Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as the group that provides health services, including abortions, is formally known, explained in a video the group’s fetal tissue donations and apologized for a staffer videotaped by an anti-abortion group.
“Recently, an organization that opposes safe and legal abortion used secretly recorded, heavily edited videos to make outrageous claims about programs that help women donate fetal tissue for medical research,” said Richards.
“I want to be really clear: The allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true,” she said. “Our donation programs – like any other high-quality health care providers – follow all laws and ethical guidelines.”
In the undercover video taken a year ago by a little-known group, the Center for Medical Progress, Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of Medical Services, is seen discussing harvesting body parts to keep them intact. She also talks about pricing, although there is no indication that she or the organization is trying to profit from the fetal tissue. Officials said that the costs involved transportation and delivery.
Planned Parenthood stands behind our work to help women and families donate tissue for medical research when they wish to.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America
But it was Nucatola’s offhand manner over the secretly taped lunch that disturbed many people, including members of Congress and others who are demanding investigations. Nucatola described conducting abortions in such a way to preserve body parts such as the liver or the heart that were on an order list.
Richards, the daughter of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, sought to defuse the incendiary reaction.
“Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide,” she said. “In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion. This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.”
According to Planned Parenthood officials, Nucatola has been reprimanded.
House and Senate panels already are investigating the statements in the video. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a letter to Richards that the panel “is initiating an inquiry into Planned Parenthood’s role in the procurement of fetal tissue and related activities described in the video.”
He noted that Planned Parenthood gets 40 percent of its revenue from federal funds. By law, federal funding does not support abortions.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a presidential candidate and a member of the Judiciary Committee, has called for defunding Planned Parenthood because of the information in the secretly taped video.
“These tapings of Planned Parenthood selling body parts are grotesque,” Cruz said Wednesday on Fox’s “The Kelly File.” “It highlights the evil of what they’re doing.”
Cruz said there should be a criminal investigation as well as congressional hearings.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, also a Republican White House hopeful, ordered an investigation in his state of Planned Parenthood, as did Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee said it is investigating the practices discussed in the video released by the anti-abortion group.
But a prominent academic in the field of bioresearch said that the attention on fetal tissue is misplaced.
“The science of fetal tissue research moved into embryonic and adult stem cell research,” said Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University Langone Medical Center. “This huge interest in fetal tissue research ended 20 years ago.”
Even though the amount of research done on fetal tissue is tiny, Caplan, too, was disturbed by the “cavalier” attitude shown by the Planned Parenthood staffer in the undercover video. In addition, the description of changing the abortion procedure to better harvest body parts is problematic, he said.
“I think that’s very disturbing,” said Caplan. “It’s an ethical problem.”