The sting video of a Planned Parenthood official talking about fetuses for medical research that was released Tuesday has prompted an outcry from a growing number of politicians who are calling for an investigation into the group's practices. Republican presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and Bobby Jindal are among the most prominent members to speak out about the issue.
Here's a cheat sheet if you've been at the beach and missed the news, and want to get caught up on the controversy:
I haven't had time to watch the whole video yet. What does it show?
Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, is having a discussion with a man and a woman who are actually antiabortion activists but posing as employees from a biotech firm. The trio discusses Planned Parenthood’s work donating fetal tissue to researchers. Nucatola details techniques that will keep a fetus's internal organs intact and comments about researchers’ desire for lungs and livers.
“I’d say a lot of people want liver,” Nucatola says. “And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance so they'll know where they're putting their forceps.”
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.”
That sounds very graphic, but why has this become such a big deal?
The Center for Medical Progress, the group that recorded the undercover video, edited it and posted it on the group's Web site, has accused Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of fetal organs, although Nucatola is not shown explicitly talking about selling organs.
What does the law say about this?
Purchasing or selling human fetal tissue is illegal, as is altering the timing or method of an abortion to be able to be able to harvest the tissue.
Why would anyone want the tissue? Why is it so valuable?
Medical scientists have used fetal tissue for a wide variety of research purposes dating to the early part of the 20th century. It has been used to study cell biology and to help develop vaccines. In the 1980s, scientists began to experiment with transplanting fetal cells into the brains of Parkinson's disease patients — a science that proved controversial and led to a temporary moratorium on federal funding of such research. That moratorium was lifted in 1993 but the debate over the use of fetal tissue, especially given the complicated political and religious viewpoints on where it comes from, has continued.
What is Planned Parenthood's response?
The organization says the video misrepresents its work and that Planned Parenthood clinics, with a patient's permission, may sometimes donate fetal tissue for use in stem cell research. The organization says it does not profit from these donations.
“At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health-care provider does — with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards,” spokesman Eric Ferrero said in a statement. “In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.”
Planned Parenthood also said that "the promotional video" by a longtime antiabortion activist mischaracterizes the group's mission, using "deceptive and unethical video editing."
This sounds familiar ...
In 2000, another undercover investigation by a Texas-based antiabortion group accused a Kansas clinic affiliated with Planned Parenthood of illegally selling the organs of fetuses. The Federal Bureau of Investigation looked into the matter and concluded that the clinic did not break any laws.
What are the critics saying this time?
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he's asked the relevant committees to look into the matter and has called on President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell "to denounce and stop these gruesome practices":
“Nothing is more precious than life, especially an unborn child. When anyone diminishes an unborn child, we are all hurt, irreversibly so. When an organization monetizes an unborn child – and with the cavalier attitude portrayed in this horrific video – we must all act.”
Earlier Tuesday, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) said during a speech on the House floor that she found the way in which fetuses were talked about in such a "casual, callous" way in the video is "simply horrifying."
"These aren't specimens," she said. "These are babies."
U.S. Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) have called for hearings on what they are calling the "Planned Parenthood Atrocity."