On April 5, the Center For Medical Progress (CMP) released its 14th deceptive video -- this one featuring sections of footage from the first hearing of Congress' Select Panel on Infant Lives, which Republicans established in response to CMP's baseless allegations against Planned Parenthood. This latest video attacks Planned Parenthood's patient consent process and demonstrates the dangerous feedback loop operating between CMP and anti-choice lawmakers on the select panel.
CMP's New Video Claims Congressional Hearing Proved Planned Parenthood Isn't Getting Proper Consent For Fetal Tissue Donations
Latest Video Claims Planned Parenthood Gains Women's Consent To Donate Tissue Improperly. In this latest video, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) used decontextualized footage from the Select Panel on Infant Lives' first hearing to allege that Planned Parenthood's consent form -- given to women when they are considering donating fetal tissue -- is misleading because it states that donated tissue “has been used to treat and find a cure for such diseases as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and AIDS.” CMP notes, “No cures for these diseases are currently available, and no current therapies for them utilize aborted fetal tissue.” From CMP's blog post:
The Planned Parenthood form promises pregnant women considering abortion that aborted fetal tissue “has been used to treat and find a cure for such diseases as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and AIDS.” No cures for these diseases are currently available, and no current therapies for them use aborted fetal tissue.
“Planned Parenthood's baby parts trafficking scheme cannot stand up to independent scrutiny. When a Planned Parenthood supporter and baby parts customer admits under oath that Planned Parenthood has been fraudulently inducing patient consent, it discredits all of Planned Parenthood's assurances that their baby parts scheme has operated legally and above-board,” notes David Daleiden, CMP Project Lead. “Law enforcement in Planned Parenthood-friendly jurisdictions should stop wasting taxpayer resources to assist Planned Parenthood in harassing citizen journalists, and should stop ignoring the evidence of real fraud, baby body parts trafficking, and criminal abortion practices right in their own backyard.” [Center for Medical Progress, 4/5/16]
Edited Video Makes False, Misleading Claims About Planned Parenthood's Patient Consent Form
1. CLAIM: CMP Uses Medical Researcher's Testimony To Mislead On The Value of Fetal Tissue Research. The 14th video focuses on a portion of testimony from Dr. Laurence Goldstein regarding Planned Parenthood's consent form. The footage shows Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) asking Goldstein whether the form is misleading because it says that fetal tissue is used “to treat and find a cure” for major disease and Goldstein replying that if the consent form explicitly states that “therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer's and all the rest have already been found, I agree, that's an inappropriate statement.” [The Center for Medical Progress, 4/5/16]
FACT: In Overall Testimony, Goldstein Describes Fetal Tissue Research As “Ethical, Valuable, and Vital.” While Goldstein says it's true that fetal tissue research has not yet found cures for the diseases in question, he also highlights the “vital role” fetal tissues play in research that is searching for cures and treatments. In his opening statement, Goldstein describes fetal tissue research as “ethical, valuable, and vital” to medical progress. According to Goldstein, fetal tissue “cannot be easily replaced” by other other types of stem cells, and it plays a “vital role in modern, cutting-edge biomedical research” such as the work his lab does on Alzheimer's disease. Goldstein does not parse the specific language of the consent form in question. But in this fuller context, it is clear Goldstein believes fetal tissue research can play a role in developing therapies for the diseases listed on the consent form. From Dr. Goldstein's statement (emphasis added):
LAWRENCE GOLDSTEIN: I have been a practicing scientist for 40 years, most recently using all types of stem cells to understand and treat Alzheimer's Disease, spinal cord injury, ALS, and more recently, kidney disease.
My message is very simple. Fetal tissue and cells that would otherwise be discarded play a vital role in modern, cutting-edge biomedical research. These fetal tissue and cells cannot easily be replaced by embryonic stem cells, reprogrammed stem cells, or adult stem cells. Let me give you three examples.
In the first example, we are using fetal astrocytes in the study of Alzheimer's disease. This devastating disease affects 5.3 million Americans and costs us in excess of $200 billion to $300 billion a year. It killed my own mother. This number doesn't reflect the real and terrible hardship that families face. We don't have a cure. No cure is obviously in sight and we really do have to find a way to treat this terrible disorder.
