Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Planned Parenthood Fetal Tissue Video: Preliminary Fact-Check

VITAL UPDATE: I am reviewing the unedited video, and am so shocked that I must say before I even finish that task that the edited video misrepresents Dr. N to the point of bearing false witness against her. I am leaving this post in place because I believe it's important to show how I was myself fooled by misleading editing. I am ashamed to have  even started running with this before reviewing the raw footage.

Today, Center for Medical Progress  released a video comprised of segments from a recorded exchange with Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In this video, two investigators pose as representatives of a company seeking information about purchasing body parts from aborted fetuses. As she scarfs down a salad amid the wine glasses, Dr. Nucatola comments about how hearts have always been popular -- researchers are looking for specific nodes -- and notes that she'd only the previous day encountered an order for lungs. She also noted that people want "as many intact livers as possible."

The video then cuts to a quick screen-grab video showing a cursor clicking through an order form.

First, let's have a look:

Let's start with two basic pieces of fact-checking.

Who is the Woman in the Video? Is she really Dr. Deborah Nucatola, and is Dr. Nucatola really the Director of Medical Services for PPFA?:

Click to enlarge.
1. This article at WebMD, addressing birth control use, cites her as director of medical services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America in the 9th paragraph.

2. A Linked In profile lists her as Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

3. Yahoo! Parenting (of all sites!) reports that PPFA responded to the video by telling Yahoo! Parenting that the allegations relating to the video of Dr. Nucatola are untrue. At no point does PPFA deny that the woman in the video is Dr. Nucatola, so evidently she is being correctly identified.

So the identity of the woman in the video is confirmed.

Is that Video Screen Grab Real?

The URL in the window is stemexpress.com/tissue-order-form. And yes, I found the URL online. StemExpress, a dealer in human tissues, is indeed at that URL. In order to eliminate the possibility that this was some sort of dummy web site created by Center for Medical Progress, I went to the Internet Archive and found that it had been archived 63 times from 2011 through 2015, which certainly would indicate that the company is real and has existed for at least four years.

As for the order form, I went to the Stem Express web site and lo! The order form looks just like the one in the video.  (Click any image to enlarge.)

The screen shot video moves too quickly to get much detail, so I scrolled down through the actual order form to see what I could see.

One can order fetal tissue over a gestational age range that begins at 4 weeks and ends at 20 weeks. These gestational ages are chosen in a pair of drop-down boxes.

One can order a wide variety of fetal parts and tissues, as listed in another drop-down box. Eyes, ears, noses, hearts, livers, various limbs, nerves with attached spinal cord, small intestines, large intestines .... The list is quite extensive.

Clearly this vendor is appealing to researchers, providing them with a one-stop shop for any sort of fetal organs or tissues that might meet their needs.

But what about the suppliers? Are they acting purely out of the goodness of their hearts, striving to promote medical science?

Well, the Stem Express web site starts out with the simplest motive of all: Cold, hard cash. It promises the provider an "Easy to Implement Program" offering "Financial Profits."

Collecting and providing those eyes and ears and livers and intestines lets you feel good about what you're doing, with the added bonus of "providing a financial benefit to your clinic."

Thus, a rudimentary fact check verifies the basis of the video. The woman taking about providing fetal parts is indeed Dr. Deborah Nucatola, who is indeed Director of Medical Services of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. And there is indeed clear financial motivation to turn a Planned Parenthood's trash into treasure with an "Easy to Implement Program + Financial Profits." There is indeed a market for each and every one of the fetal parts Dr. Nucatola discussed.

In future posts I will address more of the video and what Dr. Nucatola had to say.

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