Life Dynamics’ Lies

Fetal parts are for sale. Yep, the terrible Planned Parenthood abortionists found and tapped into a profitable market for fetal parts, especially intact forms.

This is the basic narrative inserted into the talking points of anti-abortion politicians these days after edited videos between Planned Parenthood representatives and imposter biomedical tissue brokers surfaced. Ignored was the benefit fetal tissue provides to medical research. Disregarded was the selectivity used to decide what was fit for public consumption. Much has been made of interactions that might be suspicious to outsiders of medical and scientific research environments or appeal to the emotions of the uninformed.AR headline

Planned Parenthood can sufficiently respond to the “undercover sting videos” of its medical staff discussing fetal tissue donation. The rest of us need to respond to this attempt by anti-abortion dogmatists to impose their view of the world into public policy.  The states that have initiated investigations based on the videos found Planned Parenthood in compliance with regulations. Even if one state, or several states, unsuccessfully takes action for political value or reject continued contracts with Planned Parenthood for health services, it would be a measurement of success for this false narrative. Planned Parenthood will remain open to provide important health services, but there are other issues of which we should all have concern.

Deception and Ethics

The videos were created by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which claims to be “…citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances.”  Their website appears to be focused only on promoting anti-abortion viewpoints, no other medical ethics issues. End-of-life treatment, organ donation processes, and equality in accessing medical care are among the top ethical issues one would expect to see mentioned.ethics

Why the deception when it would have been perfectly acceptable for CMP to identify itself as abortion opponents with specific, legitimate ethical questions pertaining to abortion and fetal tissue?

Honesty and integrity are critical to discussions about ethical issues.  Would abortion clinic representatives talk openly with abortion opponents? I and many others certainly have on many occasions in our roles as reproductive healthcare professionals. Did the CMP even attempt to arrange a discussion? If the intent of the “undercover” effort was to learn about the involvement of some Planned Parenthood affiliates with fetal tissue procurement, it was not necessary for CMP to engage people by misrepresenting themselves as biomedical professionals. Why just Planned Parenthood and no other providers of elective, therapeutic, and emergency abortions? Hospitals and other medical facilities play a significant role in tissue procurement, which can seem quite unsavory to outsiders.

abortion safeApparently deception and fabrication are a preferred method of operation within anti-abortion activism. Deception and fabrication are the hallmarks of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, also known as fake abortion clinics because of the their strategy to appear as if they are abortion clinics and use misinformation to dissuade women from abortion once they arrive for their “abortion appointment.”  Anti-abortion literature distributed to Congress, the media, and the public also contains incorrect, distorted, and often manufactured information. This is how the public at times believes that most abortions are late term. Or have murky ideas about parental consent for abortion in which it is compared to unrelated issues that are often guided by business policies, not laws.

It is no surprise that deceptive tactics were used to generate the storyline about fetal tissue procurement. It is nonetheless striking that there is not outrage about the deception, especially when ethics is the alleged target. Clearly, acquiring and providing information about fetal tissue procurement would not generate outrage if done without the theatrics of imposter biomedical professionals and video editing skills. Do we really want topics of importance to be introduced to public discourse in this manner? Of course not. The media would serve the public well to fully investigate the “investigators” and bring political balance to that part of the story. The notion that an organization like CMP, with a Postal Annex rented address no record of prior work as a nonprofit in the medical ethics arena, and leadership comprised of people connected to anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue, can have traction in promoting political ideology as if it was credible news or journalism is frightening. The media failed by not scrutinizing the source before doing the reporting, especially since another group, Life Dynamics, attempted to do the same in the late nineties.

For the record, pro-choice people resorted to deception to “out” the Crisis Pregnancy Center’s fake abortion clinic charades. Why? Because CPCs claimed that they informed women that they did not perform abortions, provided factual information, and other practices did not square with what women had shared with actual medical professionals.  A hidden camera sent in by the media with a young woman proved that the experiences of other women were accurately presented.

