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Does life matter?

| Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In the era of the 24-hour news cycle, it is surprising that the majority of Americans remain unaware of the videos aired this summer that exposed Planned Parenthood’s alleged harvesting and trafficking of fetal organs. Seventy percent of citizens surveyed had neither seen nor heard of the shocking footage released by a pro-life, non-profit group called the Center for Medical Progress, according to an August YouGov poll.

Media coverage of the videos has been lost in the midst of Donald Trump’s endless inflammatory remarks and updates on the ever-changing contents of Hillary Clinton’s email server.

Notre Dame students, and all who work to promote a culture of life, should be aware of and appalled by the content of these videos. The Center for Medical Progress recorded Planned Parenthood officials and individuals from tissue procurement companies discussing abortion in frank and gruesome terms.

Officials were captured on camera discussing the routine harvesting of fetal body parts and the sale prices for procured organs.

The first video showed Planned Parenthood’s senior director, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, calmly discussing the most effective ways fetal bodies can be “crushed” so as to leave lucrative organs intact for sale. Similarly, a Planned Parenthood official in the second video described the process of haggling over prices for embryonic livers and joked, “I want a Lamborghini.” The fifth video in the series educates viewers that “intact” fetuses, those from late term abortions who could have been born-alive infants, sell for the most money.

Eight other videos have been released to date, bringing the CMP’s total to 11 and their project to a close.

Planned Parenthood has repeatedly denied participating in the sale of fetal organs, euphemistically calling the harvested parts “donations.” They claim the only money exchanged funds transportation and other overhead costs. Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens even went so far as to state, “the opportunity to donate fetal tissue has been a source of comfort for many women [who have chosen abortion].”

Reluctant to comment on the videos unearthing the sale of intact fetuses, Planned Parenthood instead sought a restraining order against the Center for Medical Progress, attempting to preclude further video releases. The order alleges invasion of privacy and illegal, undercover filming. In other words, the organization attacked the method by which the videos were procured rather than addressing their troubling contents.

The practice of undercover filming is legal, albeit ethically questionable, and has been used by groups on both sides of the political spectrum. “Mother Jones,” a left-wing magazine, published secretly recorded videos of candidate Mitt Romney conversing with donors at a private dinner prior to the 2012 election.

In an address to the organization on April 26, 2013, President Obama said, “Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you.” Accompanying the President’s praise of Planned Parenthood has been a steadily increasing stream of government — i.e., taxpayer — funding, to the tune of $528 million in 2014, according to the organization’s latest annual report.

Racial, political and advocacy groups continually make statements today about what type of lives matter. We hear that black lives matter, all lives matter and blue lives — those of policemen — matter. Worthy of the same attention in our discourse is a question of similar import: Does life itself matter?

The coverage of and reaction to these videos suggest the answer to this question may not be as obvious as it appears. Those who refuse to acknowledge the depravity of Planned Parenthood’s actions must at the very least realize that our culture has become desensitized.

Human beings have been reduced to the price of their parts. The time has come for our nation to evaluate the practice of abortion. If our “shining city upon a hill” fails to protect innocent human life, who will?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Kate Hardiman

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  • +Services provided by Planned Parenthood as expressed in terms of a percentage of its overall budget:

    38 %, STD testing and treatment for all genders
    34 %, Birth control for all genders, to prevent pregnancy upfront
    15 %, Cancer screenings/prevention
    9 %, General women’s health and prenatal services
    3 %, Abortion, which receives zero percent government funding
    1 %, Other services, including adoption referrals and family practice

    +All Planned Parenthood Clinics do not provide abortion services.

    +Universities all across the USA use fetal tissue in research projects. From “The New York Times”, “Fetal Tissue from Abortions for Research Is Traded in a Gray Zone”, July 27, 2015:

    “Scientists at major universities and government labs have quietly been using fetal tissue for decades. They say it is an invaluable tool for certain types of research, including the study of eye diseases, diabetes and muscular dystrophy. Nevertheless, some agree to talk about it only if their names and their universities’ names are withheld, because they have received threats of violence from abortion opponents. Companies that obtain the tissue from clinics and sell it to laboratories exist in a gray zone, legally. Federal law says they cannot profit from the tissue itself, but the law does not specify how much they can charge for processing and shipping.

