CNN's Alisyn Camerota pointed to deceptively edited videos and transcripts from the anti-choice group The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) to question whether “something unscrupulous” may be happening at Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that fact-checkers, media outlets, and state investigations have all concluded the videos mislead about Planned Parenthood's legal donation of fetal tissue.
Measure To Defund Planned Parenthood Based On Highly Edited Anti-Choice Video Fails In The Senate
Senate Votes Down Measure To Defund Planned Parenthood. On August 3, the Senate voted down a bill to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The bill came on the heels of a series of deceptively-edited videos from an anti-choice organization attempting to smear the health care provider. As reported by NBC News:
The Senate voted down a bill Monday that would take away more than $500 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood after activists published a series of “sting” videos targeting the group.
The Senate voted 53-46, falling seven votes short of the 60 needed to pass the bill.
“We are very proud to have a bipartisan group of senators supporting us today,” Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards said before the vote.
It wasn't the first effort to take funding away from Planned Parenthood, which operates around 700 health clinics that treat 2.7 million patients a year. But the series of videos published by the Center for Medical progress, an anti-abortion rights group, have unprecedented reach in a world where almost anyone can see them on YouTube.
The Center for Medical Progress admits the videos are edited and has released some full-length versions, as well as transcripts. The group claims the videos show Planned Parenthood illegally profits from selling tissue from aborted fetuses, although the full-length versions clearly show the Planned Parenthood staffers repeatedly denying this. [NBC News, 8/3/15]
CNN's Camerota Suggests Videos Attempting To Smear Planned Parenthood May Not Be Deceptively Edited
Camerota: Undercover Videos Appear To Show “Something Unscrupulous Is Happening.” In an interview with Planned Parenthood's executive vice president, Dawn Laguens, on the August 4 edition of CNN's New Day, host Alisyn Camerota questioned whether The Center for Medical Progress' undercover videos attempting to smear Planned Parenthood were truly “deceptively edited.” Claiming that the group's website showed the videos “in their entirety, unedited on the website” and that “they have released transcripts” showing what had happened, Camerota pointed to a small portion of the group's original video to claim that it appears “as though something unscrupulous is happening”:
Camerota: What they would say is it has everything to do with abortion. I mean, you're right, it's not about women's health care. They don't talk so much about that, but they do talk about abortion. And you know, it was these videos, these controversial videos, that sparked this latest round on Capitol Hill. I know that you believe the videos are deceptively edited. However, on this group's website, the group that produced the videos, they say they have put them in their entirety, unedited on the website. And in fact, they've released transcripts that they say are the full entirety of the transactions that transpired.
LAGUENS: That's actually not a fact. And since we know that for years this has been a strategy to deceptively edit in inflammatory ways these kind of videos, put them out, claim that they've put out the full tape. We can tell that those are still edited tapes. If we go back to the facts about the vote and the, quote, “defunding” of Planned Parenthood, that has nothing to do with abortion, as abortion is not paid for with federal funds. And so what we were talking about was cutting funds for birth control, STD testing, teen pregnancy prevention, cancer screenings.
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean sure, I mean --
LAGUENS: And so this is how you know it has nothing to do with abortion in terms of the votes that they were taking.
CAMEROTA: I mean, but Dawn, you know the argument on the other side. Which is that, what Republicans say, who don't want to fund Planned Parenthood, is that funds are fungible. And so if you give a half billion dollars to Planned Parenthood, that then they can do whatever they want with it. But Dawn, I want to get back to the videos for a second, because it does appear from the snippets that have been seen in the public as though something unscrupulous is happening. And I just want to play, it's very short, a six-second clip, that sort-of captures the essence of what people believe these videos represent. So listen here to one of your medical directors.
[CLIP: DR. DEBORAH NUCATOLA: And if they can do a little better than break even and do so in a way that , you know, seems reasonable. They're happy to do that.]
CAMEROTA: That's where they are talking about the sale or the compensation for fetal tissue, and she says: “If they can do a little better than break even and if it seems reasonable, they're happy to do that.” How do you explain what's happening?