Using the Mistruths as Truths to Further the Mistruths

Talk radio stars Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh all regularly speak of the CMP as if it is a credible nonprofit out there doing good work.  Politicians, including U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner and those running for president, refer to the videos time and again as if they were part of a documentary. Absolutely nothing revealed in the videos is evidence of anything sinister. At worst, the videos illustrate the seeming insensitivities that can develop when people work in medical settings. wd

Right wing websites are having a great time exaggerating the video content and piling on more false or misleading information. Red State claims that Planned Parenthood was “…caught…appearing to haggle over the sale of aborted baby parts.” Haggling? Not hardly. The videos revealed explanations, in clinical and business tones, about how tissues and parts are procured. Bear in mind that CMP presented themselves as biomedical professionals interested in obtaining fetal tissue. Would it have somehow been acceptable for responses to exclude information about quality of parts and associated costs?

Comments made by elected officials can be perceived as the truth. Thus, when Senate newcomer Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) states, “Planned Parenthood is harvesting the body parts of unborn babies,” to explain her sponsorship of a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, perceptions are broadly formed and shared throughout every possible medium. The tone of Ernst’s statement can conjure so many images that only perpetuate incorrect information. When Breitbart News quotes a Ted Cruz comment that the videos show Planned Parenthood representatives “confessing to multiple felonies,” it misleads, misinforms, and further polarizes people on the basis of ideology as opposed to facts. Shame on all who have made, and are continuing to make, comments implying that the videos exposed evidence of crime. Shame on all who are giving the CMP credibility, so much credibility that there are threats to shut down the government if Planned Parenthood is not defunded.

Fetal Tissue Research is Ethical and Beneficial

There has always been a market for anatomical and biological goods, including human fetal tissue and parts.  Specific companies respond to the demand for human and animal parts. College psychology departments buy brains to teach students. Medical and scientific researchers need specimens in order to learn more about genetics or real and prospective treatment options for a range of diseases, for example. Fetal tissue/parts obtained from miscarriages and abortions have been used for decades and have led to a number of medical breakthroughs, including rubella and polio vaccines. Kimberly Leonard wrote an excellent article in the August 4, 2015 online issue of US News about the contributions of fetal tissue research. Many of us are grateful for those contributions. In the August 12, 2015 New England Journal of Medicine, lawyer R. Alta Charo stated, “A closer look at the ethics of fetal tissue research…reveals a duty to use this precious resource in the hope of finding new preventive and therapeutic interventions for devastating diseases. Virtually every person in the [United States} has benefited from research using fetal tissue.”  Quite simply, it would be unethical for medical researchers to suddenly discontinue use of fetal tissue due to politically extreme ideology.

research petri dishFetal parts are not allowed to be sold – they can only be donated with consent from pregnant women after they are removed.  If profit for fetal parts is the actual concern of CMP, their time would be better spent honestly working with regulatory agencies to determine with certainty if any inappropriate financial transactions between abortion providers and biomedical tissue businesses exist. It is certain that people of all political views on the issue would abhor such a practice.

As the dribble of videos continues, no evidence of illegal activities will be presented. Instead, ideology will be promoted with the intent to cause some to rethink their views about abortion and try to stop an organization that serves the healthcare needs of so many low-income women. The effort will fail, but in the meantime, we will all have to witness the nonsense and speak up about reality when we can.

Crisis Pregnancy Center Deception

Crisis Pregnancy Center Deception, Lies, and Misinformation

For the last few days, we’ve been talking a lot about Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC).

If you are pro-life, these CPCs are establishments that seek to offer pregnant women (or non pregnant women, for that matter) information about their options.  The staff people at these centers sit back and wait for the women to come in, they then sit them down in, in a non-judgmental environment, tell them all about adoption, childbirth and abortion.  Yes, their bottom line is that they are against abortion but they really just want to make sure that woman is educated and knows what resources are available to her should she decide to give birth.

If you are pro-choice, these centers lure women into their facility under false pretenses, pretend that they are a medical office by offering ultrasounds and fill the women’s heads with lies about how the perils, both emotional and physical, of this very easy procedure.

Coincidentally, in the wake of our discussions, legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Senate called “Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women’s Service’s Act.”  In their press release, the authors of the bills brought attention to the bill’s clever acronym:   SDAWS.

