The story started making the rounds on conservative media on Tuesday morning: a top doctor for Planned Parenthood was caught on camera supposedly talking about how clinics harvest and sell the “body parts” of aborted fetuses, according to outlets like The Daily Caller, The Blaze and The Daily Mail.
In an eight-minute “undercover” video, shot last summer by an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, an executive at Planned Parenthood, explains to a group of pro-life activists — posing as representatives of a fetal tissue procurement company — how a doctor might procure specific organs of an aborted fetus for use in medical research. “A lot of people want intact hearts these days because they’re looking for specific nodes,” Dr. Nucatola says. “Some people want lower extremities, too.”
Talking about body parts always sounds a bit gruesome — and conservative sites eagerly note that Nucatola was eating salad and drinking wine during this encounter — but fetal tissue is only collected with patients’ consent, Planned Parenthood said in its statement, and done in accordance with the law.
“At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does — with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards,” Eric Ferrero, Planned Parenthood’s vice president for communications, said in the statement. “In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases. Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different.”
The anti-abortionists’ most incendiary claim centers on their discussion of the costs associated with gathering fetal tissue. When asked about the “price range” per specimen, Nucatola answers, “anywhere from $30 to $100, depending on the facility and what’s involved.” Live Action–the group behind the Center for Medical Progress–characterizes that as a sale (which, like the sale of body parts, would be illegal). Planned Parenthood, which said in its statement that the video of the conversation was heavily edited, explains that Nucatola was referring to the cost of transporting the tissue to research centers. “There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood,” Ferrero said.
“It’s not like there’s someone who says, ‘I would like to purchase a part of a leg,’ and someone provides that part and charges a fee for it,” a spokesman for Planned Parenthood told Women in the World. “That’s absurd and has never happened.”
On Tuesday evening, the governors of Louisiana and Texas announced plans to investigate Planned Parenthood clinics in their states; Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, said he will “not issue any issue any licenses until this investigation is complete.”