The president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America on Thursday apologized for remarks captured on video that show Deborah Nucatola, an executive of the organization, casually discussing abortion techniques aimed at preserving the internal organs of fetuses for use in research.
In a video posted on Planned Parenthood’s Web site, Cecile Richards called the tenor of the remarks “unacceptable,” and said the organization strives as its top priority to provide compassionate care.
“In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion,” she said. “This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.”
But Richards also emphatically defended the organization’s tissue donation program, which she said is purely voluntary for the women and does not yield a profit for Planned Parenthood. And she condemned the group that covertly recorded Nucatola’s remarks, which she said heavily edited the video to make “outrageous claims.”
“We know the real agenda of organizations behind videos like this, and they have never been concerned with protecting the health and safety of women,” she said. “Their mission is to ban abortion completely and cut women off from care at Planned Parenthood and other health centers.”
Richards’s apology came a day after a little-known anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress unveiled the video as part of what its leader said was a 30-month investigation into Planned Parenthood’s tissue donation program. The group alleges Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal body parts to companies that use the tissue for research.
While the video did not prove this claim, it still painted Planned Parenthood in an unflattering light that reignited controversy over the women’s health organization, the nation’s largest abortion provider and a longtime target of anti-abortion activism. It showed Nucatola, the organization’s senior director of medical services, discussing graphically the ways in which abortions can be completed to preserve a fetus’s liver, lungs, heart and other materials for research.
“I’d say a lot of people want liver,” she says in the video, drinking wine and eating salad with anti-abortion activists posing as medical company representatives.
Later in the video, she continues: “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, 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.”
The Center for Medical Research distilled the video into a nine-minute clip, but also posted a longer cut lasting more than two-and-a-half hours showing a fuller context of the discussion. It also posted some supporting documents on its site, and the group’s leader has promised more evidence in the coming weeks.