A deceptive video from a conservative group purports to show a Planned Parenthood official discussing prices for the illegal sale of fetal tissue from abortions. But the full, unedited footage and transcript released by the group undermines their sensationalist claims, showing at least three crucial edits that reveal the Planned Parenthood official was instead discussing the reimbursement cost for consensual, legal tissue donations.
Conservative Group Claims Planned Parenthood "Sells The Body Parts Of Aborted Fetuses"
Center For Medical Progress: Video Proves Planned Parenthood Is "Selling Aborted Baby Parts." In a July 14 video, The Center for Medical Progress claimed to have recorded Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Senior Director of Medical Services Dr. Deborah Nucatola discussing how the organization "sells the body parts of aborted fetuses." The nearly 9-minute video and an accompanying press release claimed that the organization was in violation of 42 U.S.C. 289g-2, a federal law regulating the use and sale of fetal tissue. According to the organization's press release:
New undercover footage shows Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, describing how Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted fetuses, and admitting she uses partial-birth abortions to supply intact body parts.
In the video, Nucatola is at a business lunch with actors posing as buyers from a human biologics company. As head of PPFA's Medical Services department, Nucatola has overseen medical practice at all Planned Parenthood locations since 2009. She also trains new Planned Parenthood abortion doctors and performs abortions herself at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles up to 24 weeks.
The sale or purchase of human fetal tissue is a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 (42 U.S.C. 289g-2). [The Center For Medical Progress, 7/14/15]
At Least 3 Major Edits To The Video Undermine The Deceptive Attack
Unedited Transcript: "Nobody Should Be 'Selling' Tissue. That's Just Not The Goal Here." The Center for Medical Progress also released a full transcript and longer version of the video with Dr. Nucatola -- featuring more than 150 minutes of additional footage -- which include crucial portions that were edited out. In one case, Nucatola says, "no affiliate should be doing anything that's not like, reasonable and customary. This is not- nobody should be 'selling' tissue. That's just not the goal here." From the Center for Medical Progress' transcript (emphasis added):
Buyer [ACTOR]: Ok. I'm just trying to brainstorm. Because, I think offering some people, not only, just offsetting their cost in other areas, seeing the potential for that, besides the potential, for the patient, I'm still going down that road, even though I know, I understand what you're saying. This cannot be seen as, "We're doing this for profit."
PP [NUCATOLA]: No. Nothing, no affiliate should be doing anything that's not like, reasonable and customary. This is not- nobody should be "selling" tissue. That's just not the goal here.
Buyer [ACTOR]: Right. And, I never see that as, I don't look at it that way, we're not selling tissue, we're selling the possibility of what the research can offer. [The Center for Medical Progress, 7/14/15]
Video Jumps Nearly 8 Minutes In The Middle Of The Conversation About Money. In the short version of the video, a confusing exchange takes place misleadingly implying that at one point, Dr. Nucatola discussed the cost of the tissue, but timestamps on the footage reveal nearly eight minutes of conversation was removed:
ACTOR: Okay, so, when you are, or the affiliate is determining what that monetary --
ACTOR: So that it doesn't raise any question of this is what it's about, this is the main -- what -- what price range would you --
NUCATOLA: You know, I'm -- I could throw a number out that's anywhere from $30 to $100 depending on the facility, and what's involved.
[TIMESTAMPS JUMP FROM 12:24:07 TO 12:32:06, REMOVING NEARLY 8 MINUTES]
ACTOR: The $30 to $100 price range, that's per specimen that we're talking about, right?
NUCATOLA: Per specimen, yes. [The Center for Medical Progress, 7/14/15]
But The Unedited Footage Reveals PPFA Official Was Discussing Reimbursement Costs For Legal Donation Process During Those Missing Minutes. The unedited video reveals the full context for Nucatola's cost comments. Right after the video jumps forward, Nucatola specifically references exact "shipping" and other associated costs which could legally be reimbursed, before discussing affiliates' general "bottom line" attempts to "break even":
ACTOR: Okay, so, when you are, or the affiliate is determining what that monetary --
ACTOR: So that it doesn't raise any question of this is what it's about, this is the main -- what - what price range would you --
NUCATOLA: You know, I'm -- I could throw a number out that's anywhere from $30 to $100 depending on the facility, and what's involved. It just has to do with space issues, are you sending someone there that's going to be doing everything, or is their staff going to be doing it? What exactly are they going to be doing? Is there shipping involved, is somebody coming to pick it up -- so, I think everybody just wants to -- 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? Or are you basically just doing something completely egregious, that you should be doing for free. So it just needs to be justifiable.
