WASHINGTON — A wrenching testimony from a worker who extracted fetal tissue from aborted babies inside a Planned Parenthood facility shows the dark underbelly of the tissue trade.
In a video released Tuesday by the citizen journalist group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), a former phlebotomist — a medical technician who specializes in drawing blood samples — describes her horrific experience dissecting body parts of an aborted baby at a Planned Parenthood facility. She was procuring the tissue to be supplied to medical researchers. (WARNING: The video contains graphic content that many viewers would find disturbing.)
Holly O’Donnell, the “ex-procurement technician,” describes picking up the severed leg of an 11-week-old baby with tweezers. “The moment I picked it up, I could just feel death and pain. Like, I never felt that before. Like, shoot up through my body; and I blacked out, basically,” she said.
The video is part of “Human Capital,” a project undertaken by the Center for Medical Progress, investigating the practices of Planned Parenthood. It claims to show Planned Parenthood’s “black market in baby parts.”
The first and second Planned Parenthood undercover videos, released earlier this month by CMP, published the secretly recorded conversations of actors presenting themselves to senior Planned Parenthood officials as representatives of a fetal-tissue procurement company.
The conversations focused on the grisly practice of companies extracting organs directly from aborted babies and discussing the price “per specimen” offered in compensation to Planned Parenthood facilities, allegedly to cover operating costs with a slight profit margin.
In the latest video, O’Donnell discussed how, as a technician for the tissue-procurement company StemExpress, she personally dealt with Planned Parenthood facilities offering the tissue of aborted babies for compensation.
“I thought I was going to be just drawing blood, not procuring tissue from aborted fetuses,” she said of her job.
On her first day on the job, O’Donnell said she entered the abortion facility room and saw tray with pie dishes holding tissue. A worker was “picking the [baby] parts away from the vaginal tissue,” a baby’s head, arm and leg. After she herself picked up a severed leg of an 11-week-old baby, she said she was overcome with horror and fainted.
Planned Parenthood facilities were compensated for the fetal tissue, she explained.
“For whatever we could procure, they [the clinics] would get a certain percentage,” she said. “The main [clinic] nurse was always trying to make sure we got our specimens. No one else really cared, but the main nurse did, because she knew that Planned Parenthood was getting compensated.”
Meanwhile, O’Donnell’s job was to obtain as much fetal tissue as possible for StemExpress.
“They [StemExpress] were just looking for someone who could get as much money, as many samples,” O’Donnell said in the video, “someone who could get the numbers up.”
The video features undercover footage of a Planned Parenthood facility room. A Planned Parenthood official is allegedly shown conversing with actors presenting themselves as from a tissue-procurement company, and they are discussing whether the compensation offered should be for a whole baby or for individual organs.
“I think a per-item thing works a little better, just because we can see how much we can get out of it,” Dr. Savita Ginde told the actors. Ginde is the vice president and medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains in Denver.
The video alleges that Planned Parenthood is making a significant profit off of the body parts, which would be illegal under federal law.
Federal law generally bans the sale of body parts, but it does allow for the donation of tissue for research with some compensation that is “reasonable” and that covers the operational costs like transportation and preservation of tissue. The transaction cannot be for “valuable consideration.”
O’Donnell describes the business connection between StemExpress and Planned Parenthood in the video.
“They partner with Planned Parenthood, and they [Planned Parenthood] get part of the money because we pay them to use their facilities, and they get paid from it,” she said. “They do get some kind of benefit.”
In the video, an actor presenting herself as a representative of a fetal tissue-procurement company speaks to Dr. Katherine Sheehan, the medical director of Planned Parenthood Pacific Southwest. Sheehan says that the organization has a relationship with “ABR,” a company called “Advanced Bioscience Resources.”
According to a cost sheet provided by CMP in the video, ABR offers hundreds of dollars per “specimen,” with prices like $340 for a “second-trimester specimen” and $550 for a “first-trimester specimen.” Those prices are significantly more than the prices discussed in the first two videos, which varied anywhere from $30 to $100 per “specimen.”
Abortion facilities would receive “compensation” in return, in amounts that the former tissue-procurement worker thought was a profit motive for the organization.
In the previous video released by CMP, the president of Planned Parenthood’s medical directors council joked about the price of a “specimen” with potential “buyers.”
“It’s been years since I talked about compensation, so let me just figure out what others [Planned Parenthood affiliates] are getting [for the tissue],” she said. “If this [price] is in the ballpark, it’s fine; if it’s still low then we can bump it up.”
“I want a Lamborghini,” she joked.
The first video released by CMP shows a top Planned Parenthood official, senior medical director Dr. Deborah Nucatola, describing how “a lot of people want intact hearts these days; they’re looking for specific nodes.”
The baby parts are extracted in a way to preserve the organs that are most valuable, she explained.
“So then you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not going to crush that part. I’m going to basically crush below; I’m going to crush above, and I’m going to see if I can get it all intact.”