It may sound too ghoulish to be true, but it is. In a video released on July 14, a top official at Planned Parenthood was caught discussing how the billion-dollar nonprofit harvests and sells the organs of aborted babies to for-profit biotech companies.
“I’d say a lot of people want liver,” says Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, in the undercover investigation conducted by the Center for Medical Progress. While sipping red wine and nibbling on a salad at a swank Los Angeles restaurant, Nucatola describes how she will “crush” an unborn baby in a particular way to preserve the organs for research.
“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact,” says Nucatola, who adds that the most difficult thing to get out intact is “the calvarium—the head is basically the biggest part.”
Nucatola informs the actors posing as buyers at a biotech company that they could get a fetal corpse for $30 to $100 “per specimen.” She explains that Planned Parenthood’s nonprofit affiliates “want to break even. And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that.”
The sickening video led to calls for a congressional investigation and accusations that Planned Parenthood broke the law that purports to prohibit the sale of aborted baby organs. An investigation may very well turn up evidence that laws have been broken. But it’s likely to reveal an even greater scandal—that most of the trafficking of aborted baby organs is perfectly legal in the United States.
The relevant law regarding the “donation” of such “tissue” for research was sponsored in the House of Representatives by left-wing Democrat Henry Waxman and signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration,” the law reads. But it also states: “The term ‘valuable consideration’ does not include reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.” So what’s a “reasonable payment” and what’s not? The law doesn’t say.
Planned Parenthood insists that its practice of organ harvesting is not only legal but a moral good—a “humanitarian undertaking,” in the words of its public relations firm. Once a baby has been killed by an abortionist, after all, the only question is what to do with what remains of her body: use it for research or throw it in a dumpster? If you accept the premise that human beings have no rights and no dignity prior to birth, Planned Parenthood’s practice of harvesting and selling their organs is not wrong.
We, of course, reject this premise and affirm our country’s creed that all human beings are “created equal” and endowed by their creator with the unalienable right to life. It is “the right without which no other rights have any meaning,” as Ronald Reagan said.
If the result of this video and ensuing debate is a consensus that using aborted baby organs for experimentation should be banned, great. The legality of such research incentivizes wealthy biotech companies to support the regime of abortion on demand.
But let no one pretend that what’s truly morally relevant is whether or not Planned Parenthood “crushes” an unborn child to death in a particular way to sell her organs—it’s the fact that Planned Parenthood annually “crushes” hundreds of thousands of unborn children to death in the first place.
The cause of the American pro-life movement remains what it ever was. As the editor of this magazine wrote in 1998 on the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it is to put “abortion in the course of ultimate extinction. This agenda—Lincolnian in character, principled but incremental, appealing to the better angels of our nature—will have to be at once politically credible and morally convincing.”
The best way to advance this agenda in 2015 is to promote legislation to ban abortion after the fifth month of pregnancy, when infants can feel pain and are viable if born prematurely. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act has already become law in more than a dozen states and passed the House of Representatives earlier this year. It has the backing of the American people and awaits a vote in the Senate. If we can’t protect the lives of babies old enough to feel pain and inhabit neonatal intensive care units, we can’t protect the right to life of any unborn children.
Republican presidential candidates should acquaint themselves with arguments for this legislation and apprise voters of the reality of current law and the Democratic party’s agenda, which is abortion-on-demand until birth at taxpayer expense. The video just released provides an excellent opportunity to do so.