Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds are following Iowa freshman Senator Joni Ernst (that ought to be the first sign you’re headed in the wrong direction) demanding that the Department of Health and Human Services investigate Planned Parenthood based on accusations raised by edited ambush video that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling fetus parts.
The full video of the lunch meeting, over two hours long and released by the Center for Medical Progress after complaints by Planned Parenthood, shows something very different from what these critics claim. Clearly, the shorter version was edited to eliminate statements by Dr. Nucatola explaining that Planned Parenthood does not profit from tissue donation, which requires the clear consent of the patient. Planned Parenthood affiliates only accept money — between $30 and $100 per specimen, according to Dr. Nucatola — to cover costs associated with collecting and transporting the tissue. “This is not something with any revenue stream that affiliates are looking at,” she said. Under federal law, facilities may be reimbursed for costs associated with fetal tissue donation, like transportation and storage [editorial, “The Campaign of Deception Against Planned Parenthood,” New York Times, 2015.07.22].
Rep. Kristi Noem says she’s lost sleep over the ambush videos and the fact that federally funded Planned Parenthood would “deceive people” to sell body parts to “put more dollars in their pockets.”
FactCheck.org neatly dispatches that hyperbolic accusation:
[Senior director of medical services Deborah] Nucatola’s comment, though, isn’t evidence that Planned Parenthood or its affiliates are selling “body parts” or fetal tissue for profit. The full video shows that after Nucatola mentions the $30 to $100, she describes how those amounts would be reimbursement for expenses related to handling and transportation of the tissues. Nucatola talks about “space issues” and whether shipping would be involved [Dave Levitan and Lori Robertson, “Unspinning the Planned Parenthood Video,” FactCheck.org, 2015.07.21].
FactCheck.org further cites three medical experts who say it’s more likely that preserving and shipping fetal tissue for scientific research probably loses money for Planned Parenthood:
We also asked experts in the use of human tissue for research about the potential for profit. Sherilyn J. Sawyer, the director of Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s “biorepository,” told us that “there’s no way there’s a profit at that price.” She continued in an email:
Sawyer, July 20: In reality, $30-100 probably constitutes a loss for [Planned Parenthood]. The costs associated with collection, processing, storage, and inventory and records management for specimens are very high. Most hospitals will provide tissue blocks from surgical procedures (ones no longer needed for clinical purposes, and without identity) for research, and cost recover for their time and effort in the range of $100-500 per case/block. In the realm of tissues for research $30-100 is completely reasonable and normal fee.
Jim Vaught, president of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories and formerly the deputy director of the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research, told us in an email that “$30 to $100 per sample is a reasonable charge for clinical operations to recover their costs for providing tissue.” In fact, he said, the costs to a clinic are often much higher, but most operations that provide this kind of tissue have “no intention of fully recovering [their] costs, much less making a profit.”
Carolyn Compton, the chief medical and science officer of Arizona State University’s National Biomarkers Development Alliance and a former director of biorepositories and biospecimen research at the National Cancer Institute, agreed that this was “a modest price tag for cost recovery.” Compton told us in an email: ” ‘Profit’ is out of the question, in my mind. I would say that whoever opined about ‘profit’ knows very little about the effort and expense involved in providing human biospecimens for research purposes” [Levitan and Robertson, 2015.07.21].
If Rep. Noem is worried about “deceit,” she ought to check the video creators, the “Center for Medical Progress,” who created a fake company to get access to Planned Parenthood:
Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Tuesday to review whether the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress broke state and federal laws when it created a fake human tissue procurement company in order to gain access to and secretly film Planned Parenthood staffers. The Huffington Post reported on Friday that the CMP may have also illegally deceived the IRS and its donors by posing as a biomedicine charity in 2013.
“I am deeply concerned about the allegations that federal and state laws were violated in an attempt to attack Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides critical health care services to more than three million men and women each year, and that the attack was coordinated by conservative activists who want to discredit Planned Parenthood and its work,” Clarke said in a statement. “I urge Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Honorable Kamala Harris, Attorney General of California, to initiate a full investigation into this incident to determine if any fraud or other illegal activities were committed” [Laura Bassett, “Dems Call for Investigation into Group Behind Planned Parenthood ‘Sting’ Videos,” Huffington Post, 2015.07.22].
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is going to look into matters surrounding the videos. Whether anyone broke the law seems unlikely, but far greater moral culpability appears to lie with the video makers, who lied to get their scoop, and our Congressional delegation who now base on their lies their latest fit of faux fetal moralism.