Media should know 5 key facts about anti-choice group The Center For Medical Progress' latest deceptively-edited video attacking Planned Parenthood, which provides no evidence clinics broke any laws by allowing women to voluntarily and safely donate fetal tissue from abortions. The video relies on the account of a former third-party procurement technician who has never worked for Planned Parenthood, admits that Planned Parenthood engages only in the legal donation of fetal tissue with informed consent, and provides no evidence that Planned Parenthood illegally profits from these legal donations.
Anti-Choice Organization Releases Second “Documentary” Alleging That Planned Parenthood “Sold Baby Parts Without Patient Consent”
Center For Medical Progress Claims Planned Parenthood “Sold Baby Parts Without Patient Consent.” In a video released on August 12 as the second part of their “Human Capital Project,” The Center For Medical Progress (CMP) claimed that Planned Parenthood “sold baby parts without patient consent” and asserted, “Taxpayer subsidies to Planned Parenthood's barbaric abortion business should be revoked immediately, and law enforcement and other elected officials must act decisively to determine the full extent of Planned Parenthood's offensive practices and hold them accountable to the law.” According to the organization's press release:
The second episode in a new documentary web series highlights a young woman's eyewitness narrative of the daily practice of fetal body parts harvesting in Planned Parenthood abortion clinics, describing tissue procurement workers' coordination with abortion providers, the pressure placed on patients, and disregard for patient consent.
The “Human Capital” documentary web series, produced by The Center for Medical Progress, integrates expert interviews, eyewitness accounts, and real-life undercover interactions to explore various themes connected to Planned Parenthood's sale of aborted fetal tissue. Episode 1, “Planned Parenthood's Black Market in Baby Parts,” premiered last month. Episode 2, “Inside the Planned Parenthood Supply Site,” launches today at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABzFZM73o8M
The series follows the personal narrative of Holly O'Donnell, a former Blood and TIssue Procurement Technician for StemExpress, a start-up biotech company from northern California that partners with Planned Parenthood clinics to purchase their aborted fetus parts and resell them for scientific experimentation. As a procurement tech, O'Donnell's job was to identify pregnant patients matching the specifications of StemExpress customers and to harvest the fetal body parts from their abortions.
“It's not an option, it's a demand,” StemExpress supervisors instructed O'Donnell about approaching pregnant women at Planned Parenthood for fetal tissue “donations.” O'Donnell says the StemExpress techs working in Planned Parenthood clinics sometimes harvested fetal parts without obtaining consent from the patients: “If there was a higher gestation, and the technicians needed it, there were times when they would just take what they wanted. And these mothers don't know. And there's no way they would know.”
Federal laws on the procurement and use of human fetal tissue require that patients consent to the tissue donation subsequent to consenting to the abortion procedure (42 U.S.C. 289g-1). [Center For Medical Progress, 8/12/15]
Latest Video Offers No Evidence That Planned Parenthood Broke The Law. Like the five previous deceptively-edited videos CMP has already released, their latest effort to frame Planned Parenthood does not include any evidence of illegal activity on the clinic's behalf. [Media Matters, 7/14/15, 7/21/15, 7/28/15, 7/30/15, 8/4/15]
1.Video Relies On Account Of Third-Party Technician Who Did Not Work For Planned Parenthood, But Worked For A Middleman Company That Sold Fetal Tissue Donations To Researchers
Former Procurement Technician Featured In Latest Video Worked For StemExpress, Not Planned Parenthood. CMP's video in their Human Capital Project features Holly O'Donnell, who CMP identifies as a former staff member of for-profit biomedical procurement company StemExpress. StemExpress partners with Planned Parenthood as a middleman company, but O'Donnell was not employed by Planned Parenthood at the time. [Center For Medical Progress, 8/12/15]
“Middlemen” Like StemExpress Reimburse Abortion Providers For Donation Costs Before Selling Fetal Tissue To Researchers “For Higher Prices.” The New York Times reported that companies like those discussed in The Center For Medical Progress' videos are the “middlemen” in the supply chain of fetal tissue destined for vital medical research. The article outlined how these companies procure fetal tissue from abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood and reimburse them for associated expenses related to donation before reselling to researchers with “higher prices that reflect the processing”:
Fetal tissue can be used only with the consent of the woman having an abortion. Some researchers receive the tissue from abortion clinics at their own institutions, or from tissue banks maintained by some universities. Many buy the tissue from companies that act as middlemen. Those companies pay small fees, usually $100 or less a specimen, to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, who say they charge only what they need to cover their expenses. The companies then process the tissue and sell it to researchers for higher prices that reflect the processing.
