Summary of eRumor:
An undercover Planned Parenthood video claims that the group sells fetal body parts from partial birth abortions for profit.
An undercover Planned Parenthood video that claims the group sells body parts from abortions for profit has been disputed.
Planned Parenthood said patients who seek abortions can elect to “donate tissue to scientific research.” But the organization disputes that it, or its patients, profits from those donations.
The controversy started when and anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress posted an undercover video on YouTube. The video reportedly showed Dr. Deborah Nucatola, the senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood, discussing the sale of fetal tissue and body parts with so-called “potential buyers.”
One excerpt from the video — which had nearly 2 million views within days of being posted — captures a conversation between Nucatola and the two people posing as buyers over lunch:
Nucatola: Every provider has had patients who want to donate their tissue, and they absolutely want to accommodate them. The just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as, “this clinic is selling tissue, this clinic is making money off of this.”
Buyers: Okay, so, when you are, or the affiliate is, determining what that monetary…
Buyers: So that it doesn’t raise any question of this is what it’s about, this is the main — what price range would …
Nucatola: You know, I would throw a number out, I would say it’s probably anywhere from $30 to $100, depending on the facility and what’s involved.
Planned Parenthood responded with a statement that said it follows all state and federal laws related to tissue donations, and that it does not profit from them:
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. 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. In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.
The Center for Medical Progress responded that Planned Parenthood had made “key admissions” in its response:
Planned Parenthood makes two key admissions in their statement today: 1) aborted fetal parts are harvested at their clinics, and 2) money is exchanged in connection with this. They also tell several lies: 1) That proper consent is obtained from patients, 2) That Planned Parenthood does not make money off the body parts, and 3) that everything is legal.
The Center for Medical Progress also released a flier from StemExpress, a California-based biomedical company that (the video claims) purchases fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood. The flier discusses the possibility of financial gain for clinics:
StemExpress promotes global biomedical research while also providing a financial benefit to your clinic. By partnering with StemExpress, not only are you offering a way for your clients to participate in the unique opportunity to facilities life-saving research, but you will also be contributing to the fiscal growth of your own clinic. The stem cell rich blood and raw materials that are usually discarded during obstetrical procedures can, instead, be expedited through StemExpress to research laboratories with complete professionalism and source anonymity.
Nucatola referenced conversations with StemExpress in the video, but she implied that there wasn’t an agreement between the groups in place at the time.
Then, in a prepared statement to The Hill, Planned Parenthood said Nucatola was not discussing the sale of body parts and that reimbursements for donated tissue costs were not uncommon:
“Deborah Nucatela was speculating on the range of reimbursement that patients can receive after stating they wish to donate any tissue after a procedure,” the organization wrote in a report prepared by its PR firm.
“The promotional video mischaracterizing Planned Parenthood’s mission and services is made by a long time anti-abortion activist that has used deceptive and unethical video editing, and that has created a fake medical website as well as a fake human tissue website that purports to provide services to stem cell researchers,” the group wrote in a two-page statement.
It also provided several pages of background research about the organization’s use of donated fetal tissue, which it describes as “humanitarian undertaking that hold the potential to cure disease, save lives, and ameliorate suffering.”
Planned Parenthood and other critics of the undercover video have argued that it was a carefully edited attack by an anti-abortion group.
The Center for Medical Progress (not the same as the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute) has a minimal online footprint, so little is known about the group.
But David Daleiden, the group’s self-identified founder, has been a long time anti-abortion activist. In 2009, Daleiden posted another video in which he suggested during a Q&A session that Planned Parenthood had “an institutional tolerance for adult-child sexual relationships,” the Daily Beast reports.
So, it’s true that Planned Parenthood donates fetal tissue to medical research. But the claim that Planned Parenthood does so illegally, or profits from it, are disputed.