Abortion Controversy Erupts Around Planned Parenthood and the Fetal Tissue Trade
Reenergizing the debate surrounding abortion, on July 14, 2015, an activist group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released the first in a series of undercover video recordings that it says shows Planned Parenthood doctors illegally selling tissue specimens from aborted fetuses for profit. Since the release of the first video, the CMP has released three additional undercover videos.
On July 28, the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a restraining order preventing the CMP from releasing any new undercover video containing officials from StemExpress, a company that obtains fetal tissue specimens from Planned Parenthood and then provides those specimens to researchers. The order remains in effect until an Aug. 19 court hearing.
In the complaint filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court, StemExpress accused CMP of purposely editing the first two videos it released “in a way to paint the [Planned Parenthood] doctors in a negative and factually-misleading light,” and said that CMP was planning on releasing more “false and misleadingly-edited video designed to further harm StemExpress’s business and subject StemExpress’s employees to additional harassment.” The complaint also accused the CMP of invasion of privacy, receipt of stolen property, and a number of other illegal actions.
According to Troy Newman, a board member of CMP and the President of the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue, the videos show that Planned Parenthood “is selling aborted baby body parts for fees that exceed their actual costs and is modifying abortion procedures in order to produce organs that can be sold all in clear violation of State and Federal laws.”
Under federal law it is illegal for companies to profit from the sale of fetal tissue samples, however, companies are allowed to charge for costs incurred such as processing and shipping.
In response to the accusations, Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero stated that “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… there is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood.”
The controversy over the videos has rekindled public debate surrounding abortion and the federal funding of Planned Parenthood. On July 29, 2015, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that legislation had been introduced to defund Planned Parenthood and “ensure taxpayer dollars for women’s health are spent on women’s health, not a scandal-plagued political lobbying giant.” Bernie Sanders, US Senator (I-VT) and 2016 Presidential candidate, came out in defense of Planned Parenthood, stating on his senate Facebook page that “the current attempt to discredit Planned Parenthood is part of a long-term smear campaign by people who want to deny women in this country the right to control their own bodies.”
Federal funding for abortion has been illegal in the United States since passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976. All federal funding for Planned Parenthood is utilized for non-abortion related women’s health issues.
Christine Armario, “Court Bars Anti-Abortion Group from Releasing New Videos,” abcnews.go.com, July 29, 2015
Jackie Calmes, “Video Accuses Planned Parenthood of Crime,” nytimes.com, July 15, 2015
Denise Grady and Nicholas St. Fleur, “Fetal Tissue from Abortions for Research Is Traded in a Gray Zone,” nytimes.com, July 27, 2015
Mitch McConnell, “Shocking Videos Prompt Legislation to Preserve Women’s Health Funding, Not Planned Parenthood Lobbyists,” mcconnell.senate.gov, July 29, 2015
Operation Rescue, “Troy Newman Responds to Cecile Richards’ Vituperative Attacks,” operationrescue.org, July 27, 2015
Bernie Sanders, US Senator Bernie Sanders’s Facebook post, facebook.com, July 29, 2015
StemExpress v. Center for Medical Progress court filing, Los Angeles Superior Court, July 27, 2015
Cheryl Sullenger, “‘It’s Another Boy!’ Ghoulish Planned Parenthood Abortionist Identifies ‘War Torn’ Baby Body Parts,” operationrescue.org, July 30, 2015