While those on the left have been worrying about serious outrages such as the fact that Nathan Bedford Forrest's remains haven't yet been dug up, those of us on the right have been thinking about something a little grimmer and more urgent--that being the fact that Planned Parenthood is not only tearing unborn babies apart (which we already knew) but also trafficking in their body parts.
Into what should be a firestorm of criminal investigation by the various executive branches (state and federal) comes this odd piece by America Magazine (author, Sam Sawyer, S.J.) school-marmishly lecturing the organization that has brought out the revelations for "unfair editing."
First of all, a few links. Here is the unedited undercover video. Here is the transcript. The shorter video is in many places, here, inter alia. (In this earlier article Fr. Sawyer does call what Planned Parenthood is doing "indefensible," and he never takes that back and seems genuinely shocked and horrified, but the impact of his condemnation is to my mind muted by his lecturing pro-lifers for "sensationalism" and "unfairness" in his later piece based on the full video.)
Now, back to the America article. Fr. Sawyer says that the editing of the shorter video is "unfair" in part because it leaves out the story he calls "moving" of how Dr. Nucatola, the abortionist, decided to become an abortionist. The short version of that is that she was a medical student and saw a woman who died from a botched late-term abortion. This, I stress, was long after abortion was legal. Rather than making the rational decision to try to dissuade women from having elective, late-term abortions, which are never a simple or unequivocally safe operation, Nucatola perversely decided to become a late-term abortionist herself to facilitate their actions and, presumably, do a better job than the abortionist whose patient had died.
Pardon me, but I am not moved. For many reasons that should be obvious.
Sawyer also complains because the shorter video cut out Nucatola's jailhouse lawyering about whether or not PP is technically selling the baby body parts or merely charging a "reasonable and customary" fee for the expenses involved in collecting them.
The leftist site Media Matters has done a service, in an odd way, by collecting some of the edits from the transcript which it alleges would explain everything. Here is one:
You know, I'm -- I could throw a number out that's anywhere from $30 to $100 depending on the facility, and what's involved. It just has to do with space issues, are you sending someone there that's going to be doing everything, or is their staff going to be doing it? What exactly are they going to be doing? Is there shipping involved, is somebody coming to pick it up -- so, I think everybody just wants to -- it's really just about if anyone were ever to ask them, well what do you do for this $60, how can you justify that? Or are you basically just doing something completely egregious, that you should be doing for free. So it just needs to be justifiable.
Media Matters emphasizes the fact that Nucatola mentions possible shipping, but actually she shows an awareness that the buyers may come into the facility and do all the procurement of the organs themselves and take them away with them. Her phrasing is quite clear--the fees that PP charges to the buyer just have to be "justifiable" in case "anyone were ever to ask them."
A similar quotation, again showing the common practice by which the buyer "rents space" from PP and actually does all the work, is this one:
But yea, that’s the way- It depends, if you’re expecting somebody to process, and package, identify tissue for you, it’s going to be at the higher end of the range. In all cases, it’s really gonna be about staff time, because that’s the only cost to the affiliate. And then, if you want space. For example, it is, it’s Novogenix is at PPLA, they have a corner of the lab. And they set up, come in with their coolers and everything, and handle all the tissue, but they’re taking up space, so I’m sure the affiliate considers that when they come up with what’s reasonable. But I don’t think anybody’s gonna come up with a crazy number, because they’re all very sensitive to this too.
Even at the low end, at $30 per specimen, that could get to be a pretty good "rental" amount for the small amount of space the PP clinic "rents" to the buyers.
Rachel Alexander, quoting Insight Magazine, explains more at The Stream.
Because the sale of human tissue or body parts is prohibited by federal law, the traffickers have worked out an arrangement to expedite the process from which they all benefit and still remain within current interpretations of the law. For instance, the harvesters receive the fetal material as a “donation” from the abortion clinic. In return, the clinic is paid a “site fee” for rental of lab space where technicians, employed by the harvesters, perform as many dissections as necessary to fill researcher manifests.
So what we have here is a muddle of legal gray area (how much of a "site fee" constitutes a "profit"?), a legal loophole, and a dodge. Plus, as Rachel Alexander notes, blatant and persistent failure of any attempt at enforcement of the laws on the books. Says Alexander, discussing earlier, similar cases,
In the 20/20 expose, when asked why Planned Parenthood hasn’t been prosecuted for this, correspondent Chris Wallace responded, “We couldn’t find anyone in the federal government enforcing those laws.” This represents an intrinsic problem with today’s American legal system. A powerful organization like Planned Parenthood can find complicit prosecutors and judges willing to look the other way using technical legal jargon that the public doesn’t understand. Everyone dutifully agrees with the legal system that Planned Parenthood must not have been technically violating the law — despite all the hints, wink-winks and nods. The prosecutor in the Jones case likely decided that Jones was charging a “reasonable fee,” even though everyone knew otherwise.
Fr. Sawyer prefers to speak of Dr. Nucatola as full of humanitarian motives, when in fact even a cursory examination makes it clear that she is simply well-versed in the legal chat by which what the ordinary man would of course call trafficking and sale of human body parts is pushed to and perhaps within the line of legality.