Just kinda rolls off the tip of your tongue, doesn’t it?

If the bill became law, the Federal Trade Commission would be required to issues rules declaring that it is an “unfair or deceptive act” for a CPC to advertise that they are “a provider of abortion services.”  The pro-choice groups are understandably elated and energized.  One leader applauded the initiative and said “we should all agree that a woman should not be misled or manipulated when she’s facing an unintended pregnancy.”   The troops are gearing up to storm the Congress to get this important legislation passed.

Crisis Pregnancy Center Deception, Lies, and Misinformation

Crisis Pregnancy Center Deception, Lies, and Misinformation

My initial reaction is that this is an incredible waste of time.

Now, I admit that I have not done a full-fledged review of every CPC in the country, but I would bet that house that hardly any of them actually advertise that they “provide abortion services.”   I mean, c’mon, even the sleaziest CPC staff person would never, with a straight face, say that.  And if anyone can show me differently, I totally welcome the evidence and will offer a mea culpa.

Sure, many of them, if not most, say that they provide “abortion information,” but, technically, that is true.  They do offer “information” on abortion, albeit in many cases it is the wrong information.  But it is “information” nonetheless.

So, to me, the big question is:  why are these pro-choice Members of Congress and the pro-choice groups spending time and resources on trying to pass a bill that – in the unlikely event that it becomes law – will have practically NO impact?  And, for argument’s sake, let’s say the FTC does find a totally whacky CPC director who says in their Yellow Page ad that they provide abortion services.  The FTC will theoretically bring some kind of action against them and chances are that that CPC will just agree to not say it in the future.  And if they refuse to change their ways, maybe they’ll be shut down.  Well, that leaves only THOUSANDS of more CPCs to go after!   Way to go folks!

I certainly appreciate the energy of the authors of these bills and I am sure they will now get a nice donation from the pro-choice political action committees because they have shown they are pro-choice “leaders.”  Meanwhile, they’ve issued their press releases and are getting some attention on pro-choice blogs, websites, etc.

But, in the long run, ain’t nothing gonna change.

And around and around we go….

Pro Life Abortion Lies

Pro Life Abortion Lies

I have always tended to trust people.  Don’t ask me why – it’s just part of my genetic makeup.  But when you are in the middle of the abortion “wars,” as I was for many years, trusting people can get you into a lot of trouble.

Sometime in the early part of 1993, I was at my desk in the offices of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers when I got a call from one of our doctors in Nevada.  “Hey Pat, what the hell is this Project Choice survey?  Should I respond?”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but soon learned how most of our doctors had received a “confidential” survey from a group called “Project Choice.”  The cover letter indicated that this group had been contacted by a foundation that was interested in helping protect abortion providers from violence and harassment, but before they would commit they wanted “evidence” that the violence and/or harassment was real.  So, the folks at Project Choice compiled an extensive mailing list of clinics and mailed out 961 surveys.  Ultimately, almost 285 were completed, a very high return rate of 30 percent.

Pro Life Abortion Life Dynamics' Lies

Pro Life Abortion Life Dynamics' Lies

After talking to the doctor, I called the phone number listed on the survey.  I was immediately connected to a woman named Lisa Nelson.  She was very personable, thrilled that a person from a pro-choice national organization had called because, as she put it, “some of the pro-choice groups we’ve talked to are very suspicious of who we are.”   Ah, but I was different.  I was thrilled that someone wanted to help our abortion doctors.  Lisa told me about the foundation and I told her I would love to help her out by urging our doctors to participate.

The survey was impressive.  It came in a package came with a self-addressed stamped envelope and when it was received, the participant received a call and a thank you note.  The survey was divided into four parts: Doctor’s Profile, Motivation, Social Environment, and Harassment and Violence.  Of course, we all focused on the “Harassment and Violence” section, anxious to provide them with a comprehensive picture of the terrorism that was taking place against abortion providers at the time.  While I was promoting the project, staff people at the National Abortion Federation were more suspect and, indeed, encouraged their members to not participate in the survey.  Always at loggerheads with NAF, I took the opposite course and told our members that I saw no problems with their filling out the survey.  Indeed, I visualized Project Choice getting that big foundation grant to help stem the violence and my being part of that press conference.