LAGUENS: We don't know exactly what she was responding to. That's the thing about these videos. They move around tape, one in front of the other so that you're not clear if she's talking about fetal tissue. So that's one thing. The second thing, as we discussed, they cut out nine or ten times where she absolutely, clearly says: “This is not about profit. This is a small program where women can choose to make this donation and it is only allowable and only Planned Parenthood's policy to be able to be reimbursed at cost.” [CNN, New Day, 8/4/15]
Fact-Checkers, Media, And Investigations Have Called Out CMP From Deceptively Editing Videos And Noted They Show No Illegal Activity On Planned Parenthood's Behalf
Full Transcript Of Video Highlighted By CNN Undermines Sensationalist Claims Of Wrong-Doing. The July 14 video from CMP highlighted by New Day relied on deceptive edits to falsely claim Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Senior Director of Medical Services Dr. Deborah Nucatola had discussed how the organization “sells the body parts of aborted fetuses.” The nearly nine-minute video and an accompanying press release claimed that Planned Parenthood was in violation of 42 U.S.C. 289g-2, a federal law regulating the use and sale of fetal tissue. Yet the entire, unedited, nearly three-hour version of the first video that CMP released contains several sections that were edited out of the shorter video, which contradict the group's assertions. For example, as the unedited transcript shows, Dr. Nucatola says, “Nobody should be 'selling' tissue,” and she repeatedly referred to “tissue donation” during the conversation. The edited video also jumps ahead nearly eight minutes in the middle of a discussion about money in an attempt to falsely frame Nucatola's comments as having to do with the sale price of tissue, but the unedited version reveals that she was actually discussing reimbursement costs for legal donation during those missing minutes.
All Of Center For Medical Progress' Videos Were Heavily Edited And Show Nothing Illegal. The Center for Medical Progress' series of undercover videos have all been found to have been deceptively-edited in order to leave out crucial context in order to smear Planned Parenthood. Like the original video, the second video released on July 21 claimed to have recorded a Planned Parenthood official “haggling over” prices for fetal tissue donations and offering to change abortion procedure techniques “to get more intact fetuses,” but the full, unedited footage debunked CMP's claims, showing the Planned Parenthood officials explaining that any variation in the abortion procedure is done pursuant to medical advice and patients are not put at additional risk. The unedited video also showed that the compensation being discussed referred to legal reimbursement for costs associated with tissue donation. The July 28 “documentary” also included no evidence of illegal activity on the part of the organization, instead featuring strategically-edited conversations that merely show that the organization is being reimbursed for costs associated with the procurement of fetal tissue. The full July 30 video showed the undercover actors from CMP admitting they were the “middlemen” who stood to potentially make a profit from selling tissue -- not Planned Parenthood itself -- and admission cut out of the shorter version of the video. [Media Matters, 7/14/15, 7/21/15, 7/28/15, 7/30/15]
FactCheck.org Debunked The First Deceptively Edited Video. In a July 21 post, Factcheck.org demolished the credibility of the first video released by Center for Medical Progress noting that the video's claim that Planned Parenthood was “selling aborted baby parts” was inaccurate and unfounded. [Factcheck.org, 7/21/15]
Investigations In Two States Have Cleared Planned Parenthood Of Any Wrongdoing. An investigation by the Indiana State Department of Health found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood clinics in the state and “no evidence of any laws being broken.” Similarly, the Massachusetts Attorney General announced that they had also “found no evidence” of wrongdoing and noted that the health centers “are fully compliant with state and federal laws.” [Media Matters, 7/31/15]
Federal Taxpayer Money Cannot Be Used For Abortion Services -- It's Been Unlawful For Nearly 40 Years
FactCheck.org: Federal Funding Received By Planned Parenthood Cannot Be Used For Abortions. As FactCheck.org pointed out in 2011, “Planned Parenthood cannot use the money it receives from the federal government for abortions”:
Abortions represent 3 percent of total services provided by Planned Parenthood, and roughly 10 percent of its clients received an abortion. The group does receive federal funding, but the money cannot be used for abortions by law.
