Law & the Courts

The Truth about Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards on Capitol Hill, September 2015. (Reuters photo: Gary Cameron)
A House report details the organization’s unconscionable practices.

House speaker Paul Ryan announced yesterday that, as part of the Republican Congress’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the majority party will also aim to defund Planned Parenthood. This news has caused immediate backlash from pro-abortion activists and politicians, many of whom continue to assert that the organization does “so much more” than simply offer abortion services.

But this latest news about the defunding effort comes just one day after the House Select Panel on Infant Lives released its final report, revealing in damning detail the immense amount of illegal activity Planned Parenthood carried out in order to profit further from its abortion business and the remains of aborted children.

Congress created the House panel in the fall of 2015 after a series of undercover videos filmed by the Center for Medical Progress revealed footage of Planned Parenthood officials callously haggling over the prices of fetal tissue and discussing the practices used to obtain particular organs that would bring the most profit to the organization.

After a year and a half of investigation into the organization’s practices, the panel has unveiled extensive evidence showing that Planned Parenthood profited illegally from transferring the fetal tissue of aborted babies to other groups for research purposes, violating several federal and state laws in the process.

Despite the fact that Planned Parenthood and its political allies expended millions of dollars in a campaign to deny wrongdoing and portray the investigation as a political witch hunt, the panel has compiled 418 pages of compelling evidence that the group committed extensive wrongdoing.

Here are four of the most alarming pieces of evidence from the report:

First, Planned Parenthood affiliates illegally profited from the transfer of fetal tissue, as they repeatedly received compensation despite the fact that their clinicians never participated in harvesting or packaging the tissue in question. In practice, a tissue-procurement organization (TPO) such as StemExpress would partner with Planned Parenthood to obtain fetal tissue to then “donate” to researchers. (In reality, StemExpress, too, broke the law; it has been referred for criminal charges in multiple states for profiting from the sale of fetal tissue.)

StemExpress hired its own clinicians to work within Planned Parenthood centers, and these StemExpress employees conducted all of the work related to harvesting, preparing, and shipping the fetal tissue. However, internal StemExpress documents reveal that Planned Parenthood accepted compensation for costs its clinics supposedly incurred in the procurement of this tissue. Thus, it is evident that Planned Parenthood received monetary compensation for work it did not do; in other words, the group profited from fetal-tissue transfer, which is illegal. In fact, these TPOs explicitly marketed themselves to Planned Parenthood affiliates as potential partners that would increase the clinics’ bottom lines.

Today’s outcry over the renewed effort to defund Planned Parenthood is based on a lie.

Second, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers modified abortion procedures in order to procure intact fetuses and obtain higher profits from selling those fetal organs to researchers. Abortion procedures modified in this way greatly increase the chance of an infant’s being born alive, and it is unclear what happens to infants in these circumstances. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, when testifying before Congress last year, insisted that she had never heard of any such events occurring. However, Planned Parenthood clinic workers testified before the panel that such procedures do take place and that, scientifically speaking, they have a much higher likelihood of causing an infant to be born alive.

Third, the panel found that Planned Parenthood cooperated with TPOs such as StemExpress to infringe upon the privacy of vulnerable women, in violation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which guarantees women the right to both privacy and informed consent. In order to profit from the sale of particular fetal organs, Planned Parenthood disclosed details about specific patients and their pregnancies to TPO clinicians so that they could persuade certain women to have an abortion if their fetuses could be sold to researchers for a higher profit.

#related#Fourth, though the national Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) organization had a policy on the books requiring that affiliates comply with federal law on the transfer of fetal tissue (in other words, not accept financial compensation for tissue transfers), several affiliates failed to follow this policy and accepted “reimbursement” for costs not incurred. Once PPFA learned of these violations, the group canceled the policy instead of forcing compliance, and altered its oversight procedures in order to enable those violations to continue.

Today’s outcry over the renewed effort to defund Planned Parenthood is based on a lie: that Planned Parenthood is merely an innocuous non-profit that exists only to serve low-income women across America. Perhaps the group does some good. But any organization that commits such barbaric practices for years — and systemically lies to cover up its profiting from the remains of aborted children — does not deserve a cent of federal money. In fact, it deserves to be shut down.

– Alexandra DeSanctis is a National Review Institute William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism.

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