    “The National Institutes of Health spent $76 million on research using fetal tissue in 2014 with grants to more than 50 universities, including Columbia, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Yale and the University of California in Berkeley, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. It expects to spend the same amount in 2015 and 2016.

    “Researchers say fetal tissue is a uniquely rich source of the stem cells that give rise to tissues and organs, and that studying how they develop can provide clues about how to grow replacements for parts of the body that have failed.

    “A university researcher who asked not to be identified because he had received threats that led his institution to post a guard outside his laboratory, said fetal tissue was extraordinarily useful because “if you want to understand how a tissue or a disease develops, you should go back to the beginning.”

    “Another researcher, also concerned about threats, said fetal tissue was essential in research to develop treatments for degenerative diseases of muscle, because “to regenerate tissues in a human, you need to understand how human cells work.” Animal tissue can take researchers only so far, they say, because there are critical differences in development.

    “Fetal tissue can be used only with the consent of the woman having an abortion. Some researchers receive the tissue from abortion clinics at their own institutions, or from tissue banks maintained by some universities. Many buy the tissue from companies that act as middlemen. Those companies pay small fees, usually $100 or less a specimen, to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, who say they charge only what they need to cover their expenses. The companies then process the tissue and sell it to researchers for higher prices that reflect the processing.

    “The fees, which can run to thousands of dollars for a tiny vial of cells, do not break the law, according to Arthur Caplan, the director of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center.

    ““It appears to be legal, no matter how much you charge,” Dr. Caplan said, adding that there appears to be little or no oversight of the processing fees. “It’s a very gray and musty area as to what you can charge”.”

    • Kurt Nowak


      Here is an article on why the 3% as a percentage of budget figure with regard to abortion services provided is misleading: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2015/08/12/for-planned-parenthood-abortion-stats-3-percent-and-94-percent-are-both-misleading/

      A different way of looking at the impact of abortion to Planned Parenthood’s financials would be through revenue. Here is a list of abortion fees for Planned Parenthood in Western Pennsylvania: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-western-pennsylvania/patients/fees-services

      Even assuming that all abortions take place across the nation at the least expensive level, Planned Parenthood made $128 million dollars through abortion services for fiscal year 2013-2014 ($390 x 328,000 abortion services provided). A more realistic estimate would be to average across all cost levels, which gives us $246 million dollars in revenue. Government funding was 41% of Planned Parenthood’s revenue in 2013-2014. According to my estimate, which is based off the numbers Planned Parenthood themselves report, abortion was anywhere from 10-20% of their revenue for that year. Which, if you look at the annual report for 2013-2014, is most, if not all, of their non-donation, non-government revenue.

      With regard to the article from the New York Times: the end does not always justify the means.

      • The point is this: “Government funding was 41% of Planned Parenthood’s revenue in 2013-2014”.

        Whether all this math checks out or not, and in light of the “Washington Post” article. the fact is of all the monies Planned Parenthood receives from governments, only 3 % is used to fund abortion services. What Planned Parenthood gains as “revenue” from whatever service is not germane to that fact.

        Shifting percentage multipliers and dividers of various dollar amounts across non-equatable determinants is, in fact, predetermining an end that is found by pre- and self-justified means.

        • Kurt Nowak

          Actually, 3% is not the amount of Planned Parenthood’s budget used to fund abortion services. I assume you’re referring to page 17 of this: http://issuu.com/actionfund/docs/annual_report_final_proof_12.16.14_/0 The 3% figure is how Planned Parenthood counts its abortion offerings relative to everything else, which, as the Washington Post article and many other sources beside state, is misleading. The revenue figures indicates that it is a much larger portion of their business than they care to admit, which is germane to the fact that Planned Parenthood is mainly in the abortion business.

  • what no really

    Also, undercover filming is not legal in every state. And the videos were heavily edited. And this has been a common practice, one in which Dr. Ben Carson participated. And it’s leading to ignorant cries to “defund planned parenthood!!” by people who have no idea what Planned Parenthood actually does.

  • Nathan

    Highly recommend taking a read of this article, probably the most balanced assessment of the issue I’ve read: http://www.vox.com/2015/8/13/9140849/planned-parenthood-videos-unedited