A video of a Planned Parenthood physician describing her procedures for keeping foetal organs intact during an abortion is “horrifying and heartbreaking,” a US congresswoman has said.
Rep Ann Wagner, Republican representative for Missouri’s second congressional district, made the comments at a news conference held last week on Capitol Hill by several House members a day after the video was released.
Filmed undercover and produced by the Center for Medical Progress, the video shows Dr Deborah Nucatola, senior director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Medical Services, discussing ways the abortion procedure can be altered to preserve body parts requested for use in research.
Nucatola is shown casually describing to actors posing as buyers from a human biologics company how Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted, unborn children. The video was shot at a business lunch in the Los Angeles area on July 25 2014.
“This organisation, and others, have been accused of atrocities before, but this is the first time it has been captured in their own words, in such a cold and callous way (as) she was shoving salad in her mouth,” said Wagner,.
She was joined at the news conference by other pro-life members of Congress, including US Reps Chris Smith (R-New Jersey); Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin); and Martha Roby (R-Alabama). Smith is the co-chair of the bi-partisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.
Duffy called the video “shockingly inhumane” and “frankly disgusting”.
“I am a dad of seven kids. I have been there for all the births of my children and I think of all of the people who have had a child, and who hear their baby for the first time, it is absolutely priceless. Now we know Planned Parenthood has put a price on those little babies,” he told reporters.
“This is unacceptable in 2015 American society,” he continued. “We need to stand together. This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue, this is an American issue.”
Smith stated that 15 years ago he wrote the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, “the landmark law that combats the exploitation of human beings, mostly women and children, a cruelty that reduces victims to commodities for sale.”
He added: “Planned Parenthood is trafficking in baby body parts and intact organ like livers and hearts, charging up to $100 or more per body part. Congress must, and will, investigate and believe we will put an end to these horrific acts.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced later that day that Congress would investigate Planned Parenthood’s abortion practices.
“Nothing is more precious than life, especially an unborn child. When anyone diminishes an unborn child, we are all hurt, irreversibly so,” he said in a statement.
“When an organisation monetises an unborn child — and with the cavalier attitude portrayed in this horrific video — we must all act,” he said, adding that “I have asked our relevant committees to look into this matter.”
“I am also calling on President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to denounce, and stop, these gruesome practices,” added Boehner.
At least one governor has launched a state-wide investigation, Republican Gov Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
Planned Parenthood acknowledged it sometimes charges for aborted foetuses’ body parts used for research, but said the money Nucatola mentioned is for actual costs such as transportation costs.
Erin Ferrero, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of communications, said in a July 14 statement: “There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or Planned Parenthood.”
Ferrero questioned the video’s credibility, calling it “heavily edited.”
On July 16 in a video statement posted on YouTube, Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president, apologised for Nucatola’s “tone and statements” but also emphasised that “the allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true”.
As head of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Services Department, Nucatola has overseen medical practice at of the federation’s locations since 2009. She also trains new Planned Parenthood abortion doctors and performs abortions herself at Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles on women who are up to 24 weeks pregnant, according to Center for Medical Progress.
In the video, she says: “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”
At the Capitol Hill news conference, Roby became emotional and began to cry, saying the situation warrants a criminal investigation.
“I do not care how much weight Planned Parenthood throws around this town, no one is above the law. We are not going to look the other way while babies are being brutally killed and organs harvested,” she stated.
Nucatola is heard in the video saying concerns have been expressed at Planned Parenthood’s national office regarding liability for the sale of foetal parts.
“At the national office, we have a Litigation and Law Department which just really doesn’t want us to be the middle people for this issue right now,” she says. “But I will tell you that behind closed doors these conversations are happening with the affiliates.”
Duffy said that Planned Parenthood fights any bill Congress might consider about restricting abortion beyond the time a fetus can feel pain, which many scientists say is at about 20 weeks.
Planned Parenthood claims, he said, to be for women and for their health, but “it’s not about health. We know it’s about money. We know they make money the longer the baby is in the womb.”
At least three federal laws make it illegal to buy and sell human foetal tissue or organs in the US. Money can change hands only to reimburse for expenses incurred.