Washington D.C., Sep 1, 2015 / 10:07 am
Under fire after a series of recent sting videos, Planned Parenthood Federation of America's (PPFA) CEO Cecile Richards wrote a letter to Congress last week addressing the issues raised in the videos, which call into question Planned Parenthood's procurement of fetal tissue for research.
In a follow-up letter to Congress, the Center for Medical Progress – the non-profit group that released the sting videos – said Planned Parenthood's letter corroborates their initial claims that the organization is illegally selling fetal tissue at a profit and altering abortion procedures in order to obtain intact specimens.
In Planned Parenthood's letter to Congress, Richards reveals that a California Planned Parenthood affiliate currently "receives a modest reimbursement of $60 per tissue specimen from the TPO." According to Richards, "that affiliate also has a separate relationship with the University of California."
Richards also argues that the reimbursement for tissue falls under the exceptions in the law that allow "for actual expenses (e.g. storage, processing, transportation, etc.) of the tissue. If an affiliate chooses to accept reimbursement for allowable expenses, it must be able to demonstrate the reimbursement represents its actual costs."
However, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) questions whether $60 per specimen can lawfully be considered a modest and legal reimbursement:
"Thus, if ABR (a tissue procurement organization) harvests a liver and a thymus, a common fetal tissue order, from an 18-week fetus aborted at the San Diego clinic, Planned Parenthood receives a total payment of $120 from that case," CMP wrote. "It stretches credulity to believe that ABR's technician harvesting two organs from a fetus costs Planned Parenthood $120 – this is a new revenue stream off of fetal tissue with no real cost to Planned Parenthood, and thus a criminal profit."
In a recent article in the Daily Signal, former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson discussed the fetal tissue procurement process during her employment, which ended in 2009. At the time, Johnson said her clinic participated in a fetal research program which reimbursed Planned Parenthood $200 per baby.
"The researchers provided the Styrofoam box and dry ice to Planned Parenthood. Literally the only cost we had was shipping the box. And that was about $20 every time we shipped," Johnson told The Daily Signal. "So Planned Parenthood is getting $200 per specimen, and we're taking all the specimens, putting them in one box and shipping it off for $20. The different fetal body parts are not shipped individually."
The Center for Medical Progress also argues that in her letter to Congress, Richards admits that Planned Parenthood makes adjustments to abortion procedures in order to obtain intact specimens for reimbursement.
Richards' letter states: "In performing the selected method, a physician may need to make multiple adjustments to the method as the surgery proceeds. These adjustments are clinical judgments – not a change of method – made by the physician as the abortion proceeds and are always intended to achieve the woman's desired result as safely as possible. The key point, as the 1988 blue-ribbon commission recognized, is that there be no change that would impact the safety or well-being of the patient."
The Center for Medical Progress also notes that Richards seems to conflate "the 2nd-trimester abortion methods of dilation and evacuation (D&E) and intact dilation and extraction (IDX), the latter known legally as 'partialbirth abortion' and prohibited by 18 U.S.C. 1531."
When listing possible methods of abortion in her letter, Richards does not mention IDX as a possible method.
She "seems to refer to both as 'dilation and extraction,'" CMP wrote. "PPFA Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, clearly described a partial-birth abortion according to the federal law during the lunch meeting CMP investigators had with her on July 25, 2014."
After the release of several of the sting videos, Planned Parenthood's main defense has been that the videos were "heavily edited" and therefore misleading. Planned Parenthood paid Fusion GPS, a political opposition-research company, to investigate and provide analysis of the videos.
Fusion GPS's analysis "did not reveal widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation" and "shows no evidence of audio manipulation." While it identified cuts in the tape, the Center for Medical Progress maintains that these cuts were made during bathroom breaks of their actors and were made to protect their privacy.
"Of course, CMP is ready to provide original recording files to law enforcement and to Congress to the extent we are lawfully able to. Our attorneys are working diligently to resolve pending legal questions regarding the disclosure of these recording files to government investigators, including by seeking clarification of an unconstitutional prior restraint TRO imposed on CMP in federal litigation brought by Planned Parenthood's proxy, the National Abortion Federation," CMP wrote in their letter.
Four committees in the Senate and House are currently investigating the recent allegations against Planned Parenthood, and several states have decided to cut funding to the organization in wake of the video sting.
The Center for Medical Progress said they will continue to advocate for a thorough investigation of Planned Parenthood by each investigation, and they will cooperate fully with the federal government toward that end.
"The reduction of any human being, man, woman, or child, to a commodity, or to only the commercial sum of their parts, is offensive to the public and contrary to our foundational values as a people," CMP wrote. "It would be unconscionable to allow Planned Parenthood to hold themselves above the law and human decency, with their barbaric abortion practice subsidized by half-a-billion taxpayer dollars each year."