Friday we reported on the accusations raised by former Davis High grad David Daleiden, who released a hidden video claiming to show that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling tissues from aborted fetuses. The video’s release went viral, leading politicians and anti-abortion activists to seize the initiative.
The video shows Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, discussing the collection of fetal tissue in a lunch meeting with two people posing as potential tissue buyers. In fact, the full video of the lunch meeting is over two hours long. It shows a very different picture than critics claims.
The New York Times writes, “Clearly, the shorter version was edited to eliminate statements by Dr. Nucatola explaining that Planned Parenthood does not profit from tissue donation, which requires the clear consent of the patient. Planned Parenthood affiliates only accept money — between $30 and $100 per specimen, according to Dr. Nucatola — to cover costs associated with collecting and transporting the tissue.”
Much to the chagrin of several right wing publications, California Attorney General Kamala Harris will review whether the nonprofit organization behind the videos violated state law, her office said in a letter Friday.
“We will carefully review the allegations raised in your letter to determine whether there were any violations of California law,” the Attorney General wrote in reply to Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Zoe Lofgren, Jerry Nadler and Yvette Clarke, who cited reports that Mr. Daleiden filed paperwork to create a phony entity.
“This office will also review any materials filed by the Center for Medical Progress with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts to determine whether the organization violated laws including, but not limited to, our registration and reporting requirements.”
“I am deeply concerned about the allegations that federal and state laws were violated in an attempt to attack Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides critical health care services to more than three million men and women each year, and that the attack was coordinated by conservative activists who want to discredit Planned Parenthood and its work,” Representative Clarke said in a statement. “I urge Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Honorable Kamala Harris, Attorney General of California, to initiate a full investigation into this incident to determine if any fraud or other illegal activities were committed.”
The Huffington Post reported on Friday that the anti-abortion group “appears to be a dummy nonprofit that may have deceived the Internal Revenue Service and the public about its mission.” Slate reports that the Center for Medical Progress appears to be nothing more than a front organization for the anti-abortion group Live Action. This is not how the IRS understood the relationship when the group applied for tax-exempt status two years ago.
According to new research by the Bridge Project, the policy arm of the progressive group American Bridge, the IRS granted the Center for Medical Progress tax-exempt status as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 2013 under the classification code G92, which applies to biomedicine charities.
Meanwhile, anti-abortion legislators are using the controversy to go on the offensive against Planned Parenthood.
House Republicans launched a federal investigation into Planned Parenthood immediately following the release of the first video, with Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul vowing that they would attempt to force a vote this week on an amendment to the highway bill that would strip all federal Title X family planning funds from Planned Parenthood clinics across the country.
Senator Paul said the videos should motivate Republicans to focus more on abortion. “I think Republicans have run away from the abortion issue,” he said. “This is baby parts we’re talking about.”
From a local angle, a letter sent by attorneys from Planned Parenthood indicated that the head of the Center for Medical Progress is David Daleiden. Mr. Daleiden is a 2007 Davis High School Graduate. His mother is Gina Daleiden, a former Davis School Board member and current Chief Deputy to Supervisor Jim Provenza.
According to the Planned Parenthood attorney, “Over the last eight years, Mr. Daleiden has participated in at least 10 separate attacks on Planned Parenthood involving gaining access to our health centers and offices under false pretenses, taping staff (and sometimes patients) without their knowledge on at least 65 occasions (not counting this latest fraud), and misleading the public with heavily edited tapes and flat-out false charges.”
Three years ago, Mr. Daleiden allegedly “created what we now know to be a phony company called Biomax Procurement Services, which held itself out as a legitimate tissue procurement organization. Biomax then embarked on a campaign of corporate espionage with Planned Parenthood and its affiliates as its target.”
The letter continues, “The sham company used the false pretense of seeking tissue for research purposes to gain access to our facilities and staff. These fraudulent efforts appear to have been meticulously planned.” To cite one example, “Biomax set up exhibits at our National Medical Conference and our National Conference over the last couple of years.”
As indicated above, Mr. Daleiden engaged in secretly recording Planned Parenthood staff and patients at least 65 times over the last eight years, potentially yielding thousands of hours of recordings.
In a statement last week, Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that “our donation programs — like any other high-quality health care providers — follow all laws and ethical guidelines” and that “Planned Parenthood stands behind our work to help women and families donate tissue for medical research when they wish to.”
The Times notes, “Researchers use fetal tissue to study and develop treatments for diseases and conditions like H.I.V., hepatitis, congenital heart defects, retinal degeneration and Parkinson’s. Last year, the National Institutes of Health gave $76 million in grants for fetal tissue research. Planned Parenthood is certainly not the only collector of fetal tissue — clinics associated with universities also supply tissue for research.”
The Times concludes, “The Center for Medical Progress video campaign is a dishonest attempt to make legal, voluntary and potentially lifesaving tissue donations appear nefarious and illegal. Lawmakers responding by promoting their own anti-choice agenda are rewarding deception and putting women’s health and their constitutionally protected rights at risk.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting