Factcheck.org Debunks Conservative Smear Campaign Against Planned Parenthood


The conservative attack on Planned Parenthood follows the pattern we have seen so many times in the past. Groups such as Breitbart put out edited tapes or videos to attack organizations which they disagree with based upon false claims. Now that fact checkers have had time to evaluate the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood, it is becoming clear that this is just one more example, and hardly comes as a surprise considering that most of the conservative reports on the issue which I’ve read quickly degenerate into a tirade against reproductive rights and legitimate scientific research.

Factcheck.org has evaluated the claims, and points out that, “it remains legal to donate tissue from a legally aborted fetus, and for that tissue to be used for research purposes.” They point ethical guidelines on the issue from the American Medical Association: “Fetal tissue is not provided in exchange for financial remuneration above that which is necessary to cover reasonable expenses.”

Reviewing the tapes, Factcheck.org found numerous examples which demonstrate that Planned Parenthood was operating within the law and established ethical guidelines:

Nucatola’s comment, though, isn’t evidence that Planned Parenthood or its affiliates are selling “body parts” or fetal tissue for profit. The full video shows that after Nucatola mentions the $30 to $100, she describes how those amounts would be reimbursement for expenses related to handling and transportation of the tissues. Nucatola talks about “space issues” and whether shipping would be involved…

Nucatola does make one statement in the unedited video that suggests to critics that some clinics would be comfortable with a payment that was slightly more than their expenses for providing the tissue. “I think for affiliates, at the end of the day, they’re a nonprofit, they just don’t want to — they want to break even. And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that,” Nucatola says.

But immediately after this statement, Nucatola goes on to say: “Really their bottom line is, they want to break even. Every penny they save is just pennies they give to another patient. To provide a service the patient wouldn’t get.” Planned Parenthood told us that she may have been referring to more general operations of the clinics.

Nucatola repeatedly talks about affiliates only wanting to provide a service to their patients, who elect to donate the tissue for medical research, and not having that service impact their bottom lines. She says that it’s “not a new revenue stream the affiliates are looking at” and that “nobody should be ‘selling’ tissue. That’s just not the goal here.” She says some affiliates might donate the tissue for free.

Nucatola also discusses Planned Parenthood clinics’ interactions with a tissue procurement company called StemExpress. The company’s website says that partnering with StemExpress can be “financially profitable” for a clinic — a point that some conservativewebsites have singled out. But this also does not constitute evidence that Planned Parenthood is profiting in such a way…

Richards, the Planned Parenthood president, said in a video response to the controversy: “The allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true.”

On July 21, the Center for Medical Progress released a second, similar video, again featuring a discussion with a Planned Parenthood official in a restaurant. The numbers mentioned in the edited video are similar to what Nucatola said. The official, Mary Gatter, quotes a rate of $75 per specimen, and says she was thinking of saying $50. The discussion only reaches $100 because the “buyers” in the video mention higher prices. At one point, Gatter says that “we’re not in this for the money,” and later she reiterates that “money is not the important thing.”

Though few studies of costs associated with fetal tissue acquisition are available, existing evidence does suggest the prices named in the video are in line with general practices. The National Institutes of Health conducts research with fetal tissue, and in the late 1990s, the Government Accountability Office (then known as the General Accounting Office) looked into the acquisition of such tissue, finding that the direct cost to researchers was “low.” GAO said payments primarily went to “central tissue suppliers,” as opposed to health clinics. In most cases, GAO found that clinics did not charge researchers, but when they did, the cost ranged from $2 to $75. The report did not address how much clinics might have received from central tissue suppliers, which is more analogous to the situation presented in the video.

PoltiFact has also reviewed the topic.

The New York Times has run an editorial on the subject. After summarizing the issue, the editorial concludes:

Anti-abortion groups have long pushed to defund Planned Parenthood, even though no federal money is used to provide abortions. But that hasn’t stopped their efforts to shut down the clinics, which provide services like contraception, cancer screening and other tests.

