that “there was never any proof of selling fetal parts.”
Since the release of the videos last July, the group and its defenders have made several central claims in order to discredit the Center for Medical Progress and deny the video footage. Here are their top three lies, and the best reasons not to believe them.
One: The Center for Medical Progress videos were “heavily [and] deceptively edited.”
This claim has been Planned Parenthood’s most common line of defense, and statements like this one have often been made by journalists and other media figures to provide cover for the organization.
But in fact, both of the studies commissioned to determine whether or not the videos were doctored found that no pertinent or relevant edits had been made to the footage.
The first study was commissioned by Planned Parenthood and performed by Democratic opposition-research firm Fusion GPS, which examined only the four full-length CMP videos available on YouTube. Despite Planned Parenthood’s claims that the study proves the videos to be “heavily edited” to “distort and misrepresent,” the Fusion report actually states that the audio was not tampered with and that “analysis did not reveal widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation.” (The Fusion study was described by National Review here.)
The second study, commissioned by Alliance Defending Freedom, was performed by Coalfire Systems, Inc., a group that conducts forensic analysis for Fortune 500 companies. Unlike Fusion, Coalfire examined the full source raw footage but, like Fusion, the group found that all edits were “non-pertinent” and consisted of “commuting, waiting, adjusting recording equipment, meals, and restroom breaks.” This conclusion was supported by time-stamped screenshots and a detailed report.
Despite Planned Parenthood’s frantic assertions of foul play on the part of the CMP, as well as attacks on the character of those involved in the project, these two studies agree on the most important point: Nothing of consequence was altered in any of the videos.
Especially with these two studies in mind, one has to wonder why the videos aren’t taken as convincing proof of wrongdoing. Consider an analogous situation. Earlier this month, Daily Show host Trevor Noah responded to the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile with the following question: “But after I watched the video, I realized that there was a problem because seeing is believing and yet, for some strange reason, when it comes to videos of police shootings, seeing isn’t believing. Why is the video never enough?”
Why aren’t the CMP videos enough?
Two: Planned Parenthood never profited from the sale of fetal tissue, but rather was merely reimbursed for “procurement costs.”
This argument began to circulate immediately after CMP released the first video: “Nowhere does anyone from Planned Parenthood discuss ‘selling’ fetal tissue,” the organization’s website asserts.
This claim was exposed as false by a number of quotes from the CMP videos themselves, quotes that definitely were uttered by Planned Parenthood workers and not edited into the footage. For example, in one video, the following exchange takes place:
Buyer: So that would be, you know, if we were doing like $50 to $75 per specimen, that’d be like $200 to $300 [total], and we’d be comfortable with that. But stuff like this, we don’t want to be like just a flat fee of like $200, and then, it’s like —
PPRM [Dr. Savita Ginde of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains]: No, and the, I think a per-item thing works a little better, just because we can see how much we can get out of it.
Or take the statements made by Dr. Deborah Nucatola in the first of the videos:
I think every provider has had patients who want to donate their tissue, and they absolutely want to accommodate them. They just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as, ‘This clinic is selling tissue, this clinic is making money off of this.’ I know in the Planned Parenthood world they’re very very sensitive to that. And before an affiliate is gonna do that, they need to, obviously, they’re not — some might do it for free — but they want to come to a number that doesn’t look like they’re making money. . . . It’s really just about if anyone were ever to ask them, well what do you do for this $60, how can you justify that? . . . I mean really, the guidance is, this is not something you should be making an exorbitant amount of money on.
Later in the same video, Nucatola says to the potential buyer:
You could call them up and say, ‘I’ll pay you double the money,’ and they’re almost more inclined to say no, because it’s going to look bad. . . . I think for affiliates, at the end of the day, they’re a non-profit, they just don’t want to — they want to break even. And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that.
This sounds an awful lot like the definition of “selling,” regardless of whether or not the actual word “selling” was used.
This claim also has been proven false by Planned Parenthood’s own documentation — or lack thereof — as uncovered by the House select panel’s investigation into the group. Despite the fact that it has been over a year since the first video was released, Planned Parenthood has yet to produce a single document denoting the procurement costs for which they were supposedly reimbursed.
The recent House interim report provided extensive evidence that procurement technicians hired by StemExpress were embedded in the abortion clinics with the specific mandate to carry out all aspects of obtaining, packaging, and delivering the requested organs. Investigators found that such technicians were specifically trained to manage the entire organ-procurement process by themselves.
With this in mind — at least in cases where Planned Parenthood worked with tissue-procurement organizations (TPOs) such as StemExpress rather than directly supplying biotech companies with fetal parts — there is no evidence of cost to the organization. Unless and until Planned Parenthood proves its clinics incurred costs associated with providing fetal tissue, it is reasonable to believe that the money they received from StemExpress and other TPOs is pure profit.
Based on this information, it is plausible that Planned Parenthood, StemExpress, and other groups have failed to produce the documents requested by Congress explicitly because those documents would reveal the extensive financial profit gained by trafficking in fetal tissue.
As reported by Live Action News, several Planned Parenthood employees indicated in the videos that they wanted to downplay, and perhaps even hide, the transfer of fetal tissue. If the organization was merely donating tissue with no financial profit, as they claimed, these statements would not make sense:
“We are absent a policy and that’s relatively intentional, and the policy that we do have suggests that you just really think about what you’re doing, vet your procurement service, and, um, if there’s any way you can do it mission-based, that’s probably better. And that if you do decide that you want to engage in remuneration, that you really need to like, think that through. And think, ‘New York Times headline,’ when you’re creating your policy.”
