The Center for Medical Progress attempted to smear Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas by releasing a new undercover video that it falsely claims shows a clinic doctor discussing how she might conduct illegal abortion procedures for “harvesting intact fetal heads,” and affirming a price for the specimens. But experts say the procedures she describes are legal, the footage actually reveals that the doctor specifically said she does not do fetal tissue donations at her clinic, and the undercover actors are the only ones who discuss procedure costs.
Anti-Choice Organization Releases 11th Deceptive Video To Claim Texas Planned Parenthood Will Illegally “Harvest” Fetal Tissue
CMP Releases 11th Video To Claim That Texas Planned Parenthood Doctor Discussed Illegal Abortion Procedures For “Harvesting Intact Fetal Heads” And “Affirms” A Price. An October 27 press release by the anti-choice Center For Medical Progress (CMP) claimed that their eleventh undercover video attacking Planned Parenthood reveals a doctor from Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas discussing an illegal abortion technique that could obtain fetal brain samples while she also “affirms” a fee for fetal tissue specimens. From the organization's press release (emphasis added):
AUSTIN, Oct. 27-The eleventh video release from The Center for Medical Progress in the ongoing Planned Parenthood baby parts scandal shows the abortion doctor for Planned Parenthood in Austin, TX, Dr. Amna Dermish, describing a partial-birth abortion procedure to terminate living, late-term fetuses which she hopes will yield intact fetal heads for brain harvesting.
“My aim is usually to get the specimens out pretty intact,” says Dermish, speaking to actors posing as a fetal tissue procurement company. Dermish admits that she will sometimes use ultrasound guidance to convert a 2nd-trimester fetus to a feet-first breech presentation: “Especially the 20-weekers are a lot harder versus the 18-weekers, so at that point I'll switch to breech.”
In reply to a question about harvesting fetal brain, Dermish notes, “I haven't been able to do that yet,” but exclaims with laughter, “This will give me something to strive for!”
Dermish does not use the chemical digoxin to kill the fetus before 20 weeks, so her feet-first, intact extraction abortions are done on living fetuses. Using ultrasound guidance to manipulate the fetus from vertex to breech orientation before extracting the yet-living fetus is a hallmark of the illegal partial-birth abortion procedure (18 U.S.C. 1531).
Dermish also affirms a fetal body part price of $50 or $60 per specimen. 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, 10/27/15]
Abortion Procedure Described Is Legal, According To Medical Experts
Medical Experts: Planned Parenthood Doctor's Description Of Abortion Procedure Isn't “In Any Way Representative Of A Banned Procedure.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said it reviewed CMP's latest video and did not agree that the abortion procedure described resembled an illegal abortion method, which CMP referred to as “Partial-Birth Abortion.” The procedure described on the secretly-recorded video is instead “consistent with a standard dilation and evacuation” performed for legal abortions. From the Dallas Morning News (emphasis added):
A new video released by the anti-abortion group targeting Planned Parenthood shows a Texas doctor discussing the methods she uses to perform later term abortions. The video said the procedure she describes violates the national partial-birth abortion ban, but medical experts disagree.
In the “full footage” version of the encounter between the undercover cameraman and Dermish, she is asked to describe the abortion method she used on two recent abortions performed after 18 weeks of pregnancy and the conditions of the fetuses.
She said her exact method depends on whether or not the head or the buttocks is closest to the vaginal opening, but the procedure she describes is consistent with a standard dilation and evacuation.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said it reviewed the video and found that the method Dermish described wasn't “in any way representative of a banned procedure.”
Words appear on the screen following her statement that read: “Using ultrasound guidance to convert the fetus to breech [or buttocks-first] position and extract the intact fetus up to the head is identical to the illegal partial-birth abortion procedure.”
But legally, U.S. statute says a partial-birth abortion occurs when a physician “deliberately and intentionally” partially removes an intact, living fetus and performs an “overt act” that will kill it.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines, “partial-birth abortion” is not a medical term.
“Physicians and lawyers have interpreted the banned procedures as including intact D&E unless fetal demise occurs before surgery,” according to the guidelines. [Dallas Morning News,10/28/15]
Footage Shows Planned Parenthood Doctor Saying She Does Not Do Fetal Tissue Donations At Her Clinic
Texas Planned Parenthood Doctor Says She Doesn't Do Fetal Tissue Donation At Her Facility. In the video, the Planned Parenthood doctor says she hasn't ever donated fetal tissue for research while working at the Texas Planned Parenthood clinic (emphasis added):
CMP ACTOR: Have you guys provided any specimens for research ever?
PLANNED PARENTHOOD DOCTOR: No. I don't know if it's ever happened. So, I've been with Planned Parenthood for just a little over a year.
ACTOR: Okay, okay.
DOCTOR: So in Texas I don't know what they did before.
ACTOR: Because I've been told the Gulf Coast does provide specimens -
DOCTOR: Oh, do they? [The Center for Medical Progress, 10/27/15]
Planned Parenthood Doctor Did Not Agree To A “Price” For Fetal Tissue Donations, Which She Does Not Perform
Footage Reveals The Planned Parenthood Doctor Only Said “Okay” When A Reimbursement Cost For Tissue Donation Was Mentioned, Not That She Agreed To That Cost For Her Clinic. CMP's press release claimed the Planned Parenthood doctor “affirms a fetal body part price of $50 or $60 per specimen,” but the footage of the conversation reveals that the Planned Parenthood doctor is having a brief, non-contractual conversation in the middle of a conference hall, and merely said “okay” when the CMP's actors mentioned a reimbursement cost for fetal tissue donations at other clinics (emphasis added):
CMP ACTOR: And we do return a portion of our researcher fees to the clinics that work with us.
SECOND CMP ACTOR: So it's worthwhile for everybody.
ACTOR: I think that ABR is doing $50 per specimen right now was what I last heard. We could do $60.
ACTOR: Not that we have to fight over it. I mean if there's room for us to come in on the next day like we're happy to do that too. [The Center for Medical Progress, 10/27/15]
Multiple State Investigations Into Previous CMP Allegations Have Revealed No Wrongdoing
State Investigations Into The Allegations CMP Claims Its Videos Support Have Found No Illegal Activity By Planned Parenthood. The deceptively-edited and secretly-recorded videos released by the Center for Medical Progress have spurred at least 11 states to launch investigations into Planned Parenthood's operations. Six states -- Missouri, Massachusetts, Indiana, South Dakota, Georgia, Pennsylvania -- and the Department of Health and Human Services have all announced that they found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood or known violations of federal fetal tissue laws. [Media Matters, 8/24/15]