Is Planned Parenthood Altering Abortion Procedures to Obtain Intact Body Parts?

In the latest undercover video, released Tuesday, a Planned Parenthood official says the organization’s abortionists can perform procedures ‘in a way that they get the best specimens.’

Melissa Farrell, the director of research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, discusses the harvesting of fetal tissue from aborted babies in an undercover video released Aug. 4.
Melissa Farrell, the director of research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, discusses the harvesting of fetal tissue from aborted babies in an undercover video released Aug. 4. (photo: YouTube/Center for Medical Progress)

WASHINGTON — The latest in a series of undercover videos on Planned Parenthood shows an official from the organization saying that abortion procedures can be altered to obtain more “intact” fetal organs.

The director of research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Melissa Farrell, promised actors posing as tissue harvesters that abortionists in Planned Parenthood facilities can perform abortions “in a way that they get the best specimens.”

“If we alter our process, and we are able to obtain intact fetal cadavers, we can make it part of the budget that any dissections are this, and splitting the specimens into different shipments is this,” she said discussing prices for the organs. “It’s all just a matter of line items.”

Altering the abortion procedure for the express purpose of extracting tissue is against federal law. The National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993 allows tissue to be gathered if “no alteration of the timing, method or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy was made solely for the purposes of obtaining the tissue.”

The undercover video, released Tuesday, is the latest in a series of reports on “Human Capital” by the citizen journalist group Center for Medical Progress. It is the result of a three-year investigative study of Planned Parenthood and its transfer of body parts of aborted babies for money.

Previous videos showed top Planned Parenthood officials casually discussing prices for “specimens” with actors posing as prospective buyers. Officials also suggested altering the abortion procedure to have a higher chance of extracting “intact” fetal tissue.

In one video, the president of Planned Parenthood’s medical directors council, Dr. Mary Gatter, said she “wouldn’t object” to asking the abortionist to use a different abortion procedure “to increase the odds that he’s going to get an intact specimen.”

In another video, the organization’s senior director of medical services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, suggested how certain organs could be requested for harvesting, “and we want them to be reasonably intact, and you convert to breech,” or a feet-first delivery.

Officials in previous videos also discussed the prices for “specimens” as compensation for Planned Parenthood’s providing the fetal organs.

The Center for Medical Progress has claimed that this is a violation of the law by selling body parts to harvesters, while Planned Parenthood has maintained that its actions are legal and that it is not making illegal profits.

Federal law generally prohibits the selling of human tissue but allows for the donation of tissue with “reasonable payments” for the “transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of human fetal tissue.” It explicitly prohibits the sale of tissue for “valuable consideration.”

In the latest video, Farrell explained that while the abortion process “is generally standardized,” Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast could provide some “intact specimen[s]” to the actors posing as representatives of a fetal tissue-procurement company, and they could also “look at exploring how we can make that happen, so we have a higher chance [of providing intact fetuses].”

“In the cases of when it’s mattered and the physicians also need an intact specimen, they can make it happen,” she said.  

Farrell also discussed compensation, telling the investigators that a more intact fetus, or abortion of a later-term baby, would have a higher cost. “Anything that we piggyback onto that for collection purposes, obviously, would have to reflect that time-cost administrative burden,” Farrell said of how these changes would impact the cost of fetal organs.

Religious and political leaders have expressed outrage over the contents of the videos. On Monday, the Senate tried to bring up a vote to defund Planned Parenthood but failed to get the necessary support to do so.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ pro-life committee, sent letters to all senators on Monday asking them to vote to defund the organization. In a July 28 statement, he said the issue of harvesting organs from aborted babies was part of the “throwaway culture” condemned by Pope Francis.

Rallies to defund Planned Parenthood, titled #WomenBetrayed, were held in over 60 cities on July 28 and coordinated by the pro-life college outreach group Students for Life.

The Senate’s Health and Human Services panel has started an investigation into Planned Parenthood over the allegations that it broke the law, and two House committees are investigating the organization as well.