Media outlets called out a conservative group for deceptively editing a video purporting to show a Planned Parenthood official discussing prices for the illegal sale of fetal tissue from abortions. As many articles pointed out, the full, unedited footage shows the official discussing the reimbursement cost of consensual, legal tissue donations.
Conservative Group Releases Video Claiming Planned Parenthood “Sells The Body Parts Of Aborted Fetuses”
Center For Medical Progress: Video Proves Planned Parenthood Is “Selling Aborted Baby Parts.” The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a video July 14 that it claimed shows 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 nine-minute video and an accompanying press release claimed that Planned Parenthood is in violation of 42 U.S.C. 289g-2, a federal law regulating the use and sale of fetal tissue. According to CMP'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]
Significant, Strategic Edits To The Video Undermine Credibility Of Accusation
Full Video Released By Group Shows Crucial Portions Were Edited Out. The entire, unedited, nearly three-hour version of the video that CMP also released contains several sections that were edited out and contradict the group's assertions. For example, as the unedited transcript shows, Dr. Nucatola says, “Nobody should be 'selling' tissue,” and repeatedly refers 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 reimbursements costs for legal donation during those missing minutes. [Media Matters for America, 7/14/15]
Media Outlets Call Out Group For Deceptive Editing, Point Out Legality Of Tissue Donation
The New York Times Pointed Out That Group's Allegation Is Contradicted By Full Footage. The New York Times explained how the edited video misleads viewers:
While the video, which was circulated on the Internet, alleges that Planned Parenthood is guilty of the crime of selling fetal remains, the official tells her questioners more than once that the cost, $30 to $100, is reimbursement for clinics' expenses.
“This is not something with any revenue stream that affiliates are looking at,” the official, Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services, says in the video. “This is a way to offer patients the services they want and do good for the medical community and still maintain access.” [The New York Times, 7/15/15]
The Guardian Concluded That “The Video ... Shows Nothing Illegal.” In a piece published on July 15, The Guardian wrote that the video shows “nothing illegal”:
The truth of the video, however - which was released by a previously unheard-of organization led by a man who has described himself as an “amateur varanid keeper” - is that it shows nothing illegal. [The Guardian, 7/15/15]
Huffington Post Noted That Planned Parenthood “Donat[es] The Fetal Tissue For Research At The Request Of Some Of Its Patients, Which Is Legal.” The Huffington Post wrote that the video was “selectively edited” and that fetal tissue donation at the patient's request is legal:
An undercover video released Tuesday by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress claims to show a physician at Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of fetal body parts after an abortion. The family planning provider says the video was selectively edited to mislead viewers about fetal tissue donations that are legal, not for profit, and for the purposes of medical research.
The sale of fetal parts is illegal. But Planned Parenthood says it is donating the fetal tissue for research at the request of some of its patients, which is legal. The family planning provider said it sometimes receives reimbursement from tissue donation entities for the additional expenses of donating, such as transportation costs, but never profits off of the donations. [Huffington Post, 7/14/15]
The Daily Beast Published “The Real Story Behind That Shady Video.” In a July 14 article headlined “Planned Parenthood Doesn't Sell Fetuses: The Real Story Behind That Shady Video,” The Daily Beast noted that the practice of donating fetal tissue is a “longstanding one” and legal in the United States:
But although Nucatola's comments raise questions about the acquisition of fetal tissue and the ethical issues surrounding its collection, the transfer of human fetal tissue is not illegal in the United States. Women undergoing abortions sometimes choose to donate fetal tissue for scientific research and abortion providers do not facilitate these donations without their explicit consent.
The law cited by the Center for Medical Progress--42 U.S. Code § 289g--2--prohibits the acquisition and transferring of human fetal tissue “for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.” A definition within the code notes that "'valuable consideration' does not include reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue."
In other words, transferring human fetal tissue is legal in the United States provided that payments are for processing and transportation costs. [The Daily Beast, 7/14/15]
Gawker Declared That “This Is A Case Of Words Being Taken Grossly Out Of Context.” Gawker called out CMP for “going to great lengths to try to paint Planned Parenthood as operating outside the law” and concluded that “this is a case of words being taken grossly out of context”:
In reality, the donation of fetal tissue is no different than any other situation in which a patient might donate tissue to scientific research. No money changes hands, and the donation could help pave the way to any number of medical breakthroughs.
Of course, that doesn't stop the people behind the video's release from going to great lengths to try to paint Planned Parenthood as operating outside the law. According to The Center for Medical Progress's accompanying release, “The video is the first by The Center for Medical Progress in its 'Human Capital' series, a nearly 3-year-long investigative journalism study of Planned Parenthood's illegal trafficking of aborted fetal parts.”
In other words, this is a case of words being taken grossly out of context. Planned Parenthood is doing nothing even remotely shady here, nor are they doing something they haven't publicly discussed before on multiple occasions. The real question now, though, is who's behind this whole campaign in the first place. [Gawker, 7/14/15]
IB Times Said “Unedited Video” Shows Cost Of Fetal Tissue Was Not “What She Was Really Talking About.” The International Business Times noted that the “unedited video” showed Nucatola was not talking about the cost of fetal tissue:
In the video, Nucatola appears to say it cost $30 to $100 for baby organs. But that might not have been what she was really talking about. In the unedited version of the video, Nucatola was discussing the cost of “space issues” and shipping, notes Snopes, a website that debunks Internet rumors and hoaxes. However, the viral video makes it seem as if she is telling the actors -- who were hired by the activist group -- about the cost of fetal tissue. [International Business Times, 7/14/15]