(This article originally appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Focus on the Family Citizen™ magazine.)
Last August, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) announced the recipients of its annual Maggie Awards, given to journalists and activists for their coverage of "reproductive rights, social justice, and women’s health care issues."
Recipients of the awards—named for Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger—included a Salon.com reporter who was "honored for her piece combating abortion stigma," and another for ELLE Magazine’s "honest and powerful ‘I Had an Abortion’ series."
"We are thrilled to honor this select group of fearless journalists and activists for their always honest, brave, and accurate reporting on sexual and reproductive health," PPFA President Cecile Richards said in a statement.
Meanwhile, PPFA sent a memo to reporters and producers last July, urging them to ignore explosive undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), a medical ethics watchdog group based in California. The videos implicated the abortion giant, which destroys nearly 330,000 babies annually, in the potentially illegal sale of fetal tissue.
By all appearances, many members of the mainstream media heeded Planned Parenthood’s request by either defending the organization in their reports or ignoring the videos altogether. Nevertheless, amid mounting evidence of PPFA’s possibly illegal actions, pro-life Americans have stepped forward in their efforts to defund the organization at both the federal and state levels.
As CMP founder David Daleiden told a radio station last fall, Planned Parenthood will never successfully silence its critics.
"They can’t build walls high enough," he said. "So long as they’re committing abortions and so long as they’re engaged in corrupt activities funded by taxpayers, there are people who are going to look into them, and there are people who are going to hold them accountable."
Caught on Tape
Last July, CMP released the first of a dozen videos capturing Planned Parenthood officials describing their efforts to preserve and apparently sell fetal organs.
While donating fetal tissue is legal, federal law prohibits selling it for a profit, and bans abortionists from changing their procedures for the purpose of harvesting organs.
As Citizen reported last October, the CMP videos show lab technicians sifting through the organs and limbs of aborted infants, and capture Planned Parenthood officials suggesting they broke both of the above-mentioned laws. But that’s not all.
"These videos aren't just about Planned Parenthood receiving money for this harvesting and selling of fetal body parts," says Americans United for Life General Counsel Ovide LaMontagne. "It also reveals the practices, the methods of abortion, the (women’s) informed consent or lack thereof, and the potential use of partial-birth abortion techniques to harvest the most valuable baby body parts. Even the Born Alive Infant Protection Act"—a federal law prohibiting abortionists from killing babies born alive—"is implicated by what you hear in these videos."
More recent CMP videos have piled up even more evidence of such illegal activities. The 11th video, released Oct. 27, captures Amna Dermish—an abortionist at a Planned Parenthood facility in Austin, Texas—describing how she illegally uses partial-birth abortion procedures in hopes of getting an intact brain from a whole fetus.
"I haven’t been able to do that yet," she says in the video. "This will give me something to strive for.
"My aim is usually to get the specimens out pretty intact," she adds, explaining that she uses ultrasound to help move second-trimester babies to a feet-first breech position.
According to a CMP news release, "Dermish does not use the chemical digoxin to kill the fetus before 20 weeks, so her feet-first, intact extraction abortions are done on living fetuses." Using ultrasound to force babies into a breech position, the release adds, "is a hallmark of the illegal partial-birth abortion procedure."
In the 10th video, released Sept. 15, Deborah VanDerhei—national director for PPFA’s Consortium of Abortion Providers—discusses the financial benefit of harvesting fetal body parts.
"We have independent colleagues who generate a fair amount of income doing this," she says. In a later conversation, she nods as Vanessa Russo, compliance program administrator for Planned Parenthood Keystone in Pennsylvania, says, "A company like this that wants to give our organization money for the tissue—I think that’s a valid exchange, and that’s OK."
VanDerhei then says she hopes Planned Parenthood affiliates sell fetal organs—but they must use caution, lest word get out to the media.
"I have been talking to the executive director of the National Abortion Federation," she says. "We’re trying to figure this out as an industry, about how we’re going to manage remuneration, because the headlines would be a disaster."
But the headlines haven’t been disastrous—simply because most media outlets haven’t bothered to write any.
"The left-leaning media doesn’t want people to know these things are going on," says LaMontagne, "that we have a runaway, unregulated and abusive abortion industry in this country, which is extreme and radical."
According to the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group that keeps tabs on the media’s liberal bias, ABC, NBC and CBS gave only one minute and 13 seconds—out of 243 hours and 30 minutes—of airtime to the CMP videos last July. The following month, those networks failed altogether to show footage from the videos, although they aired reports of Cecile Richards’ testimony before Congress in September—when she admitted under oath that her organization doesn’t perform mammograms. (Abortion activists and PPFA itself have long circulated stories saying it does in order to win popular support and federal funding.)
Last August, Planned Parenthood commissioned a research firm, Fusion, to analyze the CMP videos. The firm released a report supporting Planned Parenthood’s claim that the videos were highly edited, with "no evidentiary value in a legal context."
"The media immediately—and I do mean immediately—ran with it," writes Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, last October.
