On Tuesday the anti-abortion activist group Center for Medical Progress released a new undercover video, their fifth in a series of highly-edited videos which allege that Planned Parenthood is illegally profiting from fetal tissue donation. This video series has sparked outrage in conservative members of the GOP and has become a major talking point among potential candidates in the 2016 presidential elections.
Just yesterday, the Senate blocked a Republican-led measure to defund Planned Parenthood.
The YouTube description for this video reads: “INTACT FETAL CADAVERS” AT 20-WEEKS “JUST A MATTER OF LINE ITEMS” AT PLANNED PARENTHOOD TX MEGA-CENTER: ABORTION DOCS CAN “MAKE IT HAPPEN” (Video: YouTube)
This video touches on three hot-button issues that have not been explored in the other videos:
1. It focuses on the remains of a fetus at 20 weeks gestational age
In a graphic scene towards the end of the video, after the Center for Medical Progress representatives ask to see examples of the kinds of fetal tissue specimens the clinic collects through donation, the remains of a fetus at 20 weeks of gestational age are shown, with appendages and organs identified by a voice off-camera. When asked how many providers at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast provide abortions in the second trimester, specifically in “later than 16 week [gestational age] cases,” a Planned Parenthood representative replies that there are six such providers in the state of Texas.
A key issue that has emerged among the wide field of Republican presidential candidates for 2016 is a commitment to 20-week abortion bans. Before the candidates even began to formally announce, 14 of them had already signed a pledge to implement a federal 20-week abortion ban should they be elected.
Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill that would have made abortions performed past 20 weeks of gestational age illegal nationwide. Presently, there are 15 states that have statewide 20-week abortion bans in place.
Bill co-sponsor Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) believes that there “are innocent and defenseless children who can not only feel pain, but who can survive outside of the womb in most cases, and who are torturously killed without even basic anesthesia.”
But research has shown that a fetus will not develop the nerves and neural capacity to experience pain until the third trimester. Plus, there is no evidence showing a fetus has ever survived outside of the womb before 21 weeks, and a fetus is not traditionally thought of as viable outside of the womb until 26 weeks.
The first version of the bill was ultimately dropped because of the failure of many Republican women in Congress to support the proposed bill, with a revised version passing the House in May. The Senate still has yet to vote on the bill, and Republican Senate leadership – including Republican presidential candidate and South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham — have promised to put it on the docket for this fall’s Congressional session.
A poll conducted by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America showed that 60 percent of registered voters support access to abortion at 20 weeks. The same poll showed that an even higher number of voters of both parties believe that bans on reproductive rights misguided areas for Congress to be prioritizing and pursuing, with 62 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of Democrats, and 71 percent of Independents saying that “this is the wrong issue for Congress and their state legislators to be spending time on.”
And yet both Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich have signed 20-week bans into place in their states just before announcing their intentions to seek the Republican nomination for president.
Abortions performed after 20 weeks are often conducted because of severe abnormalities found in the fetus that would prevent it from surviving outside of the womb, even if born at full term. Thus, Lawrence concluded, it is essential to debunk “claims that 22 weeks is a new point of viability” as a “myth before it becomes [wrongly] accepted as reality.”
2. The video discusses providing intact fetuses for research
In the video, the Center for Medical Progress actors and Planned Parenthood employees seem to discuss providing intact fetuses for research purposes.
The staff member from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast clarifies for the Center for Medical Progress actors that, “Yeah I think we can. I mean, some of it is really outside – some of it will be happenstance, because, you know, sometimes as the procedure is happening, the procedure itself, for the removal is generally standardized…so, just depending on the patient’s anatomy, how many weeks, where it’s placed in the uterus, we’re going to potentially have some that will be more or less intact, and then some that will not be.”
One of the talking points often conflated alongside discussion of 20-week bans is the argument that when an in-tact fetus is terminated at this point in development, the procedure then constitutes a live birth — one of which, abortion opponents say, is ended outside of the womb. In other words, pro-life adherents believe that a fetus is born, and then killed — and, many like those at the Center for Medical Progress allege — done so solely so that the specimens may then be used for medical research.
This morning on CNN, Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden drove home this argument, saying that “could be prima facie evidence of born alive infants,” since, he claims, Planned Parenthood doesn’t use feticides prior to performing abortions.
The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which Congressional Republicans have promised to return to the legislative docket this fall, has language with specific stipulations for a born alive child resulting from an abortion. The bill stipulates that should a child be born alive, as Daleiden claims is the case when an in-tact fetus is present (as could be the case in certain instances where a woman has elected to donate her fetal tissue for medical research, should specific researchers have a need for in-tact second trimester fetuses) “any health care practitioner present at the time humanely exercise the same professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as would be exercised for a child born alive at the same gestational age in the course of a natural birth” and that “the child born alive be immediately transported and admitted to a hospital.”
And yet, speaking about the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act earlier this year, Dr. Hal Lawrence, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, has said, that there is “no point when [viability] is clearly established” in a fetus’s development and that there is “ “no medical milestone associated with 20 weeks; the 20-week mark is not notable from a fetal development standpoint.”
Lawrence also spoke to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on the outcomes of viability for live births at 22 weeks, noting that the study found that only 5 percent of children born at this point survived, all of them with severe mental and neurological handicaps, and that the study looked only at babies without fetal anomalies.
3. It’s filmed in Texas
The new video focuses on Planned Parenthood’s affiliate clinics in Texas, one of the only three states where some Planned Parenthood clinics participate in procuring donated fetal tissue specimens for biomedical research (California and Colorado are the two others).
In the video, the Planned Parenthood representative is seen saying that the affiliate at which she is employed, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, is one of the largest affiliates nationwide.
Texas already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, requiring a woman to receive state-directed counseling including information designed to discourage her from abortion and a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, thus requiring a woman to make multiple visits to a provider should she need abortion services.
Texas’s 20-week abortion ban was signed into law by former Republican governor Rick Perry. Current governor Greg Abbott, also a Republican, has continued in Perry’s footsteps. During his tenure, Texas has closed of all but 10 abortion clinics in the state, and, now requires Texas women to present proof of identity and age before being allowed to have an abortion. Minors in the state cannot receive an abortion without either parental consent or a judicial bypass — which requires a court appearance before a judge in their county of residence, a potential violation of the confidentiality laws also written into the measure.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton admitted to obtaining and viewing undercover video from CMP prior to its release and vowed to pursue a criminal and civil investigation into Planned Parenthood before Tuesday’ video was ever publically released — while his counterpart in CA (where three of the five undercover videos have been filmed) has taken an opposite approach, investigating CMP itself for fraudulent and illegal practices.