By Rebecca Gonzales
An editorial in Nature, one of the world’s leading scientific journals, recently covered the political debate surrounding fetal tissue harvesting and the editors’ perceived threat to this form of research with the defunding of abortion giant, Planned Parenthood. The article, “Fetal tissue research under threat,” was published on December 7th but was corrected soon after on December 8th.
Nature issued a correction in an area where there is a significant amount of uncertainty. The correction states, “An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that six clinics recovered legally allowed costs for fetal tissue. In fact, we are unable to determine the exact number of clinics. Also uncertain is the number of remaining clinics that still supply the tissue. The text has been updated to reflect these uncertainties.”
Nature isn’t the only one unsure about how many Planned Parenthood clinics are involved in fetal tissue procurement and sales. In fact, it appears that some of Planned Parenthood’s national officials do not even know the number of their own clinics that are involved in fetal tissue sales.
Even Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), has been inconsistent in her statements regarding the number of clinics that are involved in fetal tissue research when compared to statements of other PPFA officials and the procurement company with which they worked. For instance, in Richards’ written testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on September 29th of this year she stated that “currently just 1 percent facilitate their patients’ tissue donation in support of fetal tissue research.” Later at the same hearing she stated, “It is currently only done in fewer than 1 percent of Planned Parenthood health centers,” of which there are approximately 700. And in an interview with ABC News in July she responded, “Less than five” when asked to clarify how many clinics were involved.
During the hearing, Richards named an “affiliate in Washington state… and only one other which is in California,” though other PPFA centers in other states have been featured as participating in fetal tissue harvesting in recent undercover videos.
It is not uncommon for Planned Parenthood officials to be inconsistent with the number of clinics involved in fetal tissue research. As seen in the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos, Planned Parenthood officials stated many inconsistencies with what Richards or others claim to be true. For instance, while Richards said there are “very few” states involved in fetal tissue research in an interview with ABC News, Deb VanDerhei, National Director, stated, “And there are a lot of – there are Planned Parenthoods that participate in donation programs that are reimbursed for it.” Her comments are found in the CMP video, “Top Planned Parenthood Exec Agrees Baby Parts Sales a ‘Valid Exchange,’ Some Clinics ‘Generate a Fair Amount of Income Doing This.’”
Later in the video, VanDerhei lists multiple clinics including Northern California, Mar Monte, and Los Angeles as providing fetal tissue donation for remuneration. In the CMP video “Planned Parenthood VP Says Fetuses May Come Out Intact,” Dr. Savita Ginde admitted that Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains collects tissue for Colorado State University. Additionally, Cate Dyer, CEO of StemExpress, stated that she is working with “triple digit number clinics” in the CMP video “Planned Parenthood Baby Parts Buyer StemExpress Wants ‘Another 50 Livers/Week.’” While all of those clinics are not Planned Parenthood clinics, Dyer guesses that it’s a 50/50 split between independent versus Planned Parenthood clinics — certainly much more than one percent of the approximately 700 PPFA centers.
These are just a few examples of Planned Parenthood officials or affiliates making contradictory statements about clinics participating in fetal tissue research. Many more such statements can be seen in the CMP video series.
Neither Planned Parenthood officials nor their affiliates have clarified or published an official number of clinics that are or have been involved in fetal tissue procurement and trafficking. The lack of consistency among PPFA statements and misleading approximations has led to a distinct lack of credibility for Planned Parenthood, and is one real source of the significant uncertainty in the future of fetal tissue research.
Rebecca Gonzales is a research associate with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.