According to The New York Times, "Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds." Politico blared, "Report for Planned Parenthood finds sting videos manipulated. National Public Radio declared more neutrally, "Planned Parenthood Says Experts Found Misleading Edits in Videos."
A more recent analysis of the CMP videos performed by Coalfire, a digital security and forensics firm with access to all CMP’s footage, found them to be "authentic and show no evidence of manipulation or editing."
Did The New York Times, Politico, NPR or other outlets give Coalfire’s findings the same amount of ink or airtime as Fusion’s? Not even close, said Hemingway.
"They simply ignored it," she writes. "There is no journalistic defense for the censorship of this report, particularly in light of the widespread and credulous coverage given Planned Parenthood’s report."
Perhaps that was due to the fact that liberal reporters were already busy writing about Planned Parenthood’s attempt to break free from the stigma of the fetal-tissue sale accusations.
PPFA announced in October that it would no longer receive payment for fetal organs—a tacit admission of guilt. And in mid-November, Richards told ABC News’ Katie Couric that selling fetal tissue was necessary in order to save lives, and the "reimbursements" were only to cover transportation costs. She also said pro-life advocates need to stop "shaming" her organization for the practice.
Fraud, Waste and Sexual Abuse
The media has ignored growing evidence not only of Planned Parenthood’s trafficking of fetal organs, but also of sexual abuse, potential fraud and the waste of U.S. tax dollars.
Taxpayers give Planned Parenthood $528 million annually. Put another way, that’s more than $1 million every day, and 41 percent of the abortion giant’s $1.3 billion annual revenue. But, according to the latest annual report to Congress from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), PPFA’s track record of fiscal integrity is shoddy.
"Americans shouldn’t be forced to give hundreds of millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood, which has a history of abusing taxpayer dollars, covering up the secular abuse of young girls by adult predators, and trafficking aborted babies’ hearts, lungs, livers and brains," says Litigation Counsel Catherine Glenn Foster. "That tax money should be redirected to trusted health providers, not given to the abortion industry."
The report features public audits of 45 Planned Parenthood affiliates, as well as 57 state family planning programs and three other family planning organizations. The findings: A total of $129.7 million lost through waste, abuse and potential fraud, much of which was committed by Planned Parenthood.
Moreover, the report reveals that U.S. taxpayers have funded abortions performed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) overseas—despite U.S. policies that prohibit the use of federal funds for abortion.
"A few days before an audit—a planned audit that it knew about—IPPF admitted finally that its India and Uganda affiliates had paid for abortion with U.S. money in violation of the law," Foster tells Citizen. "And it just refunded $700,000 to avoid further penalties."
Another report from ADF reveals a pattern of incidents in seven states—Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota and Ohio—where Planned Parenthood employees failed to report the sexual abuse of minors.
"As our report demonstrates, Planned Parenthood has been involved for many years in performing abortions on underage, sexually abused girls and letting their rapists go free, many times to go on abusing the same girl or other children," ADF Legal Counsel Natalie Decker says.
"Americans shouldn’t be forced to subsidize a scandal-plagued, billion-dollar corporation.
Defunding Planned Parenthood
And that’s exactly what pro-life advocates across the nation are hoping to change in the future.
In August, pro-life members of Congress ran just eight votes short of passing a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, with 53 senators supporting it. In October, the House of Representatives passed a reconciliation bill that would cut off federal Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood for one year; the Senate, which could pass it by a simple majority of 51 votes, was considering it at press time. President Barack Obama, however, has promised to veto any bill defunding Planned Parenthood; it’s unclear whether Congress would have the votes necessary to override that veto should it happen.
Former Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, who serves as vice president of government affairs for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, urged senators put the bill on the president’s desk.
"The life issue is huge in this presidential campaign," she tells Citizen. Sending the bill to Obama now—even if he vetoes it—could mean it lands on the desk of a pro-life president later on.
Pro-lifers have continued their attempts to defund Planned Parenthood at the state level, as well. In October, Texas became the sixth state to do so, following Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Utah. At press time, Ohio looked like it would follow suit; the state Senate passed a bill diverting tax dollars away from Planned Parenthood in late October, which still awaits action in the House of Representatives. Polls showed 64 percent of voters would like to defund the abortion industry.
To succeed in their fight—especially given the media’s tendency to bury pro-life stories—U.S. citizens must act, calling and writing their representatives at both the state and federal levels, Musgrave says.
"I don’t think this issue could be brought up too much, what is happening in this industry," she says. "Congress members should keep bringing it before the national media, before the American people—because I have faith that the American people will recoil at these activities, and they will agree that these things are not only unethical and immoral, but also very offensive to the American ideal."
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To watch the CMP videos or read transcripts, visit centerformedicalresearch.org. To read ADF’s 2015 congressional report on Planned Parenthood, visit http://bit.ly/1QHaaAyf. To read ADF’s report on Planned Parenthood’s failure to report the sexual abuse of minors, visit http://bit.ly/1FJ8DHD.