Where we’ve been:
Having seen in #2 that there is ample reason to believe that Planned Parenthood’s leaders are involved in illegal activity, and having acknowledged in #1 that anyone breaking the law must be held accountable, we now take up the question of punishment. Who should be punished, and how?
It is clear, for example, that any doctor caught altering the abortion procedure for the purpose of preserving organs should be held accountable; likewise, any particular individual selling fetal organs at a profit must be made to pay the penalty.
But the argument being made by the Center for Medical Progress, and such Senators as Joni Ernst and such Representatives as Diane Black, is that this is a systemic problem. That is, Dr. Nucatola and Dr. Gatter are not simply admitting what they are, personally, willing to do.
They speak for Planned Parenthood, in a leadership capacity. They speak for the way things are, organization-wide.
Consider also, that Planned Parenthood has not denounced the words or actions of either of these leaders, but has only apologized for their “tone.” PP’s President, Cecile Richards, says they would take swift action over any wrongdoing, but there have been no reported repercussions for the relatively straightforward admissions of illegal activity.
Therefore, if Planned Parenthood does not discipline its own employees, and if the problem appears to be systemic, it is only fitting that the organization, as a whole, is punished.
The bills that have been proposed as a result of the CMP videos act to withdraw federal (taxpayer) funding from Planned Parenthood. They do not actually shut down PP, nor dry up all of their funding, nor prohibit them from continuing to do abortions, nor prohibit anyone else from doing abortions.
Rather, if an organization is to be held accountable for violating federal law, it seems reasonable to deny them federal support. One does not pay the mugger for the privilege of being mugged.
This is, as far as I can tell, straightforward and fair. After all, any taxpayers who are especially supportive of PP’s mission can always donate more money to the organization. There would not be any restriction on this.
Moreover, the bills introduced by Rep. Black and Sen. Ernst would redirect the $500+ million to other, (one presumes) equally worthy women’s health centers. So, taxpayer money would continue to support women’s health at exactly the same rate as now. The only difference is that different health centers would benefit from that money, rather than the single health center that enjoys it all now.
In summary, one large women’s health organization, which we have reason to believe is engaged in illegal activity, would be denied taxpayer funding; 9,000 other women’s health organizations, which we have reason to believe are providing legal services to women, would benefit from a collective windfall of $528 million.
See the first two posts – Prolegomena and #1 – for an introduction to this series.
The first video released by the Center for Medical Progress depicts Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood, meeting with actors posing as buyers from a human biologics firm. (Note: There is a video edited for length and content, and a full, unedited video below the fold).
Recall from the first post that it is illegal to change the abortion procedure in any way for the purpose of preserving fetal organs and tissue. Now:
2:54 – Dr. Nucatola notes that livers are in demand, and that they will use ultrasound guidance to “crush” the right parts of the fetus, in order to preserve certain organs.
3:53 – Dr. Nucatola explains how the abortion provider will sometimes change the “presentation” of the fetus for the purpose of preserving certain organs. In medical terms, she explains that if the baby is presenting head-first, then they will have to crush the head; but if they can turn the baby around to feet-first, then the head will probably be able to come through without damage. There is no mention of the safety of the mother. The motivation is entirely the preservation of fetal tissue.
5:57 – Dr. Nucatola, on hearing that her buyers are interested in certain tissues, explains that she can “maintain dialogue” with the abortion providers, and they can make changes to the process to increase the success of preserving tissue.
Recall also that it is illegal to profit from the sale of fetal tissue.
7:13 – Dr. Nucatola advises that the legal arm of PP said they needed to steer away from the idea that PP is a middleman, because it could look like they are selling tissues. She goes on to reiterate that their pricing is “per specimen,” which belies the fact that they are not simply recovering their costs. That is, a liver from one abortion might be more costly than a liver from another abortion – but they will charge a standard price, rather than charging for the actual costs of the procurement.
The second video features a conversation with Dr. Mary Gatter, PP’s President of Medical Directors’ Council. (The edited and unedited videos are, again, both presented).
Clips pertaining to selling fetal tissue at a profit:
0:22 – Actor posing as buyer asks what price Dr. Gatter is expecting. Dr. Gatter responds with a negotiation tactic (as she later admits) – why don’t you tell me what you’re used to paying?