– Deb VanDerhei, National Director, PPFA
“Obviously, we would have the potential for a huge PR issue, by doing this.”
– Dr. Carolyn Westhoff, Senior Medical Advisor, PPFA
“This could destroy your company and us, if we don’t time those conversations correctly.”
– Dr. Vanessa Cullins, Vice President for External Medical Affairs, PPFA
In addition, an April hearing of the House panel produced evidence that the procurement industry specifically markets itself to abortion clinics as a “financial benefit” and “financially profitable.”
Not only is it clear that Planned Parenthood received compensation for work it did not do, but StemExpress itself stated that the $55 given to Planned Parenthood for each of the “products of conception” (POCs) was directly tied to the outcome of each abortion procedure. If the body parts did not come out of the abortion in high enough quality, Planned Parenthood would not receive the $55. Thus it appears that the money in question was tied to the transfer of intact, fetal tissue, not to the cost of carrying out the procedure.
In fact, the contract between StemExpress and Planned Parenthood Mar Monte — the largest and wealthiest affiliate of the organization — says nothing about supposed “reimbursement,” but rather states that “Planned Parenthood Mar Monte will invoice [StemExpress] monthly for the number of POCs . . . procured by Stem-Ex. Stem-Ex will pay Planned Parenthood Mar Monte within two weeks of receipt of the invoice.”
In addition, in the first CMP video, Nucatola [“PP”] specifically states that there are no guidelines on pricing fetal parts:
Buyer: Yea[h], speaking of which you don’t have, by chance, on you [a] copy of PPFA tissue-procurement guidelines or anything like that.
PP: There are no guidelines.
Buyer: Not written.
PP: They’re guidelines on research, but there are no guidelines on tissue procurement. . . . And there will never be guidelines. . . . There’s no guidelines, if something qualifies as research, and an affiliate wants to participate in a particular research study, there are guidelines of how that happens. If they’re gonna participate in something like this, you know there are mechanisms by which contracts can be reviewed and things like that, but there are no guidelines. This is something that the national office is not involved in. For the first few years that it happened, it was treated as research, and then we realized that this was kind of overkill because we didn’t have a particular IRB [institutional review board] approved study, it just didn’t fit into our framework. So we just kind of backed off of it.
Buyer: I guess, even in terms of compensation and stuff like that?
PP: Nothing is written. There’s nothing in stone.
Last fall, Planned Parenthood announced that it would no longer accept reimbursement for procuring and donating fetal tissue, a move the group claimed would eliminate the basis for any campaign against them. The press release also asserted, however, that accepting such reimbursement is “fully legal, appropriate, and common.” But if they’re perfectly legal reimbursements, why stop accepting them?
Three: Babies are never born alive and then killed for their organs.
In her testimony before the House select panel, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards claimed she had never heard of an instance in which a baby was born alive after an attempted abortion.
This statement is openly contradicted by the seventh CMP video, which contains testimony from Holly O’Donnell, a former StemExpress procurement technician hired to dissect babies and obtain their organs in Planned Parenthood Mar Monte’s Alameda clinic in San Jose. On film, O’Donnell relates the following story, which began when her co-worker called her over to see something:
“I want you to see something kinda cool. This is kinda neat.” [Co-worker says.] So I’m over here, and . . . the moment I see it, I’m just flabbergasted. This is the most gestated fetus and the closest thing to a baby I’ve seen. And she is, like, “Okay, I want to show you something.” So she has one of her instruments, and she just taps the heart, and it starts beating. And I’m sitting here, and I’m looking at this fetus, and its heart is beating, and I don’t know what to think. . . . She’s, like, “Do you know why that’s happening?” And I knew why that was happening. It’s because the electrical current — the nodes were still firing. And I don’t know if that constitutes . . . it’s technically dead, or it’s alive?
According to federal law, a child expelled from the mother that still has a beating heart is considered alive, and under California law, children born alive in the course of an abortion are entitled to the same medical treatment as any infant of similar medical status born spontaneously. This child was alive. O’Donnell continues:
It had a face. It wasn’t completely torn up. Its nose was very pronounced. It had eyelids. And its mouth was pronounced. And then since the fetus was so intact, she said, “Okay, this is a really good fetus, and it looks like we can procure a lot from it. We’re going to procure a brain. So . . . the moment I hear it . . . that means we’re going to have to cut its head open. We’re going to have to cut its head open. So, it’s, like, “Okay, so what you do is you go through the face.” I’m thinking, No I don’t want to do this. And she takes the scissors, and she makes a small incision right here [showing under her chin] and goes — I would say — to a little bit through the mouth. She’s, like, “Okay, can you go the rest of the way?” And I’m, like, [sighs] “Yes.” And I didn’t want to do this. And so she gave me the scissors and told me that I have to cut down the middle of the face. And I can’t even describe like what that feels like.
This particular video featuring O’Donnell was released nearly a full year ago, but neither Planned Parenthood nor StemExpress has been able to discredit her testimony. And there exists extensive evidence, as reported by Life News and a Pulitzer Prize–finalist series on live-birth abortions, that this case was neither the first nor the last.
In addition, the House select panel’s investigation into the fetal-trafficking industry revealed instances in which whole baby cadavers of a viable age were transferred from abortion clinics to researchers. From the report:
According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2003 and 2014, 588 reported infant deaths included a code indicating that a cause of death was “termination of pregnancy, affecting fetus and newborn.” At least 143 of these deaths could definitively be classified as involving an induced abortion; however, the CDC acknowledges that this could be an underestimate.
These three flimsy claims, which amount to the vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s self-defense in the wake of the CMP videos, are in reality completely demolished by the facts.