And, look, we have 67 affiliates. They all have different practice environments, very different staff, and so with that number --
ACTOR: Did you say 67?
ACTOR: Okay. And so of that number, how much would personality of the personnel in there, would play into it as far as how we're speaking to them --
NUCATOLA: 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. Really their bottom line is, they just, they want to break even. Every penny they save is just pennies they give to another patient. To provide a service the patient wouldn't get otherwise. [The Center for Medical Progress, 7/14/15]
PPFA Official Repeatedly Referred To "Tissue Donation," Not Sale, In Unedited Transcript. Dr. Nucatola repeatedly refers to "tissue donation" during the conversation. From the Center for Medical Progress' transcript (emphasis added):
NUCATOLA: Right now, when they are consenting to tissue donation, they're just consenting to what happens with the tissue after the procedure is done.
You could do a workshop on tissue donation and what it means. We want to do a little reception at the National Medical Conference or Forum or something.
I do think feedback is good too. Sure, anyone can come get the tissue donation and send it off. I think affiliates would like to know, we send specimens to research who are working on this and this. I think that kind of positive feedback in the end it will just be a better relationship, it just kind of adds a whole human touch. [The Center For Medical Progress, 7/14/15]
PPFA: "No Financial Benefit" From Legal Donations Of Tissue
Planned Parenthood Statement: Fetal Donations Were Done "Under The Highest Ethical And Legal Standards," And Provide Them "No Financial Benefit." In a July 17 statement, Eric Ferrero, Planned Parenthood's Vice President of Communications, explained that the organization's clinics "help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research" with "the highest ethical and legal standards." Ferrero noted that the organization received "no financial benefit" from the arrangement aside from reimbursement of "actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue" -- consistent with industry standards:
"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. 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.
"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. Similar false accusations have been put forth by opponents of abortion services for decades. These groups have been widely discredited and their claims fall apart on closer examination, just as they do in this case." [Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 7/14/15]
Donating Fetal Tissue Is Legal With Consent Of Donor
Federal Law Does Not Prohibit Donations Of Fetal Tissue With Consent. Federal law regarding the use of human fetal tissue does not prohibit the use of donated materials. [Title 42 U.S. Code § 289g-2, Accessed 7/14/15]
Health And Human Services Independent Review Board: Providers May Accept Payment "For Reasonable Expenses" With "Informed Consent." The set of standards outlined by the Health And Human Services Independent Review Board guidebook, the industry standard for medical research, explains that payment for fetal tissue may be obtained "for reasonable expenses occasioned by the actual retrieval, storage, preparation, and transportation of the tissues" (emphasis added):
Prohibiting Payments and Other Inducements
- Payments and other forms of remuneration and compensation associated with the procurement of fetal tissue should be prohibited, except payment for reasonable expenses occasioned by the actual retrieval, storage, preparation, and transportation of the tissues.
- Potential recipients of such tissues, as well as research and health care participants, should be properly informed about the source of the tissues in question.
- The decision and consent to abort must precede discussion of the possible use of the fetal tissue and any request for such consent that might be required for that use.
- Fetal tissue from induced abortions should not be used in medical research without the prior consent of the pregnant woman. Her decision to donate fetal remains is sufficient for the use of tissue, unless the father objects (except in cases of incest or rape).
- Consent should be obtained in compliance with state law and with the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. [Health and Human Services Institutional Review Board Guidebook, Accessed 7/14/15]
Activist Behind Video Worked For Organization Notorious For Deceptively Editing Videos
David Daleidan Is A Former Writer For Discredited Anti-Choice Organization Live Action. David Daleiden, the contact person regarding The Central For Medical Progress' video, is a former writer for discredited anti-choice organization Live Action News. The group has previously come under fire for deceptively editing undercover footage of abortion clinics in order to make false claims about Planned Parenthood. [Live Action News, accessed, 7/14/15; Media Matters for America, 2/4/11; Media Matters for America, 5/31/12]