1:21 – Dr. Gatter refers to “our volume” – the number of abortions – from which the supply of organs will come. This is indicative of her view that she is trading in a commodity, rather than simply offering donated tissue as it happens to become available.
1:48 – Dr. Gatter explains that, in some cases, there was essentially nothing for PP to do in order to provide tissues to a buyer; but compensation was still expected and exchanged.
2:22 – Buyer asks what sort of compensation is usually offered for “in tact” fetal tissue. Dr. Gatter responds, “Why don’t you tell me what you are used to paying?” But if PP was only recovering their costs, this would be irrelevant.
A little later, Dr. Gatter explains that, “You know, in negotiations whoever throws out the figure first is at a loss, right?” The buyer pushes further, and Gatter responds with $75 per specimen.
The buyer responds that this is too low – she would be willing to pay more – and Dr. Gatter admits she was willing to pay $50 per specimen. Again, negotiation would be irrelevant if PP was simply recovering costs.
6:49 – She conditionally accepts the $75 per specimen, but says she will go and find out what other affiliates are getting. Of course, it should not matter what other affiliates are getting – she only has to know what it costs Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley Planned Parenthoods in order to procure the tissues in question.
Once more, recall that altering the abortion procedure in any way, for the purpose of preserving tissues, is illegal. Note:
4:38 – Buyers ask about getting second trimester specimens, and Dr. Gatter explains that there is a little bit of a problem with this.
Ordinarily, they use one technique, but if they want to preserve the specimen, they have to use a technique that applies less force by suction. She admits that this is a violation of protocol, which both PP and the patient have signed and agreed to.
However, she personally finds the argument against changing the procedure to be specious, and she will consult with the legal arm of PP to see what they can do.
And she admits, a second time, that the consent says there’s to be no change in procedure, in accordance with the law cited.
6:11 – If the business relationship with the buyers goes forward, Dr. Gatter will follow-up on the legality of using a “less crunchy” technique to procure the tissues requested.
By my estimation, there is enough reason here, in just these two videos, to suggest that systemic illegal activity is at work within Planned Parenthood.
Systemic, because these are leaders within the organization, and not dismissible as rogue agents. In fact, at the end of the first video, Dr. Nucatola is explicitly lauded as “amazing” by Cecile Richards, President of PPFA.
Illegal, as demonstrated above.
There are more videos, and I will note the evidence of illegal activity in further posts. However, the main thrust of the legal case will continue in the next post.
To date, six undercover videos have been released by The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), and it is these videos which have touched off the current push to defund Planned Parenthood.
In the context of the videos and in the surrounding debate, it is alleged that Planned Parenthood has violated two laws:
It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.
(Related) The term valuable consideration’ does not include reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.’.
No alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy was made solely for the purposes of obtaining the tissue.
In brief: 1) You can’t sell fetal tissue at a profit, you can only recover your costs, and 2) You have to do the abortion the typical way, you can’t change the way you’re doing the abortion in an attempt to obtain tissues.
What CMP and their allies claim is that Planned Parenthood breaks both of these laws, and the videos prove it. We will return to this claim.
Since they believe the claim is self-evidently true, they are seeking to defund PP. But what does that mean?
Two bills have been introduced in Congress, one in the House and one in the Senate. The bill in the Senate was recently introduced in a procedural vote, to see if it would garner the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster, and the measure failed 53-46. Therefore, there has been no federal law passed to defund PP.
The House bill calls for the prohibition of federal funds given to any women’s health agency that provides abortions; the Senate bill is limited to defunding Planned Parenthood. Both bills provide for the funds to be redistributed to other women’s health agencies; neither bill affects the legal right of women to have an abortion.
PP received $528.4 million in fiscal year 2013-14, according to their own annual report. This comprises about 41% of their total revenue (see page 20). Naturally, this would be a significant blow to their budget, and defenders of PP argue it would be unjust. This objection will be treated in a later post.
Ultimately, it is a matter of fact that if Planned Parenthood has broken the law, they should be held accountable. No friend of justice will debate this.
In the following posts, I will seek to show, in light of CMP’s videos, that there is reasonable cause to believe that PP has broken the law. Then, I will argue that nothing short of federal defunding will rectify the situation, until or unless PP should give up providing abortions.