The Center for Medical Progress — which managed to get tax-exempt status in 2013 as a biomedicine charity, according to a report by The Huffington Post — appears to have done little beyond producing the undercover video. According to its registration form with the California attorney general, it has three officers: Mr. Daleiden; Albin Rhomberg, who has participated in anti-abortion protests; and Troy Newman, the president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

In a statement last week, Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that “our donation programs — like any other high-quality health care providers — follow all laws and ethical guidelines” and that “Planned Parenthood stands behind our work to help women and families donate tissue for medical research when they wish to.”

Researchers use fetal tissue to study and develop treatments for diseases and conditions like H.I.V., hepatitis, congenital heart defects, retinal degeneration and Parkinson’s. Last year, the National Institutes of Health gave $76 million in grants for fetal tissue research. Planned Parenthood is certainly not the only collector of fetal tissue — clinics associated with universities also supply tissue for research.

The Center for Medical Progress video campaign is a dishonest attempt to make legal, voluntary and potentially lifesaving tissue donations appear nefarious and illegal. Lawmakers responding by promoting their own anti-choice agenda are rewarding deception and putting women’s health and their constitutionally protected rights at risk.

Considering the potential health benefits, research on fetal tissue is the true “pro-life” position.

Update: The Department of Justice plans to investigate this matter.


  1. 1
    David Duff says:

    Point missed – again.

    PP are killing babies and selling their body tissues.

    Sound good to you, does it?

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    No babies are being killed. A fetus is not a baby.

    No body tissues are being sold. Receiving fees to reimburse for expenses related to collection, preservation, and transport of tissue is not selling. If money is being exchanged beyond this, it would be illegal, but the tapes show no evidence of any illegal behavior by Planned Parenthood

    This is standard practice. Insurance companies pay me for collection and transport of blood for lab testing, and for collection and transport of cervical cells for pap smears. This does not mean I’m selling blood or selling cervical cells.

    The fetal tissue is being donated for medical research, which can be life saving. So yes, this is good.

    You also demonstrate my point that this has nothing to do with any impropriety on the part of Planned Parenthood, but is based upon conservative objection to abortion and to medical research on fetal tissue.

  3. 3
    David Duff says:

    "Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood community services director-turned-pro-life activist, said that “harvesting” organs and tissue is “a big business” for Planned Parenthood on Wednesday’s “Hannity” on the Fox News Channel.

    Johnson said Planned Parenthood is “absolutely” using ultrasound-guided abortions to preserve organs so they can be sold. She continued, “It’s a big business. Planned Parenthood is harvesting these organs, this tissue as early as seven and eight weeks gestation at a lot of their abortion facilities across the country. They are packaging them, they are shipping them off to, sometimes companies that act as middle men, sometimes directly to the research labs. And they’re getting paid a pretty good price for each specimen they send out.”"

    No, no, no, nothing to see here, move along please!

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    You continue to twist the facts. Hannity is hardly a credible source.

    We have two fact check sites debunking the claims that Planned Parenthood is selling organs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using ultrasound to preserve organs for scientific search. Charging the amounts cited in the tapes is entirely in line with what is customary for collection, preparation, and transport of medical specimens. Again, this is no different from when I am paid comparable amounts for sending a specimen for a pap smear.

  5. 5
    David Duff says:

    Hannity isn't the source.  The source is a woman who was an executive with Planned Parenthood but apparently she could stand the blood and the blood money!

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    It doesn’t matter. It was on Hannity, making everything subject to question. Her statements contradict not only what the Fact checkers found, but even contradict the tapes which verify that only nominal fees were being paid which were well in line with normal fees for transporting medical specimens.

  7. 7
    David Duff says:

    So glad to see you're supporting Pepsicola and other big food companies:


    Can we put our taste buds into that category because companies like Pepsi, Kraft, Nestles, and many other companies get their flavor enhancers from a biotech company that uses clones of old fetal cell lines. Jill Stanek of LifeSite, answers some of those questioning Pepsico's involvement with the issue and its contracts with Senomyx:

    The company. Senomyx, develops patented flavor enhancers by using "proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems." These receptors are made from HEK293. HEK stands for Human Embryonic Kidney cells. These cells, which were cloned, originally came from healthy, electively aborted human embryos. Using information from the human genome sequence.

