Video of a secretly-recorded conversation with Planned Parenthood’s medical director has gone viral, starting a new controversy about whether the nation’s largest provider of abortions is profiting from the illegal sale of fetal tissue. Chances are many people — including those who support a woman’s right to choose — who watch Dr. Deborah Nucatola, the group’s senior director of medical research, sip wine and talk casually and graphically about harvesting fetal tissue will squirm.
“I’d say a lot of people want liver. And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps. The kind of rate-limiting step of the procedure is the calvarium, the head is basically the biggest part. Most of the other stuff can come out intact,” Dr. Nucatola says during the July 25, 2014 lunch with people she thought were buyers for a human biologics company. At another point, she throws out a price range – “$30 to $100 depending on the facility, and what’s involved” – for specimens.
But before any conclusions are drawn about lines being crossed, the full, unedited footage should be examined.
Indeed, a transcript of the entire lunch released by Center for Medical Progress, the anti-abortion group behind the intended sting, provides reassuring evidence of how Planned Parenthood affiliates operate and also of what kind of person Dr. Nucatola is. That the video posted online has been artfully edited has been pointed out by Media Matters, Mother Jones and others. The complete transcript, for example, has Dr. Nucatola stressing that “nobody should be ‘selling’ tissue. That’s just not the goal here” and that non-profit affiliates seek only reimbursement costs for expenses so as to break even.
Other comments are of note, like how consent for donations is carefully obtained after a woman has made the decision to have an abortion, how many women are motivated to donate tissue because of the good that can come from the medical research and how there is no difference in treatment between those who donate tissues and those who don’t.
Particularly moving was Dr. Nucatola’s explanation on why she does what she does. She told how she trained to be an OB-GYN but how on her last night as a resident — Feb. 28, 1998 — a patient was transferred to her from an outside clinic who had had a late second trimester abortion and was bleeding:
I saw her and she was as white as this napkin, and I still remember her name, I remember everything about her, and she looked up at me, and she said, “Don’t let me die.” And she actually bled to death. It was very distressing and very upsetting. I probably had a very different reaction than most people would, which was well I do D&Es [dilation and evacuation] all the time, and I don’t ever have complications. . . I need to keep making sure that are lots of people doing these D&Es safely so there’s not another patient like this.
There is no reading of that story that can suggest this is a woman callous about the people she cares for.