Now, in my own lab, the approach we are taking is to use reprogrammed stem cells to make Alzheimer's-type brain cells in the dish. That is, to generate Alzheimer's disease in a dish and to try to understand what is going wrong and to develop drugs that curtail the problems that happen biochemically.
Now, a type of cell that is very valuable in this work is called an astrocyte. And this is a type of cell that is a support cell in the brain. We use fetal astrocytes, which are vital to these investigations. These fetal astrocytes provide growth factors that keep the nerve cells healthy, that help them establish connections, and to be honest, they produce factors that we do not yet have fully defined that help maintain the viability of these cultures and are proving important to us to make new discoveries.
So, let me close by stating once again, that in my opinion, research with fetal tissue and cells that would otherwise be discarded is ethical, valuable, and vital to ongoing biomedical research projects. [Statement of Dr. Lawrence Goldstein, Hearing for the Select Panel On Infant Lives, 3/2/16]
2. CLAIM: CMP Uses Rep. Vicky Hartzler's Statements To Argue That Women Experience “Undue Influences” From Planned Parenthood To Donate, In Violation Of Federal Rules. During the select panel's first hearing, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) argued that a patient consent form -- ostensibly from Planned Parenthood, although all identifying information was redacted -- was misleading and thus that Planned Parenthood exerts “undue influences” to coerce women to donate tissue. The form's first sentence states: “research using the blood from pregnant women and tissue that has been aborted has been used to treat and find a cure for such diseases as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and AIDS.” According to Hartzler, because these diseases have not been cured, the statement is a false promise meant to unjustly persuade “vulnerable” women. She concluded that Planned Parenthood was violating the Belmont Report -- a Department of Health and Human Services report outlining subject consent guidelines for researchers. [Center for Medical Progress, 4/5/16]
FACT: CMP's Reading Of The Belmont Report Is Incorrect -- Planned Parenthood Doesn't Exert “Undue Influences” On Women When Gaining Consent For Donation. CMP and Hartzler's selective reading of the Belmont Report guidelines regarding informed consent and “undue influences” oversimplifies the document. According to the Belmont Report, “undue influence” occurs when “persons in a position of authority ... urge a course of action for a subject” either through the use of “possible sanctions” or the offer of an “improper reward” to the subject. The consent form explicitly states that provision of services is not dependent on an agreement to donate and that there will be no financial profit from donation -- meaning the statement does not “sanction” or “improper[ly] reward” women for their decision. The Belmont Report also explains that in seeking informed consent, those regulating biomedical research have a responsibility to not only “protect against the risk of harm to subjects” but also to consider “the loss of the substantial benefits that might be gained from research. Planned Parenthood should thus consider the benefits fetal tissue donation would have for research into those diseases described in the consent form. [The Belmont Report, Accessed 4/5/16]
3. CLAIM: Video Includes Footage From Old CMP Video To Allege Planned Parenthood Intentionally Misleads Women To Gain Consent For Tissue Donation. In CMP's description of its 14th video, the group claims that Planned Parenthood has been “fraudulently inducing patient consent.” The video then cherry-picks previously debunked footage of Dr. Deborah Nucatola saying that women “respond most” to the chance to donate when presented with “the types of outcomes that [donation] might contribute to.” [Center for Medical Progress, 4/5/16]
FACT: Previous CMP Videos Using Footage Of Nucatola Have Already Been Debunked And Proved To Include Selective Edits That Undermine Their Validity. The full footage of Nucatola's comments about the consent process not only reflect a described willingness by patients to donate, but also show that Planned Parenthood is extremely careful not to coerce or mislead women when describing the fetal tissue donation process. In the full footage, Nucatola says that many women who come to the clinic “are asking about it [donation] from the start” and that “most patients are very motivated.” In instances where they don't raise the issue, she said, affiliates follow a set of strict guidelines and “feel strongly that the conversation [about donating] shouldn't be had until after they've [the patient has] made their decision to terminate.” Furthermore, Nucatola notes that Planned Parenthood is sensitive to “concerns too about kind of coercion” and so employees “make sure they've [the patient has] made their decision, to actually have the procedure” before the employees mention consent for donation. From the full footage (emphasis added):
DEBORAH NUCATOLA: At the end of the day, they want to offer this service [tissue donation] because patients ask about it.
