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.

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 8.37.13 AMReligious freedom in the United States allows those who love a particular tradition to share it with others. In fact, particular traditions obligate their followers to proselytize. It’s a tradition no different than acts of charity. But sharing your faith can be like an overly enthusiastic used car salesman. It’s like sharing that pushes too far, fails to listen and, sadly, too often lacks civility. In fact, claiming that one’s faith tradition is the only way to salvation to an unwilling audience is unethical. These are practices that anti abortionists engage in, not out of love, as they claim, but out of their own proclaimed rights to free speech and rights to practice their religion, otherwise known as pure propagandizing and harassment. Just ask those who are experiencing the anti abortionists’ proselytizing if they experience their actions as loving. If they do not, then the antis will have found the limits of what they ought to be doing. Anything more and they are no longer educating or witnessing, but propagandizing and harassing. It’s what anti abortionists do every day they lurk outside clinics.

Several years ago, a woman decided to take the protesters’ offer of a free ultrasound and traveled with them to the hospital. She said the women were very nice but that they just didn’t listen to her and didn’t respect where she was in her life. They refused to hear how she simply could not carry on with the pregnancy. They refused to help her on her terms. So she returned to the clinic and had the abortion.

Another story from a few years back centers around a young woman who arrived in a cab with her young daughter. Because the appointment would have been difficult for the daughter, all the escorts in the parking lot entertained the young child while her mother went inside. After the appointment, the woman retrieved her daughter. She and the little girl in the little umbrella stroller left the parking lot followed by doggedly determined protesters chewing in her ear all the way to the Mc Donald’s across the street. On and on, babbling, offering to buy her stuff, help her. But not listening to what she was saying. Never listening. It was a week later, when the young woman showed up again for an appointment. One protester called J-Dog recognized the young woman. Her first words to this young woman were heated, curt. She barked at her, “I TOLD YOU we would help you.”  No words of love or kindness. Just pure nastiness.  What’s comically pathetic is that after words of nastiness come recitations of prayers—all out of the same mouth, in the same breath.Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 8.39.49 AM

This combination of nastiness and prayers is particularly evident in another protester called Linebacker. Ever busy toting her rosary and praying about spiritually adopting babies about to be murdered, this anti is also very quick to anger. She’s also quick to point out that her anger is righteous anger. (Oh, give me a freakin’ break!) One day about four years ago, Linebacker showed up at the clinic entrance with a framed image of our lady of Guadalupe. As an aside, it is noteworthy that some Catholics worship graven images of all sorts of folks. They use these images to ward off evil spirits, to talk to, and to threaten people at abortion clinics. So, back to the story. Linebacker used her show-and-tell piece to yell at a woman entering the clinic, shoving the image in the air saying, “the blessed mother is angry at abortion.” Now, here’s where the connection between religious proselytizing and anti abortion protesting goes terribly wrong. Linebacker pivots on her heels and really yells directly at me. Keep in mind, I’m videotaping all this for a documentary. She grasped her graven image firmly, raises it upward and toward me and yells, “The blessed mother is very, very angry at you Kate, you and all those who will watch your stupid documentary.” It had to be one of the funniest things I’ve witnessed for its nonsensical religious rage.

One last story comes from the likes of a Pappa Smurf look alike, white beard and all, named Gerry. He is a man who believes in himself. He once said to escorts who were rightly laughing at him, “Laugh at me and you laugh at God.” But the crowning psycho-religious comment happened when a mother and daughter arrived at the clinic. The mother revealed that her daughter had been brutally raped. Gerry’s response, in typical My-proselytizing-is-more-important-than-your-situation, was “If your daughter is pregnant because of being raped, it’s the way God wanted it.”

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 8.41.19 AMThe common denominator amongst the anti abortionists is a belief in a position of superiority with their faith as the only true faith. The see anyone outside their belief system as inferior, filled with errors, Satan-inspired, bound to an eternity in Hell, in need of prayers and on and on, ad nauseum. So it is little wonder that when these lovelies assume such a position in their religiously informed antiabortion proselytizing, that they are met with objections, disdain and reciprocal disrespect. Show no respect, get no respect. It’s the basics of Ethics 101.



“It is my conviction that there is no way to peace – peace is the way.”  ~Thich Nhat Hanh