The fees, which can run to thousands of dollars for a tiny vial of cells, do not break the law, according to Arthur Caplan, the director of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. [The New York Times, 7/27/15]
2. Former Technician Admits PPFA Informs Patients That Donations Are Not Paid For
Former Technician Details How Consent Form Explains There Would Be No Reimbursement Or Compensation For Donation. In the video, Holly O'Donnell, the former StemExpress procurement technician, admitted that procurement technicians “had a consent form we'd have to initial” with the donor, to certify “I know I'm not going to be reimbursed or compensated”:
O'DONNELL: So everybody would log in and you would say, 'Oh there are 24 appointments today -- 10 tissue opportunities, 8 blood sample opportunities, first patient at 8.'
So then I would wait for certain girls to come in. I would look for an opportunity to consent, so that would mean, after they go in, they get registered with the nurse, go sit down, that would be a great opportunity for me to go 'Hey can I talk to you for a second?' Come in, shut the door, StemExpress, have a consent form we'd have to initial, you know, I certify I'm donating, I know I'm not going to be reimbursed or compensated. I know this is for disease research. I consent. I've already consented that I'm going to get an abortion.
Yeah, no, that didn't happen all the time.
Some of these women don't know if they're going to get an abortion. Some of them don't even -- they're not 100 percent that they're going to get it done. [Center For Medical Progress, 8/12/15]
3. Video Shows That Planned Parenthood Engages Only In Legal Tissue Donation With Consent
Former Technician Admits She Would Give Women Seeking Abortions "A Consent Form We'd Have To Initial" For Fetal Tissue Donations. In the video, O'Donnell admitted that procurement technicians like herself “had a consent form we'd have to initial” with the woman seeking treatment before the fetal tissue could be donated. CMP's video also featured footage of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte's “Client Information for Informed Consent” forms, which explained “You can donate your blood and/or pregnancy tissue after an abortion. Before you give your consent, read each of the following statements and initial the line to the right. We will be happy to answer any questions you have.” Clients had to verify that:
Before I was shown this consent, I had already decided to have an abortion and signed a consent form for it.
I agree to give my blood and/or the tissue from the abortion as a gift to be used for education, research, or treatment.
I understand there will be no changes to how or when my abortion is done in order to get my blood or the tissue.
I understand I will not be paid.
I understand that I don't have to give my blood or pregnancy tissue, and this will not affect my current or future care at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. [Center For Medical Progress, 8/12/15]
Federal Law Allows For 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 8/12/15]
4. Video Shows That StemExpress Procurement Technicians Were Compensated For Tissue Donations, But No Evidence That Planned Parenthood Was Compensated
Video Shows That Middleman “Procurement Technicians [Were] Compensated At A Rate Of $10.00 Per Hour” Plus A Tissue Or Blood “Bonus.” CMP's video shows O'Donnell explaining that as a procurement technician for StemExpress, her job required her to procure a “product of conception specimen.” It featured footage of a “Procurement Technician Compensation Policy,” which explained that “Procurement technicians are compensated at a rate of $10.00 per hour plus a per tissue or blood bonus”:
O'DONNELL: The fetus, the fetal tissues remains, is a POC, which stands for product of conception. The specimen is which is what I would obtain from it. So POC, product of conception specimen, is what I would procure.