Planned Parenthood's 2008-2009 annual report states that it received $363.2 million in “Government Grants and Contracts.” (See page 29.) That's about one-third of its total revenues for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009.
However, not all of that money is from the federal government. Planned Parenthood's government funding comes from two sources: the Title X Family Planning Program and Medicaid. About $70 million is Title X funding, Planned Parenthood spokesman Tait Sye told us. The rest -- about $293 million -- is Medicaid funding, which includes both federal and state money.
But Planned Parenthood cannot use the money it receives from the federal government for abortions anyway. According to the Department of Health and Human Service's website, “by law, Title X funds may not be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” Medicaid funding is restricted by the Hyde Amendment to only abortion cases involving rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the mother. [FactCheck.org, 4/18/11]
Vox: “Government Requires That No Federal Dollars Go Toward The Termination Of Pregnancies.” A July 22 Vox article explained how Planned Parenthood uses its funding and noted that “Title X funds are never available to be used for abortions, even in states where the [state] Medicaid program covers the procedure”:
Planned Parenthood uses federal funds to cover reproductive health services -- but not abortions
Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have Medicaid programs that will pay for abortions, although those health plans are barred from using federal dollars -- and have to use the state's share of funding to pay for the procedure.
Title X often covers the same type of services as Medicaid, except for women who are not on the public program. One important difference: Title X funds are never available to be used for abortions, even in states where the Medicaid program covers the procedure.
Federal law expressly prohibits the use of Title X funds to pay for abortions -- while abortion providers like Planned Parenthood can qualify for grants, the government requires that no federal dollars go toward the termination of pregnancies. [Vox, 7/22/15]
Wash. Post: “Under No Circumstances Are Federal Funds Allowed To Pay For Abortions.” A 2011 Washington Post article on D.C. abortion funding noted that federal funds can't be used for abortions:
But under no circumstances are federal funds allowed to pay for abortions, even via the Medicaid-funded plans. Women enrolled in Medicaid plans have abortions billed separately to the District government, which pays 100 percent of the cost instead of passing 70 percent on to the feds (the Hyde Amendment has long prohibited that). [TheWashington Post, 4/11/11]
Even CNN Itself Has Reported How The Videos Are Deceptively Edited
CNN's Cuomo: The Video “Was Edited To Make It Look Like They're Selling And Taking In Money.” On the July 17 edition of New Day, co-host Chris Cuomo acknowledged how CMP's videos are deceptively edited to smear Planned Parenthood (emphasis added):
CHRIS CUOMO: No question what's happening in Tennessee is the priority right now. But I know that part of the reason you're here is you think it's important people know that you want what's going on at Planned Parenthood investigated.
MARSHA BLACKBURN: Yes.
CUOMO: I know that already, you know more than the video that may well have been selectively edited that's circling around the Internet. But what is your concern, given what you know?
BLACKBURN: The concern, in the hours of video that exist, is the way Planned Parenthood has participated in the selling of the tissues and the body parts. And of course, the video is absolutely abhorrent.
CUOMO: Do you believe the video on its face, or do you think it has been edited to look that horrid?
BLACKBURN: There is -- there is plenty of video and commentary that is there. And our committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight and also handles health care, is going to conduct an investigation. Judiciary Committee is also going to have some investigation. We will let these committees do their work and then, if we need to issue subpoenas, we'll be issuing subpoenas.
CUOMO: Is the careful balance here to not let the politics of how people feel about reproductive rights color the factual perception of what Planned Parenthood does? By that I mean, they've been doing this since the '30s, selling fetal tissue for medical research. I say “selling” in quotes, because Planned Parenthood says they don't make any profit on it. And the numbers that were offered up in this video were about transplant costs. And it was edited to make it look like they're selling and taking in money. [CNN, New Day, 7/17/15, via Nexis]