Planned Parenthood has become one of the most attacked groups in America.
Daily protests, funding threats and “sting” videos featuring hired actors are the norm. Shootings, bombings, arson and chemical-weapon attacks are less frequent but still occur against the group, which has been operating since 1916 and which a Republican president — Richard Nixon, no less — funded in 1970.
Seriously — El Chapo gets less heat than Planned Parenthood does. I’m tempted to wonder whether the group was involved in hiding Osama bin Laden, they get so much political vitriol.
Now a group that helps 2.7 million American women get contraceptives, breast exams and, yes, abortions is the target of yet another carefully orchestrated dirty bomb. Between bites of salad and in front of a big glass of red wine, a Planned Parenthood executive was secretly filmed speaking frankly about removing tissue samples and organs from aborted fetuses in a sting video set up by actors hired to lie.
“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver. . . . So I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact, ” said Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, talking to actors who made her believe that they were with a biotech company.
Yes, it’s tough to listen to and watch for just about anyone, no matter your political stand on abortion. The details are gruesome, as are many medical procedures and how doctors and nurses tell stories about the operating room. It took me years to get used to the conversations my husband’s family — medical people — had at the dinner table. But Nucatola’s conversation certainly lacked compassion, for which Cecile Richards, the head of Planned Parenthood, issued a lengthy apology Thursday.
“In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect” compassion, she said. “This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.”
But the group behind the sting edited a three-hour meeting down to eight minutes of detailed medical description, then blasted it across the country proclaiming that they have evidence that Planned Parenthood is harvesting baby parts for profit.
Um, no — not even remotely.
Like the sting by a different group a few years ago, in which an actor pretending to be a pimp tried to frame Planned Parenthood as an operator in the child-sex trade, this shock attack comes up weak when faced with facts.
In parts of the video that were edited out, Nucatola makes it clear that Planned Parenthood makes no money from the fetal organs that are collected and shipped to medical labs for research on Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses.
The money Planned Parenthood gets — between $30 and $100 a shot — is used to cover the cost of storing and shipping the samples, according to Nucatola and a statement released by Planned Parenthood.
Yet immediately after the video, politicians jumped at the opportunity to capitalize on the nation’s collective shudder, especially House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who called for an investigation and asked the Obama administration “to denounce, and stop, these gruesome practices.”
The truth is, this video is nothing more than another one of those graphic abortion protest posters of mutilated fetuses waved at people and passing children on the street. Totally out of context and totally horrible.
Women aren’t being persuaded to have abortions and then sell the organs. Fetuses aren’t being harvested for parts. And every one of those donations happens only if the woman consents to legal procedures.
So why is all this energy being wasted on trying to condemn an organization that has been one of the last resorts in reproductive health issues for women for nearly 100 years of our history?
Only 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood performs are abortions — about 327,000 last year at its 700 centers. The bulk of the services — cancer screenings, pelvic exams, birth control — are provided to hundreds of thousands of women who would probably have a hard time affording them otherwise.
Planned Parenthood’s mission used to be supported by both Republicans and Democrats. But in 2011, government funding for the group’s non-abortion health services nearly derailed the entire federal budget.
When Nixon funded Planned Parenthood, he saw the money as a way to keep people off welfare, saying that “no American woman should be denied access to family-planning assistance because of her economic condition.”
According to its own estimates, Planned Parenthood prevents more than half a million unintended pregnancies every year. You could say that makes it the nation’s biggest abortion foe.
After the sting video this week, the governors of Texas, Louisiana, Indiana and Georgia demanded investigations into the Planned Parenthood centers in their states. They couldn’t stand hearing the details of a legal medical procedure.
But it’s interesting that they can stand hearing another horrific fact: Texas and Louisiana have some of the country’s highest childhood poverty rates: Twenty-five percent of Texas children and 28 percent of kids in Louisiana are growing up dirt poor, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center.
How about a sting on behalf of those kids, already born and living in misery?
There is an extraordinary amount of political energy spent on trying to destroy Planned Parenthood. What happens if that campaign succeeds?
Women who rely on the group for birth control, cancer screenings and unwanted pregnancies would have nowhere to turn. And that’s not progress.