    President Obama's Security and Exchange Commission ruled that PepsiCo's use of cells derived from aborted fetal remains in their research and development agreement with Senomyx to produce flavor enhancers falls under "ordinary business operations."


    Yum, yum, Mummy, that baby tastes good!

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    No, nobody is drinking parts of babies. This right wing lie was debunked a while back, and has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood.

    I note you once again rely on right wing sites which regularly distort the facts, and play on the ignorance of science which is common among conservatives. The article is packed with distortions–I note that it even manages to bring Obama’s name into this when he has nothing to do with this.

    Note that it mentions the Snopes article but doesn’t give a link. That is because the article labels the claim as false, and has considerable material debunking it.

    Among the articles quoted:

    [Senomyx] appears to be engineering HEK cells to function like the taste-receptor cells we have in our mouth. This way, Senomyx can test millions of substances to see if they work as different types of taste enhancers without subjecting human volunteers to endless taste tests.

    To non-scientists this may sound a bit strange, but the reality is that HEK 293 cells are widely used in pharmaceutical research, helping scientists create vaccines as well as drugs like those for rheumatoid arthritis. The difference here is that Senomyx’s work for Pepsi is one of the first times the cells have (potentially) been used to create a food or beverage. (And it’s important to note that no part of a human kidney cell are ever a part of Senomyx’s taste enhancers or any finished food products.)

    For Debi Vinnedge, who runs the anti-abortion group Children of God for Life, that doesn’t matter. “It’s the eeew factor. It strikes a really strong reaction in people,” she said in an interview.

    Even though HEK 293 cells trace their origin to a single fetal kidney back in the 1970s — everything since has come from cultured cell lines — Vinnedge considers their use unethical because it indirectly creates a market for aborted fetuses and encourages scientists to hunt for new embryonic cell lines. She argues that Senomyx could use other, non-fetus-based cell lines, such as those from animals.
    Read more at http://www.snopes.com/politics/medical/pepsi.asp#AJqsgOQwl3yeBhz1.99

    From another article:

    The fetus-derived cell line we’re talking about was created around the time I was born. This is 35-year-old technology. And it is widely used in cell biology. And there is no way you’ll consume them or that the cells would cause any health problems.

    The cells, called HEK 293 cells (that stands for human embryonic kidney) were taken from an aborted fetus in the 1970s in the Netherlands. Bits of chopped up DNA from the adenovirus, a virus that causes a pretty severe cold. The kidney cells were forced to take up bits of DNA using a technique invented in 1973 that used a calcium solution. The resulting cells don’t act much like human cells at all, but they are very easy to work with and have become workhorses of cellular biology. That’s why they’re used in the development of drugs and vaccines. No new fetal tissue has been used to keep the cell culture going; the use of this cell line isn’t leading to new abortions.

    A tiny company called Senomyx has been working to use this new technology to create food additives. Senomyx has isolated receptors found on cells that detect taste, and added them to the HEK cells. This allows them to test thousands of potential taste additives to see whether they might taste sweet or savory with a speed that would be impossible with human taste testers. Synomyx has announced collaborations with Pepsi, Nestle, and Coca-Cola.
    Read more at http://www.snopes.com/politics/medical/pepsi.asp#AJqsgOQwl3yeBhz1.99

    Plus even if the right wing claims were true, this is based upon a cell line from the 1970’s in the Netherlands. It has absolutely nothing to do with Planned Parenthood transporting donated specimens for medical research today.

  9. 9
    David Duff says:

    Oh, I see, so it all began with a healthy but aborted baby back in the 1970s.  So just old history really.  Who was she or he?  Who gives a rat's arse?  Or, as someone else once remarked in a different context also involving dead people, "at this point, what difference does it make?"

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    You continue to distort the science. There was no baby involved. Plus it has zero relevance to Planned Parenthood.

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