Planned Parenthood: We won't collect "reimbursements" for organ harvesting any more

Oh, they’ll still conduct the organ harvesting, but now they will stop asking for Lamborghinis when they do. Planned Parenthood will instruct their clinics to stop negotiating for “reimbursements” when delivering the remains of aborted babies to tissue banks. Even so, they still claim that their prior practices were totally acceptable:

Responding to a furor over undercover videos, Planned Parenthood says it will maintain programs at some of its clinics that make fetal tissue available for research, but will no longer accept any sort of payment to cover the costs of those programs.

Anti-abortion activists who recently released a series of covertly filmed videos have contended that Planned Parenthood officials sought profits from their programs providing post-abortion fetal tissue to researchers. Planned Parenthood said the videos were deceptively edited and denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement of costs.

The new policy — forgoing even permissible reimbursement — was outlined in a letter sent Tuesday by Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, to Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.

“Planned Parenthood’s policies on fetal tissue donation already exceed the legal requirements,” Richards wrote. “Now we’re going even further in order to take away any basis for attacking Planned Parenthood to advance an anti-abortion political agenda.”

Suuuuuuuure they are. Despite Planned Parenthood’s claims of deceptive editing, an independent analyst found no such thing in the released videos. In a statement two weeks ago, the Alliance Defending Freedom — who represents the Center for Medical Progress in its legal battles — cited the report as vindication for CMP, and condemnation of Planned Parenthood:

Coalfire Systems, a highly accredited forensic analysis and cybersecurity company that does work for Fortune 500 companies, issued a report Monday which found that 10 full-footage videos the Center for Medical Progress recorded while undercover at Planned Parenthood facilities and related locations “are authentic and show no evidence of manipulation or editing.”

“This conclusion is supported by the consistency of the video file date and time stamps, the video timecode, as well as the folder and file naming scheme,” the report states. “The uniformity between the footage from Investigator 1’s camera and Investigator 2’s camera also support the evidence that the video recordings are authentic.” The report also confirms that “edits made to the Full Footage videos [for the shorter YouTube videos] were applied to eliminate non-pertinent footage, such as restroom breaks, meals, and other similar periods lacking pertinent conversation.”

“The Coalfire forensic analysis removes any doubt that the full length undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress are authentic and have not been manipulated,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “Analysts scrutinized every second of video recorded during the investigation released by CMP to date and found only bathroom breaks and other non-pertinent footage had been removed. Planned Parenthood can no longer hide behind a smokescreen of false accusations and should now answer for what appears to be the very real crimes revealed by the CMP investigation.”

In other words, it’s not exactly a coincidence that Planned Parenthood is backing away from tissue sales now. They’re trying to protect their federal funding through Title X, which brings in about $100 million a year, and their fetal tissue sales probably bring in considerably less than that. So even just on a business basis, it’s better to stick with Title X rather than risk losing everything.

And it will be interesting to see just how much harvesting takes place. The videos made it clear that Planned Parenthood changed its procedures to acquire more salable tissue — a violation of federal law, by the way — which underscored the desire for revenue enhancement. Without that incentive, and with its partners looking for cover, I suspect that the actual transmission of fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood clinics will plummet.

The big question will be whether this changes the calculus in the defunding fight. That effort has zero chance for success anyway, but the fetal tissue sales issue is so provocative that a significant number of House Republicans legitimately feel that they cannot in good faith let that go without some kind of action. Planned Parenthood’s retreat gives them an opportunity to claim victory for the moment and depart the budgetary field — a claim that might go down easier with them if the new GOP leadership will push a standalone bill disqualifying any abortion providers for Title X funding. Barack Obama would veto it, of course, but at least Congress will have acted, and set it up as an issue for the 2016 election.

Update: Edited with an additional paragraph after posting.

Update: I’m not going to post a bunch of statements from politicians, but this one from Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) is interesting for a couple of reasons. She’s not buying the explanation either:

“It is curious that, while Planned Parenthood officials maintain there has been no wrongdoing, they 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. If Planned Parenthood truly wanted to confront its growing scandal, it would stop aborting more than 327,000 innocent lives each year and fully commit to true women’s health care,” said Congressman Diane Black. “In light of this news, I suppose Doctor Mary Gatter will have to find another way to get her Lamborghini, but rest assured – this development does not change my conviction that Planned Parenthood should not be subsidized by American taxpayers.”

Also, Black has been leading the effort to pass a standalone disqualification for federal funding of abortion providers through Title X rather than push the fight into the budget process. “This is a fight we must continue,” Black’s statement concludes, and her strategy might gain new adherents now.

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David Strom 3:31 PM on November 30, 2022