Life for Sale

Editorial: Undercover Videos Roil Planned Parenthood, and Us

Since Roe v. Wade made abortion the law of the land, its supporters have found many ways to spin the disturbing truth that the procedure destroys human life.

Unborn children have been dismissed as “products of conception.” And those who disagree with these talking points are accused of confusing religious beliefs with science, as then-Sen. Barack Obama argued, during a 2007 address at a Planned Parenthood event.

Just last fall, Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, launched a new campaign to neutralize the “stigma” associated with abortion. Richards made an example of herself, by acknowledging her own decision to abort her child in an October 2014 column online. Richards didn’t know it then, but the challenge of ending the stigma of abortion, while boosting Planned Parenthood’s credibility with U.S. taxpayers, was about to get much more difficult.

In July, the Center for Medical Progress, a pro-life investigative group, began releasing undercover videos that feature recorded comments from Planned Parenthood officials and staff and appear to show that its facilities are engaged in the harvesting and sale of fetal body parts. Since then, the organization and its allies have struggled to contain the political fallout on Capitol Hill and on social media, where the videos are easily accessible. (See related stories on page one.)

Many more videos are on the way, timed to keep the debate on full boil.

Thus far, Planned Parenthood’s Richards has sought to tamp down the furor with a series of assertions that deserve additional scrutiny — the videos are a product of deceptive editing, Planned Parenthood’s abortionists do not alter their procedures to obtain intact specimens and affiliates do not engage in the sale of fetal organs for profit.

In fact, the Center for Medical Progress released the full-length video conversations with Drs. Mary Gatter and Deborah Nucatola at the same time that they posted the shorter edited versions, so the public is free to evaluate the full record.

Further, it takes only a brief online search to locate a StemExpress ad, which tells clinic directors that the sale of fetal body parts can be “financially profitable” — and also features an endorsement from Nucatola.

The Los Angeles Superior Court issued a temporary injunction July 28 stopping the Center for Medical Progress from releasing any video showing officials from StemExpress, reported The Washington Post; the court agreed to block the release of StemExpress footage until an Aug. 19 court hearing.

Could the expected release of a dozen videos mark the tipping point for Planned Parenthood, as the GOP-controlled House and Senate launch investigations into the organization’s practices? With “Government Health Services Grants & Reimbursements” accounting for 40% of its revenue, according to the group’s 2013-2014 annual report, Planned Parenthood has a lot to lose, as calls for defunding continue.

The undercover videos could also be a game changer for Democrats, who had planned to reboot the “war on women” messaging for the 2016 campaign season. But the Center for Medical Progress’ video campaign also holds the potential to secure a more critical mission, as the public confronts the startling truth that the organs of aborted babies are valuable precisely because they are human — and for no other reason.

The biotech companies “are going on a treasure hunt for the heads or hearts of babies, but how much more valuable would those heads and hearts be if they were allowed to grow up and be a part of society?” said David Daleiden, the Catholic leader of the Center for Medical Progress, in our page-one profile. The videos are radioactive for Planned Parenthood and its allies because they yank off the blanket of denial that has helped to insulate the consciences of many Americans touched by legal abortion: The humanity of the unborn is on full display.

“You say they aren’t ‘body parts,’ just ‘tissue.’ And you aren’t ‘selling’ the tissue, just ‘donating’ it. … Why all this meticulousness over labels?” asked Emily Brandenburg in a widely read blog post for the Register. “All things legal aside, dismembering children … is desecrating human life. It is objectifying the most innocent members of society — those who have no voice.”

In a 21st-century world jam-packed with lies that help many justify immoral choices, the videos serve up the brutal truth in digital images and taped conversations with minimal editorializing. Sonogram images of “wanted children” paved the way for this new development and have already prompted many Americans to retreat from their support for abortion.

Indeed, Gatter and Nucatola testify to the wages of denial that spare the conscience but destroy the soul. Nucatola can eat her lunch and talk about abortion with no ill effects; Gatter can crack jokes about raising fees for fetal organs in order to buy a fast car. 

But the third undercover video features a Planned Parenthood technician, who recalls the horror of her first look at a dismembered fetus in a tray. The technician “blacked out,” and when she awoke, other staff said they too had similar experiences when they were rookies.

The videos could be devastating for the millions of women who have had abortions and now may see the whole experience through a sharper, but darker, lens. It will not be enough for us to applaud the pro-life investigators, who showed perseverance, courage and hope, as they drilled into the heart of darkness, and work to promote a culture of life.

Families, pastors and abortion-recovery apostolates must help women who have suffered from abortion violence and accompany them along the path to forgiveness and recovery.

St. John Paul, in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), tenderly addresses those women: “The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the sacrament of reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost, and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. ... Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.”