UPDATE: (15 July 2015 – 9:48AM) Planned Parenthood has since come forward and stated that the “$30 to $100” referred to in the source videos refer to the costs of storage and transportation of donated fetal tissues. Recouping these costs is perfectly legal under federal law.
A video was released today of a lunch/business discussion with Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services who believed she was talking with individuals from a biologics company interested in procuring fetal tissues. She was actually speaking with actors. During the interview, she explicitly discusses methods of procuring fetal organs attained through abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood. She also explicitly discusses the amount of money each of these organs costs ($30 to $100) ranging from an intact set of lungs to an intact liver. These organs are then provided to university research facilities studying a wide range of subjects.
So, how is this legal? Well, it’s probably not but this isn’t the first time America and Planned Parenthood have been down this road. But lets go through the facts as we know them one by one. Note that the word “proving” is in the title because that is the claim being made online. As far as I’m concerned nothing is yet “proven.”
1. The issue with the video is not the collection of fetal remains from abortions for the express purposes of medical research. The issue is the sale of fetal remains and organs. Any woman who is having an abortion can agree to donate her fetus’s remains to medical science. This is done via a signed agreement.
2. Sale of human organs is 100% illegal in the United States of America and has been since the National Organ Transplant Act was passed in 1984 under President Reagan. It was later amended in 1988 under President George H.W. Bush and then again in 1990 under President Bill Clinton.
3. In 1990, under President Clinton, a national donor database was set up so that research facilities and donor organ providers could more effectively communicate and get donated organs into the research facilities that needed them. In the video, you see a screenshot of person using an “order form.” This is not an “order form.” It’s a person interacting with the national database requesting X donated organs. There’s actually nothing fishy about this at all. Here’s a link to the database site.
4. The pertinent section of the law reads as follows: “it shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human organ for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation if the transfer affects interstate commerce.”
5. So, why and how could Planned Parenthood be selling fetal remains if the punishment for doing so is a $500,000 fine per instance or up to ten years in prison, or both? Why would Planned Parenthood take a risk like this? Put simply they’re not.
6. What is described in the video released by pro-life group the Center for Medical Progress is a method for doing business with individual abortions clinics that Planned Parenthood does not have direct control over. The chain of events would go as follows.
7. An abortion provider acquires consent from a woman undergoing an abortion to donate the remains for research.
8. The doctor then delivers the fetus using breech method wherein the baby is turned around to deliver it feet first. This protects the organs of the fetus so that they are undamaged.
9. The abortion providing doctor then donates the organs to science and the research facility then turns around and donates money to the clinic. This, the Center for Medical Progress characterizes as payment. Indeed, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t and, in the video, Dr. Nucatola does little to show that it isn’t payment.
The problem being that clinics are apparently making money off it and they’re allegedly changing their abortion procedures to facilitate this.
10. To understand how abortion providers have changed their procedures you first need to make sure you understand what a normal childbirth looks like. It’s always head first. Here’s a picture that shows each step.
11. This is what’s known as a “breech delivery” and is the delivery method that Dr. Nucatola claims abortion providers use to preserve the integrity of a fetus’s vital organs.
“Change the presentation” means changing what part of the fetus comes out of the vaginal canal first. During a breech delivery, the fetus (usually a fully formed baby) comes out feet or butt first instead of head first. This can be very dangerous during normal child delivery because the baby risks suffocating to death.
12. However, in the case of an abortion, the fetus dying isn’t of concern. Dr. Nucatola states that abortion providers will deliberately reposition the baby inside the womb so that instead of coming out headfirst the way it normally would it instead comes out feet first. The Center for Medical Progress claims there is another name for this procedure and that name is partial birth abortion. It looks like this. It’s illegal. Here’s the description of what a partial birth abortion is according to 18 U.S. Code § 1531:
(a) Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both. This subsection does not apply to a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself. This subsection takes effect 1 day after the enactment.
(b) As used in this section—
(1) 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; and
(B) performs the overt act, other than completion of delivery, that kills the partially delivered living fetus; and
(2) the term “physician” means a doctor of medicine or osteopathy legally authorized to practice medicine and surgery by the State in which the doctor performs such activity, or any other individual legally authorized by the State to perform abortions: Provided, however, That any individual who is not a physician or not otherwise legally authorized by the State to perform abortions, but who nevertheless directly performs a partial-birth abortion, shall be subject to the provisions of this section.
13. I’m no doctor but the methods abortion care providers are using, according to Dr. Nucatola, appear to involve a partial birth abortion which is illegal under federal law.
14. What’s more, some of the interview indicates that abortion providers perform abortions in such a manner so that specific parts of the fetus to be donated can be preserved. The delivery method is based on the demands of research facilities, etc. This sounds like a kind of designer abortion, aborting in a manner which will preserve specific organs.
15. This isn’t Planned Parenthood’s first time being accused of selling human organs for money. In 2000, ABC’s 20/20 previously conducted an investigation of organ selling practices on the part of Planned Parenthood and their affiliated abortion providers. At that time, the leader of Planned Parenthood stated that the sale of fetal parts must stop and that Planned Parenthood didn’t know about it. You can see that bit at the beginning of the Center for Medical Progress video. However, I can only located bits and pieces of it online and I’m unable to locate any copy of the actual episode to check it against these current allegations. Here is a likely biased discussion of the investigation and what Congress did afterward.
16. Last year, Thought Catalog’s own Chrissy Stockton conducted an interview with Dr. Nucatola regarding Planned Parenthood. You can read that here. Fetal tissue provision services were not mentioned among Dr. Nucatola’s list of a “broad range of services” provided by Planned Parenthood at that time.
17. The full, un-edited version of the above video has also been released. You can watch it below.
18. You can also read this which I wrote about organ harvesting in China back in April.