[Center For Medical Progress, 8/12/15]
5. Center For Medical Progress May Have Obtained Footage Illegally
Portions Of The Latest Video May Have Been Filmed In California, Where Secret Recording Is A Crime. According to the Digital Media Law Project, California law makes it a crime to secretly record someone without their consent when the person being filmed has “an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation.” The second video in CMP's Human Capital Project includes footage of Planned Parenthood patients and employees, and it's unclear whether the patients and employees were filmed secretly while holding a “reasonable expectation” of privacy. [Digital Media Law Project, accessed 8/12/15; The Center for Medical Progress, 8/12/15]
RH Reality Check: CMP's Earlier Videos Potentially “Violated A Host Of Laws,” And Possibly Patient Privacy. In a review of the first two deceptive videos released by CMP, RH Reality Check noted that at least one of CMP's previous videos was filmed in California, and the second likely was in part. In addition, they noted Planned Parenthood's concern that some footage was taken in a “highly sensitive area in a clinic where tissue is processed after abortion procedures,” which “would be an extremely serious invasion of our patients' privacy and dignity.” Portions of that footage may have been featured in the third and latest films. From RH Reality Check (emphasis added):
CMP videotaped the conversations with Dr. Deborah Nucatola and Dr. Mary Gatter while they were each engaged in private discussions in restaurants. Nucatola's conversation took place in California; although the location of Gatter's is as yet unknown, she lives and works in California, which suggests that her meeting was also in the state. This fact is incredibly important, because it's very likely that CMP violated California's two-party consent wiretapping law.
Furthermore, any that were recorded in Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, or Washington raise similar concerns, as these states also require that all parties consent to most recordings.
In addition to likely violating California's two-party consent statute, there are serious questions about CMP's invasions of provider and patient privacy. In a letter sent by Planned Parenthood counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Planned Parenthood disclosed it believed that “on at least one occasion a representative from Biomax was shown a highly sensitive area in a clinic where tissue is processed after abortion procedures.” The letter continues, "[W]hile this work is standard and essential during any abortion procedure, any filming in such an area would be an extremely serious invasion of our patients' privacy and dignity." [RH Reality Check, 7/21/15]
UPDATE: Third-Party Procurement Company In CMP's Video Responds To Allegations
Biomedical Procurement Company StemExpress Denies Allegations In CMP Video That Its Technicians Obtained Tissue Donations Without Consent. In a statement to IJReview, StemExpress denied CMP's video allegations that the third-party biomedical procurement company obtained fetal tissue donations without patient consent while partnered with Planned Parenthood. StemExpress said:
“StemExpress unequivocally denies the allegations ... reaffirming that it has never obtained blood or tissue samples from a patient without first obtaining consent. ... CMP's continued efforts to malign StemExpress ... will only serve to slow the pace of life-saving medical research aimed at curing disease and extending quality of life for millions of Americans.” [IJReview, 8/12/15]
StemExpress States Former Technician Violated Employment Agreement By “Stealing Confidential Documents” To Give To CMP. In a statement to Jezebel, StemExpress stated O'Donnell violated a confidentiality agreement by providing documents to CMP. The company explained:
Ms. O'Donnell was a 1099 independent contractor, subject to written confidentiality restrictions and Code of Conduct agreements which she signed and which she has violated by stealing confidential documents from StemExpress and disclosing them to CMP. Contrary to her assertions, Ms. O'Donnell responded to and applied for a contract opening as a procurement technician. She was contracted only after interviewing for that specific position. Her other representations in the video are also false. Ms. O'Donnell's resignation letter states she was thankful for the opportunities and experience she received from the company and expressed regret she was leaving. She further stated that due to financial difficulties and lack of opportunities for work with StemExpress, she must seek out other employment to provide herself more financial stability. In other words, she was not earning enough money as a StemExpress procurement technician. She worked for StemExpress from Dec. '12 thru April '13. [Jezebel, 8/12/15]