(Even if you are pro-choice)
I speak from the uncountable number of arguments and apologies I have encountered from pro-choice people. If I am somehow neglecting your argument, feel free to introduce it.
I doubt, however, that any pro-choice argument can be reduced past this: You are pro-choice because you believe in a woman’s right to choose. That is, you believe in rights.
Bear in mind, first of all, that “rights” in general must be more basic than “the right to choose.” The set of all rights bestowed on human beings includes such things – in the pro-choice rendering – as the “right to choose,” but it also includes – in the general American rendering – the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Now, the right to life is pre-eminent. Without the right to life, you could not have a right to liberty. Enjoying liberty entails being alive. Likewise with the pursuit of happiness, or equal treatment under the law, or whatever.
(Be patient with me. I am not sneaking in a pro-life argument. We are simply understanding that upon which we already agree.)
So one who is human and alive has a right to life; and we agree, at least, that a human is alive when she is born. Thus, even when the child is born prematurely, we make every effort to help her survive.
The first moral case is that Planned Parenthood allegedly permitted fetuses to be born alive – which makes them infants, for whom we agree the right to life is secure.
Then, they harvested organs.
Now, let me throw out the first offer, and make myself vulnerable in this discussion: If this story is false, then the claim is invalid. The story rests on the testimony of an eyewitness. Eyewitnesses are notoriously imperfect.
And yet, their testimony is still accepted as evidence. (Or do you not accept the testimony of rape victims?) It is reliable enough that we consider it true, unless there is reason to believe it is false.
It is valid enough that an investigation is warranted, as it would be in a case of rape, or even a case of petty theft.
But if the testimony is true, what do you say?
If you are a person of integrity, you will say that Planned Parenthood has therefore committed an atrocity, murdering an infant in cold blood for the purpose of harvesting its organs. Indeed – as we saw with the first two videos – for the purpose of making a profit.
You do not need to be pro-life to find this morally reprehensible. You can be pro-choice and be every bit as disgusted and outraged (not petty outrage – real outrage) as anyone else. You do not need to compromise on a woman’s right to choose in this instance.
If you are morally and logically consistent, you will want criminals to be held accountable. There is a legal and moral law prohibiting the killing of infants, and it should be enforced.
We can stand together on infanticide. If they are guilty, Planned Parenthood should be defunded and prosecuted.
NB – A possible objection is that, even so, the baby delivered in this instance was clinically dead, and one cannot kill what is already dead. The beating of the heart is something like stored electrical energy, which was released, but this is not the same thing as being alive.
I answer that,
- This is in the context of the accusation that Planned Parenthood makes efforts to deliver fetuses “fully in tact,” which is essentially the definition of partial-birth abortion (illegal) and sounds perilously close to delivering born alive infants (resulting in infanticide).
- Even so, as my wife the PICU nurse said, every effort would be made to preserve and resuscitate the infant if it showed signs of life. This certainly would have been true at the moment of delivery, even if, minutes later, the signs of life were incidental at best. (She also notes that the rate of survival is not good in these cases, though neither is it zero).
As you may or may not know – but you probably know – there is a developing push to defund Planned Parenthood. You might also know – but perhaps not – what exactly that means, or why it is being pushed. In the following posts, I hope to bring you up to speed.
A few disclosures are required:
– At this point, I agree with the push to defund Planned Parenthood (PP). Readers may assume a bias, but I don’t think it disqualifies me to inform you.
– Moreover, I will attempt to engage what the PP apologists are saying.
– You are your own judge and jury. I will assume you are of fair and sound mind, even if you are inclined one way or another.
– While I will try to make the best, most complete case possible, I am not a full-time journalist, and furthermore, it is possible that I will make some errors. Factual errors will gladly be corrected.
– I am pro-life. What you read is a greatly subdued tone, in order to make a dispassionate case to the as yet uninformed and undecided. If you are committed either way, I encourage you to keep your peace, or write your own blog posts.
Here is my outline:
1. The layman’s legal case to defund PP.
2. The moral case to defund PP, even if you are pro-choice.
3. My on-going case to protect the lives of the unborn.
See you next time.