Pro Life Abortion Life Dynamics' Lies

Pro Life Abortion Life Dynamics' Lies

Lisa and I kept in touch over the next few weeks. She was very personable, a spry young pro-choice lass who was anxious to help out her “heroes” in the field of abortion.   We talked enthusiastically about the results she was getting that documented the violence and harassment against our doctors.  Meanwhile, I never paid any attention to the “Social Environment” section of the survey.

One day, when Lisa and I were just chatting it up, I asked her where she was going to college and she mentioned some university in Denton, Texas.  The name of the town sounded familiar and I asked my staff person if she had ever heard of it and she casually said “yeah, that’s where Life Dynamics is located.”   Life Dynamics was a notorious, super aggressive anti-abortion group headed up by a wacko named Mark Crutcher.  My stomach started to churn a bit.

I let it go for a few days, but ultimately picked up the phone and called the Life Dynamics office.

“Hello, Life Dynamics, can I help you?”

“Uh, yes, this is Pat Richards.  Could I speak to Lisa Nelson please?”

I found myself begging that she would say “I’m sorry, there is no one here by that name.”   Instead, she asked if she could put me on hold.  My blood pressure started to creep up.

“Well, hello, Pat.  So, you found me.”

I had to do everything to keep my lunch down.  Instead of the perky college student voice I had become familiar with, the voice was now downright sinister.  I had caught her to some extent (she could have ignored me but she took the call because the survey was already done).  But we both knew that I had been a totally idiot and you could tell she relished the moment.

I was at a loss for words but lamely spit out “Well, Lisa, I hope you’re happy.  You must be very proud of yourself.”

“Pat, this is a war and I’m a soldier of the Lord.”

I hung up, ran outside and, yes, lost my lunch.  When I got back to the office, we sent out an emergency fax telling our members that we had “exposed” Project Choice, hoping folks would forget that we had originally encouraged them to participate in the survey.  But, by that time, the surveys had been completed and mailed back.  Still, we didn’t panic because we couldn’t imagine what they would do with “evidence” that our doctors were being terrorized.

Within a few weeks, Life Dynamics had a press conference, reveling in the fact that they had pulled off this scam and, more important to them, revealing the answers to the questions.  They hardly said a work about harassment.  Instead, they focused on the Social Environment section of the survey.

The cited how sixty-five percent of the doctors said they felt ostracized because of their work.  Half of the doctors reported having problems keeping or recruiting staff because they did abortions.  Almost 40% of the doctors said that certain aspects of the abortion procedure caused then “concern.”   The strategy was to use the words of the abortion doctors themselves to prove how they were pariahs in the medical community.  From this, they concluded that “the moral concerns abortion providers have about performing abortions is an internal phenomenon brought on by the nature of the act itself, and are not directly related to anti-abortion activity.”

In addition, however, the answers to the “Harassment and Violence” section gave groups like Operation Rescue encouragement.  Even among providers who had not personally experienced harassment, over 20 percent said that such activity caused them to consider quitting.  Many of them said that this type of activity has had a negative impact on their family.  Then, they reported how the doctors reported feeling everything from anger to thoughts of suicide.  Some even admitted to drug use.  It was a green light for more terrorism and, indeed, the next few years were hell.

Cleverly, Life Dynamics used the “self-portrait” to paint an ugly picture of the world of abortion providers, to demonstrate that they were the “bottom feeders” of the medical world and that many of them did not feel good about their life and work.  Meanwhile, they sent a signal to other anti-abortion zealots that the harassment was working.

In the long run, who knows what the survey and the subsequent pronouncements actually accomplished?  Sure, it must have been a blast that day at the Life Dynamics office, the conversations and the high fives around the water cooler probably lasted for weeks.   The terrorism increased, but it’s impossible to say if it was a result of this project.

What did change, however, was this ugly episode only made me more cynical, more suspicious.

That’s the saddest part of this whole story.