On Tuesday, an anti-abortion group known as the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released the second of what it said will be a series of secretly recorded videos of abortion providers and Planned Parenthood executives. For nearly three years, anti-abortion activists connected to the groups Live Action and Operation Rescue posed as a company procuring fetal tissue for the purpose of medical research. Such activities are legal with patient consent, but federal law bans the acquiring, receiving, or transferring of “any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration,” and that there be “no alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy.”
CMP says the second video, which shows Mary Gatter, medical director of Planned Parenthood of Pasadena & San Gabriel Valley, and Laurel Felczer, senior director of medical services there, depicts Gatter “haggling over payments for intact fetal specimens and offering to use a ‘less crunchy technique’ to get more intact body parts.” In a statement Tuesday, Planned Parenthood said, “These videos are part of a decade-long campaign of deceiving the public, making false charges, and terrorizing women and their doctors, all in order to ban abortion and cut women off from care at Planned Parenthood.”
Fuller excerpts from the transcript, which show Gatter agreeing to discuss the issue with the surgeon but making no agreement, are below.
Gatter: So, where we stopped off was with your organization, so you started a year ago as a start up.
“Center for Medical Progress”: Yes.
Gatter: And you are for profit?
Gatter: Your academic connections or researchers are with?
CMP: I was telling her, Briana coming to me and talking about researcher not being able to get tissue and —
Gatter: It’s a perennial problem, 30 years ago when I was working in New Haven and we had people at Yale who were doing research on Parkinson’s and stuff like that. I was involved with tissue donation there as well. Not at Planned Parenthood, it was women’s health services. They would come, they were very good and they would take whatever I could give them, because they were just desperate to have tissue.
CMP: What would you expect for intact tissue? What sort of compensation?
Gatter: Well, why don’t you start by telling me what you’re used to paying.
CMP: Okay. I don’t think so. I’d like to hear, I would like to know, what would make you happy. What would work for you?
Gatter: Well, you know in negotiations the person who throws out the figure first is at a loss, right? So [laughs] …
CMP: No, I don’t look at it that way. I know, you want to play that game, I get it.
Gatter: I don’t want to play games, I just don’t want to lowball, because I’m used to low things from —
CMP: You know what? If you lowball, I’ll act pleasantly surprised and you’ll know it’s a lowball. What I want to know is, what would work for you. Don’t lowball it, tell me what you really—
Gatter: Okay. $75 a specimen.
CMP: Oh. That’s way too low.
CMP: And that’s, really, that’s way too low. I don’t, I want to keep you happy.
Gatter: I was going to say $50, because I know places that did $50, too. But see we don’t, we’re not in it for the money, and we don’t want to be in a position of being accused of selling tissue, and stuff like that. On the other hand, there are costs associated with the use of our space, and that kind of stuff, so what were you thinking about?
CMP: Exactly. Way higher than that.
CMP: So I’d like to start at around $100.
Gatter: Okay. Now this is for tissue that you actually take, not just tissue that the person volunteers but you can’t find anything, right?
CMP: Exactly. What is, what we can use, what is intact. So that’s why I’m saying no, don’t lowball, I want you to be happy and—
Gatter: Well, it’s complicated by the fact that our volume is so low, too. I mean, are you looking at eight and nine week specimens or only seconnd trimester specimens? …
CMP: The intact specimens, I wanted to touch on that. What I was trying to say is if the 10 to 12 week specimens, end of the first trimester, if those are pretty intact specimens, that’s something we can work with.
Gatter: So that’s an interesting concept. Let me explain to you a little bit of a problem, which may not be a big problem, if our usual technique is suction, at 10 to 12 weeks, and we switch to using an IPAS or something with less suction, and increase the odds that it will come out as an intact specimen, then we’re kind of violating the protocol that says to the patient, “We’re not doing anything different in our care of you.” Now to me, that’s kind of a specious little argument and I wouldn’t object to asking Ian, who’s our surgeon who does the cases, to use an IPAS at that gestational age in order to increase the odds that he’s going to get an intact specimen, but I do need to throw it out there as a concern. Because the patient is signing something and we’re signing something saying that we’re not changing anything with the way we’re managing you, just because we agree to give tissue. You’ve heard that before.
CMP: Yes. It’s touchy. How do you feel about that?
Gatter: I think they’re both totally appropriate techniques, there’s no difference in pain involved, I don’t think the patients would care one iota. So yeah, I’m not making a fuss about that.
CMP: Mhm. IPAS is the manual suction, right?
Gatter: Yeah, our shorthand for that.
CMP: So, would you, I could see where it might present some sort of problem for you. So, to, if we could compensate more on something like that, or —
Gatter: Well, now you’re shading into the area of you’re paying me to do something that’s not right. So [laughs] that’s not what I want to talk about!
CMP: No, I don’t, I don’t see that. What I want to make sure is that you, whatever you have to go through to deliver intact specimen, that that’s compensated. Not that I’m paying you to do something shady or—
Gatter: Well, I will discuss it with Ian, our surgeon. We’ll see what he has to say. Do you have feelings about this?
Laurel: I’m just trying to think of it from his perspective. You know, I don’t know what his opinion would be on that.
CMP: You’re not putting the patient at any more risk, right? As you said.
Gatter: No. Just slight variation of the technique.
Laurel: Which, the consent they’re signing is for suction aspiration, it doesn’t describe what kind it is.
Gatter: Yes, but I have heard people argue that for the tissue donation, it says we’re not doing anything different, so.
CMP: That’s what I need to understand, because what I’m seeing it as, of course, I’m looking for intact specimens. You know from a medical perspective, the patient is receiving just as good of care. So help me understand the problem.
Gatter: Well, there are people who would argue that by using the IPAS instead of the machine, you’re slightly increasing the length of the procedure, you’re increasing the pain of the procedure, is it local anesthesia or conscious sedation, so they’re technical arguments having to do with one technique versus another.
CMP: So it’s technicalities, is what I’m hearing.
Gatter: It’s something that I need to discuss with Ian, before we agree to do that.
Gatter: It’s been years since I talked about compensation, so let me just figure out what others are getting. If this is in the ballpark, it’s fine, if it’s still low then we can bump it up. I want a Lamborghini. [laughs]
CMP: [Laughs] What did you say?
Gatter: I said I want a Lamborghini! [laughs]
CMP: Don’t we all, right?
Gatter: [laughs] Exactly! I wouldn’t know how to drive a Lamborghini. Oh god, I was hysterical, three months ago, driving on the wrong side of the road. Thinking oh my god, I’m too close to that side.
Gatter: Here is my suggestion. Write me a three of four paragraph proposal, which I will then take to Laurel and the organization to see if we want to proceed with this. And then, if we want to pursue this, mutually, I talk to Ian and see how he feels about using a “less crunchy” technique to get more whole specimens.
Then, if we agree to move forward, the steps, I would need to apply for a waiver at PPFA, in order to do this, we need to have a contract, do you have a contract?
CMP: What we’ve used in the past is a materials transfer agreement. And obviously, that’s open to discussion.
Gatter: It needs to say exactly what your staff is going to do. It needs to say exactly what your expectations are. Exactly what the compensations is. That you’re agreeing that your person will only use specified the federal government tissue donation form, you can add extra forms if you want.