CMP ACTOR: I think that's what's most important to me is the patient and how can we serve them, and how can we make -- just the whole experience, well this is just my passion for the patient. So can you give me an idea of, what is that like for the patient? I get them on the other end, after, but doing that, is there some way -- delicate way so that --
NUCATOLA: Yeah, I mean, there are obviously the patients who come in, who are asking about it from the start, so it's easy to talk about. But the others, I mean, honestly, there's not going to be one thing that works for every patient, because every patient experiences a whole wide range of emotions about the experience in general, and so you don't know where they're coming at from there. But I think every one of them is happy to know that there's a possibility for them to do this extra bit of good in what they do.
And I think the patients respond most to knowing the types of outcomes that it might contribute to, so, for example, they say Parkinson's research, Alzheimer's research things like that. I think most of these patients have some experience with one of these conditions or another. I think the ones that come in asking are the ones who have already had the experience, which is why they come in asking.
But, I actually think it's an easier conversation to have, than just consenting them for the procedure in general because at this point, I mean, I think it's more important when you have the conversation. I think that a lot of people feel strongly that the conversation shouldn't be had until after they've made their decision to terminate, they know how far along they are, and they know what's going to happen, and then when all of that is said and done, and they've had time for all of that to sink in, then to basically say, this is how we normally handle the tissue, but if you would be interested, there's another opportunity to contribute to research, contribute to science, donate your tissue. Most patients, like I said, are very, very motivated.[Center for Medical Progress, 7/14/15]
Latest Video Proves Congressional Panel Is Still Carrying Water For CMP's Attacks On Planned Parenthood
The Select Panel Is Relying On “Evidence” Pulled Directly From CMP's Website. Previous Media Matters research found that during its first hearing, the select panel presented “evidence” of wrongdoing pulled directly from CMP's website and previous videos. For example, when Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) introduced exhibit A3, she presented a form that she described as “the consent form that is used in some of these [abortion] clinics.” This same form was listed on CMP's website as a “Planned Parenthood fetal tissue donation form.” In the latest video, CMP confirmed that its document was the source of exhibit A3 by transposing the forms on top of one another and removing the redaction bars -- indicating that the two were identical. [Media Matters, 3/7/16]
NY Times Editorial Board: Select Panel Is “A Showcase For Fallacious Attacks” And Is “Continuing The Campaign Against ... Reproductive Rights That CMP Began.” After the select panel's first hearing, the New York Times editorial board wrote that CMP attempted to “stir up opposition to abortion rights by concocting a controversy over fetal tissue research,” and now “Republicans in the House are doing much the same thing.” In particular, the editorial board called out the first hearing for operating as “a showcase for fallacious attacks on fetal tissue research” and using video and documents from CMP as evidence. The Times concluded that Republicans were “continuing the campaign against fetal tissue research and reproductive rights that the Center for Medical Progress began” (emphasis added):
With its hidden-camera videos that took aim at Planned Parenthood, the Center for Medical Progress tried to stir up opposition to abortion rights by concocting a controversy over fetal tissue research. Now Republicans in the House are doing much the same thing.
Initially convened in response to the videos, the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, pledges to “get the facts about medical practices of abortion service providers and the business practices of the procurement organizations who sell baby body parts.”
Its first hearing last Wednesday was a showcase for fallacious attacks on fetal tissue research. In her opening statement, Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who heads the panel, talked about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and the forced sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities as a prelude to discussing fetal tissue research. She went on to claim that the Center for Medical Progress's videos showed “something very troubling is going on related to fetal tissue and research,” even though multiple investigations of Planned Parenthood have found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Since the panel's goals are so broad, its future direction is unclear. What is clear is that by pursuing their baseless investigation into “baby body parts,” Republicans are continuing the campaign against fetal tissue research and reproductive rights that the Center for Medical Progress began. [The New York Times, 3/7/16]