By Tom Strode, Baptist Press
WASHINGTON (BP) — Planned Parenthood’s decision to forego federal reimbursements for fetal tissue donation serves as an admission of its guilt and should not halt the congressional effort to defund the organization, its critics say.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) announced Tuesday (Oct. 13) that none of its centers will accept federal reimbursement in the future for expenses accrued in tissue donations from aborted babies for research. In a letter, PPFA President Cecile Richards said the action was taken to “completely debunk the disingenuous argument” used by opponents in the wake of undercover videos providing evidence the country’s leading abortion provider trades in baby body parts.
Richards’ letter to Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, followed the release of 10 secretly recorded videos that show various Planned Parenthood officials in different locations discussing the sale of organs from aborted children. The videos recorded and released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) also display PPFA employees acknowledging their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve body parts for sale and use. In addition, the videos include evidence of the dissection of live babies outside the womb to remove organs.
In the three months since CMP released the first video, Richards and other Planned Parenthood officials have denied any legal wrongdoing or profit from fetal tissue donation. They attacked CMP, alleging that the videos are fraudulent and deceptively edited.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said PPFA’s announcement “is an acknowledgment of what they have denied all along.”
“They traffic in human organs from non-consenting victims,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in a written statement. “This is essentially Planned Parenthood’s way of saying, ‘We never did this, and we won’t do it again.’
“It is time for the United States government to hold this predatory corporation accountable.”
Rep. Diane Black, R.-Tenn., sponsor of a bill approved by the House of Representatives to defund Planned Parenthood, found it curious that PPFA officials say they have done nothing wrong but “still find it necessary to change their policy following the recent undercover videos. Clearly, this was a decision motivated by optics rather than the organization’s conscience.”
The announcement “does not change my conviction that Planned Parenthood should not be subsidized by American taxpayers,” Black said in a written release.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) said Richards’ letter does not address charges that PPFA affiliates have participated in what it says appear to be various crimes related to trafficking in baby organs for profit, modifying the abortion technique to procure intact body parts and performing partial-birth abortions.
Richards’ letter “amounts to an admission of guilt,” said Kellie Fiedorek, ADF litigation counsel. “The fire that Planned Parenthood’s misdeeds started has been too hot, and she mistakenly thinks this will put water on it.
“Ms. Richards never once explains how Planned Parenthood calculated the costs of procuring fetal remains in order to sell them because she can’t,” Fiedorek said in a written statement. “The price-per-specimen approach she admitted to in her August letter to Congress is a profit-driven system, pure and simple. The American people have a right to get to the bottom of Planned Parenthood’s disturbing activities and to demand that not one more penny of their tax dollars goes to fund them.”
CMP founder David Daleiden said in a written statement that Richards’ announcement “proves what CMP has been saying all along — Planned Parenthood incurs no actual costs, and the payments for harvested fetal parts have always been an extra profit margin.”
As she had in congressional testimony Sept. 29, Richards told Collins in her letter less than 1 percent of PPFA’s centers facilitate federally approved fetal tissue donation. In a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, she failed to directly address a question about manipulation of the abortion procedure to procure body parts and denied that dissection of a living child outside the womb has occurred in a Planned Parenthood clinic.
“As I have stated repeatedly, the accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood are categorically false,” Richards said in the Oct. 13 letter. “Planned Parenthood adheres to the highest legal, medical, and ethical standards.”
With its decision, PPFA is taking opponents’ “smokescreen away,” Richards wrote.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R.-Utah, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Planned Parenthood’s announcement “is helpful in taking away some questions surrounding their transactions involving fetal tissue.” His panel’s investigation will continue, however, because the letter does not explain why “a non-profit, tax-exempt organization reporting approximately $125 [million] in revenue over expenses annually needs a subsidy from the American taxpayer.”
PPFA and its affiliates received more than $528 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements, according to its latest financial report (2013-14). Planned Parenthood affiliates performed more than 327,000 abortions during 2013.
While PPFA has hailed a study that says the CMP videos are edited in a misleading way, a digital, forensics analysis released Sept. 28 reported the videos “are authentic.” Coalfire Systems Inc., which has some Fortune 500 companies among its clients, said the videos “show no evidence of manipulation or editing.”
CMP has posted not only edited versions of its video recordings but what it describes as full footage of the conversations between PPFA officials and its undercover individuals acting as representatives of a biologics firm.
The ERLC’s Moore and 37 other pro-life leaders wrote congressional leaders Oct. 5 to encourage them to use the reconciliation process in an attempt to defund PPFA. Reconciliation enables a budget-related bill to reach the president’s desk without requiring 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. The House Budget Committee approved such a reconciliation measure Oct. 9.
Black’s legislation, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, gained passage from the House in a 241-187 vote Sept. 18. The bill would place a one-year moratorium on federal money for PPFA and its affiliates while Congress investigates the organization.
Black’s legislation to defund PPFA appears to have no future in the Senate, where it would require 60 votes, and definitely none at the White House. President Obama has made it clear he would veto Black’s proposal if it were to reach his desk.
Richards’ letter to Collins also went to Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.