The group that recorded a secret video of Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services says it shows “how Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted fetuses, and admitting she uses partial-birth abortions to supply intact body parts.” But their own transcript contains several clear statements to dispute that. Some key excerpts below.
On the claim that Planned Parenthood is looking to profit off the donation of fetal tissue after abortions:
Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood: I think every provider has had patients who want to donate their tissue, and they absolutely want to accommodate them. They just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as, “This clinic is selling tissue, this clinic is making money off of this.” I know in the Planned Parenthood world they’re very, very sensitive to that. And before an affiliate is gonna do that, they need to, obviously, they’re not — some might do it for free — but they want to come to a number that doesn’t look like they’re making money. They want to come to a number that looks like it is a reasonable number for the effort that is allotted on their part. I think with private providers, private clinics, they’ll have much less of a problem with that.
Center for Medical Progress, the anti-abortion group posing as a fetal tissue procurement agency: Okay, so, when you are, or the affiliate is determining what that monetary — so that it doesn’t create, raising a question of this is what it’s about, this is the main — what price range, would you —?
DN: You know, I would throw a number out, I would say it’s probably anywhere from $30 to $100, depending on the facility and what’s involved. It just has to do with space issues, are you sending someone there who’s going to be doing everything, is there shipping involved, is somebody gonna have to take it out. You know, I think everybody just wants, it’s really just about if anyone were ever to ask them, “What do you do for this $60? How can you justify that? Or are you basically just doing something completely egregious, that you should be doing for free.” So it just needs to be justifiable.
DN: I think for affiliates, at the end of the day, they’re a non-profit, they just don’t want to — they want to break even. And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that. Really their bottom line is, they want to break even. Every penny they save is a just pennies they give to another patient. To provide a service the patient wouldn’t get ….
DN: In all cases, it’s really gonna be about staff time, because that’s the only cost to the affiliate. And then, if you want space …. But I don’t think anybody’s gonna come up with a crazy number, because they’re all very sensitive to this, too. And at the end of the day, they want to offer this service because patients ask about it.
DN: But there is not a provider out there, who doesn’t want this. Everybody just sees this as a way to add another layer of good on top of what they’re already doing. They already feel that what they’re doing is good. Again, the majority of the providers are non-profit organizations like Planned Parenthood or operating on a razor thin budget. So as low impact that you can be on them, the better.
DN: To them, this is not a service they should be making money from, it’s something they should be able to offer this to their patients, in a way that doesn’t impact them.
CMP: Offsetting their costs.
DN: Right. No one’s going to see this as a money-making thing.
On patients consenting to have their fetal tissue donated:
DN: But I think every one of them is happy to know that there’s a possibility for them to do “this extra bit of good,” in what they do. And I think patients respond most to knowing the types of outcomes that it might contribute to — so for example Alzheimer’s research, Parkinson’s research. I think most of these patients have some experience with at least one of these conditions or another. I think the ones that come in asking are the ones who have already had the experience, that’s why they come in asking .…
DN: I think that a lot of people feel strongly that the conversation shouldn’t be had until after they’ve made their decision to terminate, they know how far along they are, and they know what’s going to happen, and when all that is said and done, and they’ve had time for all of that to sink in, then it’s time to basically say, this is how we normally handle the tissue, but if you would be interested here’s another opportunity to contribute to research, contribute to science, donate your tissue. Most patients are very motivated. I haven’t really seen very many patients that say no. I was in the O.R. yesterday and we had, I’d say, 18 patients, probably half of them were either got digoxin or were under 18 and the rest of them all donated their tissue. So, I don’t think — I don’t think it’s a difficult conversation to have because the difficult stuff has already happened, they’re kind of prepped for this. If anything, this is almost a pleasant surprise in a way, you know you’ve been through the tough stuff, you’ve made this difficult decision. Now there is one more opportunity for you to think about. And, I think they appreciate it.
DN: There’s always concerns too about kind of coercion. So you always have to make sure they’ve made their decision to actually have the procedure, and then before you start adding on other things, any time we do any research. And Planned Parenthood has very strict protocols or grounds, if we’re doing a research study in general, when the different points in the consent happen. This doesn’t fall into the research bucket because it’s not a specific protocol, it’s not specific project. So, if there’s not consented for a specific project, it’s not going to an I.R.B. [Institutional Review Board], but yet there’s still certain principles we still think it’s most ethical to follow. And that is just to make sure they’ve made their decision and they’re comfortable with the decision, then to say ok, now that you’re past that point in the process, now there’s one other opportunity we wanted to let you know about.
On whether providers change an abortion procedure for the purposes of fetal tissue donation:
CMP: If there is a particular organ that we need, would the procedure be any longer?
DN: So, that’s a whole ‘nother issue, and that’s kind of an ethical issue too, ideally you shouldn’t do the procedure in any other way. You should always do the procedure the same, and that’s what the providers try to do. They’re not gonna treat these patients any differently than they would treat any other patients, just the disposition of the tissue at the end of the case is different .…
CMP: So, I guess cell viability is a concern right? So, some of the intactness of the specimens is a pretty big deal.
DN: Yea, so that’s where we kind of get into an ethical situation, because what I think most providers don’t want to have do, they don’t want — In terms of the steps and the preparation, and getting them to the actual procedure, you know, if you really want an intact specimen, the more dilation, the better. Is the clinic gonna you know, put in another set of laminaria [used to dilate a woman’s cervix before an abortion] to do something different? I think they’d prefer not to. For example, what I’m dealing with now, if I know what they’re looking for, I’ll just keep it in the back of my mind, and try to at least keep that part intact. But, I generally don’t do extra dilation. I won’t put in an extra set of laminaria, or add an extra day, that’s going to add significant cost of expense to everybody. Basically, if you need to add another set of laminaria, and have the patient come back another day, if you provide procedures enough days in a row that you can do that, then you know, that’s a whole ‘nother consideration. In general, I’d say most people, unless there’s a specific research protocol that’s been I.R.B. approved, try to avoid that. …
CMP: So, if the patient was one who was very happy knowing where it was going, would you have more freedom?
DN: You probably would, but they would have to be consented differently right? Because ideally the procedure that they were consented for, they’re not going to have the same procedure. The way it’s described in their consent form is different. Right now, when they are consenting to tissue donation, they’re just consenting to what happens with the tissue after the procedure is done. They would have to have an extra level of consent that would probably say, “I understand that this procedure may take an extra day, or I might be here extra hours.” And so it’s adds a complexity level for the patient, but also on the staff and the flow of the affiliate to actually accomplish what they’re setting out to accomplish.
Ironically, in the video, Nucatola acknowledges the very risk she is falling into.
DN: Because of that, we’re the target. And because we’re the target, we’re not looking to make money from this. Our goal is to keep access available. And if we do something that makes a target, that just removes access for everybody.