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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/29/15

The Continuing Harassment of Planned Parenthood

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When the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee held its September 9 hearing called "Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation's Largest Abortion Provider"--the first of several scheduled this fall--they knew their attempt to shut down Planned Parenthood wasn't going anywhere. The hyperbolic "show trial" was based on the infamous undercover videos that charge Planned Parenthood with profiting from the illegal sale of fetal tissue--or "baby parts" as right wing extremists call it.

Pink out for Planned Parenthood
Pink out for Planned Parenthood
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Neither Planned Parenthood nor the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization that produced the undercover videos, was called to testify. Instead, two "abortion survivors" (who allegedly lived after their mothers' failed terminations) spoke, along with Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who admitted that neither he nor anyone else from his party had actually seen the complete videos. As Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) put it when the hearing ended, "Senator Joseph McCarthy would be proud of this committee today."

This hearing was followed on September 17 by another one conducted by the House Subcommittee on Health, "Protecting Infants: Ending Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Providers Who Violate the Law." On September 18, the full House considered the Defund Planned Parenthood Act--2015 calling for a one-year moratorium on federal funding to any Planned Parenthood affiliate that provides abortion while the House further investigates the videos. The House also considered the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks, but finally voted to defund Planned Parenthood.

Who is mounting this vendetta? Calling itself "a group of citizen journalists," the CMP claims on its website to be an organization "dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances." It uses code language to espouse concerns about such things as "contemporary bioethical issues that impact human dignity." Its leaders include Board member Troy Newman, the president of the extremist group Operation Rescue, and Cheryl Sullenger, Operation Rescue's Senior Policy Advisor who served two years in Federal Prison in 1987 for conspiracy to damage an abortion clinic.

For over two years, CMP has conducted what it calls an "investigative journalism study" designed to document "how Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted babies." CMP claims to have "gathered hundreds of hours of undercover footage, dozens of eyewitness testimonies, and nearly two hundred pages of primary source documents" to support its accusations against Planned Parenthood. Their videos come in two formats: "summary videos of specific undercover encounters" and "a multi-part documentary web series, 'Human Capital,'" which purports to "integrate expert interviews, eyewitness accounts, and real-life undercover interactions to tell the story of Planned Parenthood's commercial exploitation of aborted fetal tissue."

The fourth "Human Capital" video in the series (and tenth video by CMP) was released on September 15, designed to coincide with House hearings. CMP claims that it features "several top-level Planned Parenthood executives discussing the organizations secretive practices around aborted fetal parts harvesting." But CMP's claims about Planned Parenthood are entirely false. Multiple news and fact-checking organizations agree that CMP videos "contain no evidence that Planned Parenthood has done anything illegal." Expert analysis reveals that when the recordings are viewed in their entirety, "it is obvious that the Planned Parenthood officials only charged biomedical companies that use the tissue for research for costs like storage and transportation -- which is completely legal and accepted practice for tissue donors."

Fusion GPS, a Washington, D.C.-based research firm, assembled three teams of experts in video forensics, production, and transcription to review five secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood staff. According to their report to Congress, "a thorough review of these videos in consultation with qualified experts found that they do not present a complete or accurate record of the events they purport to depict." The report also states that CMP heavily edited content and that the videos significantly distort and misrepresent the conversations in the full footage."

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Elayne Clift is a writer,lecturer, workshop leader and activist. She is senior correspondent for Women's Feature Service, columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel and Brattleboro (VT) Commons and a contributor to various publications internationally. (more...)
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