Another "sting" video aiming to take down Planned Parenthood emerged this week, but the political fire has already been set ablaze. The nation's leading reproductive health organization is now being investigated by the Republican-controlled Congress, which jumped on the chance to probe the very same organization it's been trying to defund for years. On Monday, Planned Parenthood sent a detailed letter to Congress — specifically, the House Energy and Commerce Committee — that outlines the organization's tissue-donation policy and refutes some of the allegations put forward by the group of anti-abortion activists calling themselves the Center for Medical Progress.
"The ever-present threat of these deceptive practices makes it vastly more difficult for Planned Parenthood to do its important work," Roger Evans, senior counsel at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, wrote in the letter. "Our organization and the women they serve should not be subject to these recurring, deceptive, malicious attacks in some of the most intimate and confidential health care situations imaginable."
Evans hinted in the letter that more manipulated videos from the CMP would likely surface over the next few weeks, including one that would discuss "whether and how a physician could adjust an abortion." Planned Parenthood guessed correctly: On Tuesday, CMP released the second video, in which a woman identified as Mary Gatter, medical director of Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles, discusses abortion techniques and possible estimated expenses of fetal-tissue donations. The organization has repeatedly insisted that it does not profit off of its fetal-tissue donation program, which is only in use by a handful of Planned Parenthood affiliates across the United States.
Planned Parenthood told Congress it's now preparing for more purportedly edited videos. In fact, Evans wrote in the letter to Congress that the organization wouldn't be surprised if the anti-abortion activists behind CMP had "thousands of hours of videotape that [they] will deceptively edit into short video clips to release for months."
"The [first CMP video] was selectively edited to create the impression that Planned Parenthood sells tissue, profits from tissue donation for medical research, or violates other laws in this area – which is simply not true," Evans added in the letter. Planned Parenthood goes on to explain how the first video twisted Dr. Deborah Nucatola's words by leaving out key context.
For example, Planned Parenthood outlined for Congress the following:
During the [first CMP] video, Dr. Nucatola repeatedly says that the Planned Parenthood affiliates are not making a profit, but are only recovering their costs. For example, she says: “To them, this is not a service they should be making money from, it’s something they should be able to offer this to their patients, in a way that doesn’t impact them”; “affiliates are not looking to make money by doing this. They’re looking to serve their patients and just make it not impact their bottom line”; “we’re not looking to make money from this, our goal is to keep access available”; and “this is not a new revenue stream that affiliates are looking at, this is a way to offer the patient the service that they want, do good for the medical community and still have access.” None of these relevant comments are in the edited version of the video. Instead, they were cut, creating the false impression that Dr. Nucatola was saying the opposite of what she actually was.
Planned Parenthood also noted that while Nucatola described the process as "tissue donation" in her lunch conversation with the anti-abortion activists posing as pharmaceutical reps, the video edited it out.
While there have been many, now-discredited Planned Parenthood sting operations in the past, I suspect these videos have gained traction because of the seemingly unpleasantness of the details. Not many people, outside of doctors and medical researchers, would like to discuss body parts while sipping red wine or picking through a salad at lunchtime. But for Nucatola and Gatter, it was part of their job — one they should be able to lawfully do without moral judgments from others.
The irony in all this is that the most fervent anti-abortion activists, of course, don't just love talking about the details of abortion that they purport to hate — they flaunt them, twist them, propagate them. So here were are, forcing Planned Parenthood to defend those (allegedly photoshopped) images printed on anti-abortion signs outside the walls of their clinics.
But whether or not Planned Parenthood even has to defend itself remains to be seen. The organization has insisted that its fetal-tissue donation program does not violate federal law, and so far, there's nothing here in these videos to suggest that it does.
"Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our patients," said Eric Ferrero, Vice President for Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America., in a statement "Which is why we are fighting back hard and calling this what it is – part of a decade-long campaign of deceiving the public, making false charges, and terrorizing women and their doctors, all in order to ban abortion and cut women off from care at Planned Parenthood."
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