And there's this, which Sawyer nowhere attempts to account for: Nucatola discusses StemExpress, which has worked as a buyer with at least one PP clinic. Before StemExpress tried to make the material disappear, pro-lifers downloaded and saved a flyer in which StemExpress explicitly advertises to Planned Parenthood clinics that what it offers is of “financial benefit to your clinic” and promotes the “fiscal growth of your own clinic.” The flyer also contains an endorsement from Dr. Dorothy Ferguson of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte praising StemExpress for having "a Plug-in Solution that allows us to add additional clinics quickly."
At a minimum, Dr. Ferguson and Planned Parenthood Mar Monte should be federally investigated for openly participating with an organization that expressly promises profits to clinics for the "donation" of fetal organs!
Then there is the partial-birth abortion issue, which Sawyer merely mentions as allegedly part of the sensationalism but which is nothing of the kind.
Nucatola's wording is extremely ambiguous in the video as to whether or not she is performing and other PP abortionists are performing partial-birth abortions. Ambiguous in the sense that probably they are doing so. She explicitly indicates that if one says "on Day 1" that one does not intend to perform a PBA, what "ultimately happens doesn't matter" because "laws are up to interpretation." She also contemptuously dismisses the whole notion of partial-birth abortion as an unreal category.
Providers who use digoxin use if for one of two reasons. There’s a group of people who use it so they have no risk of violating the Federal Abortion Ban. Because if you induce a demise before the procedure, nobody’s going to say you did a “live”—whatever the federal government calls it. Partial-birth abortion. It’s not a medical term, it doesn’t exist in reality. So some people use it to avoid providing a “partial-birth abortion.” Others use it because they actually think it makes the tissue softer and it makes it safer and easier to do the procedure. Is there data for either of these? No. Because number 1, the Federal Abortion Ban is a law, and laws are up to interpretation. So there are some people who interpret it as intent. So if I say on Day 1 I do not intend to do this, what ultimately happens doesn’t matter. Because I didn’t intend to do this on Day 1 so I’m complying with the law. There are other people that say well if you induce demise it doesn’t matter, you’re never gonna do it so you don’t have to worry about intent.
This sounds for all the world as though various PP doctors are indeed performing partial-birth abortions but pretending to do so "by accident" and depending on the "interpretation" of the law and the concept of "intent" to cover them. Others prefer to cover themselves legally by stopping the baby's heart ahead of time with digoxin.
As Nucatola goes on, she is emphatic that there are PP clinics that do not stop the baby's heart ahead of time using digoxin and that those who do not use digoxin are not going to change their ways:
And the affiliates who didn’t give digoxin didn’t want to do it. We couldn’t get anyone to agree to randomize, so the likelihood that you’re going to go to an affiliate who uses dig and ask them not to do it, and they say yes? Not going to happen. Not going to happen, people are not going to give up their dig. And the dig haters are not going to give in.
This makes it almost beyond question that there are PP affiliates performing partial-birth abortions in which the child is alive until the last moment.
All of these statements present a fertile field for prosecutorial investigation--both state (where state bans exist) and federal--into Planned Parenthood procedures and whether partial-birth abortion bans are being violated. So the reference to partial-birth abortion is far from being a result of misleading, sensationalist editing. If anything, the information about affiliates that refuse to use digoxin is especially damning. I haven't read all the coverage, but thus far I haven't seen any other pro-life site draw out this point explicitly about PP affiliates that, Nucatola says, definitely do not use digoxin.
Sawyer deals with none of this in his desire to appear even-handed and to lecture pro-lifers about allegedly harming their own cause by sensationalism and "deep unfairness."
There is something almost amounting to a tic in some people on, say, the pro-life side: A desire to lecture their own on being more fair and evenhanded. The same thing is seen on other issues, such as homosexuality. Everybody wants to be nuanced. Nobody wants to be seen as extreme. Many people who are deemed as "on the right" on social issues want to have it both ways: They want to be deemed solid by those in their own camp, but they want those on the outside to think of them as the better, kinder, gentler, fairer, smarter pro-lifers (pro-marriage advocates, etc.).
I have nothing against care and accuracy, and I always try to pursue them myself. Nor am I against correcting actual errors. But there is such a thing as a foolish haste to accept mainstream media "debunkings" of right-wing claims. Such a foolish haste, ironically, has its own credulity to it, so that if PP says that it isn't breaking the law, then some want to be swift to agree and say, "Oh, well, it's terrible, but I guess PP isn't really breaking the law. Let's agree with that so as to be accurate."
The law on "compensation" and "fees" for human tissue "donations" could and probably should be tightened up. In fact, we can present the defenders of Planned Parenthood with a dilemma: Since this is what all of us ordinary people do call selling, then if this isn't what the law calls "selling," the law needs to be changed. So if this is illegal, it should be stopped under existing law, and if it is legal, it should be stopped by closing the legal loophole. Either way, it must be stopped. Don't give us this, "Move along, folks, nothing to see here" garbage.
And at the lowest minimum, Congress should get its act together and defund Planned Parenthood altogether, yesterday.
I strongly suspect that Rachel Alexander of The Stream is right: This is illegal (e.g., because the "space rental site fees" will turn out to be ridiculous considered as actual expenses of the abortion clinics and because StemExpress makes it clear that it offers a profit to the abortion clinics), but nobody is enforcing the relevant laws, and nobody has been enforcing them for a long time. Also this is probably illegal because it looks like PP clinics around the country are still performing PBAs with impunity. Let's hope some enforcement takes place, at the state level at least, and that next time around we get a federal administration that will enforce existing federal law as well.