Bioethics

What’s Really in the Planned Parenthood Videos?

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 09/18/2015

There’s some confusion on both sides out there about what’s in the Planned Parenthood videos. You can watch the episode that’s being debated here, in which a former tech from StemExpress describes what she witnessed in a Planned Parenthood clinic.

Here are some important clarifications:

  • At 4:02, O’Donnell says the tech said this before restarting the heart of the aborted baby: “Come over here! I want you to see something kinda cool. This is kinda neat.”
  • There’s no explicit explanation given by the tech as to why she’s starting the heart. It’s unclear whether she was doing something “cool” just for fun, or whether she was doing it for some other purpose and simply called O’Donnell over because she might want to see it. Since I first saw this video, I have feared we may find out in future videos that it’s done to keep specimens fresh, but for now, that has not been specifically said. Regardless, playing with an infant’s life is evil enough.
  • We don’t know that the baby’s heart was still beating when they cut its face to procure the brain; O’Donnell does not specifically say either way.
  • The clip of the fully-intact and moving fetus (at 5:58) was not filmed at the Planned Parenthood clinic. The clip is, in fact, credited, “Courtesy of Grantham Collection & Center for Bio-Ethical Reform.” The image is intended to show the viewers the age of the fetal human being O’Donnell is describing, but it is not the human being described in the story. I don’t see anything illegitimate about adding this footage to help people understand what O’Donnell was seeing. Neither do I think CMP was intending to deceive people with it. (I say this not only because of the credit, but also because later on in the video they show another picture of a 19-week fetus that obviously wasn’t aborted at a Planned Parenthood clinic—care was clearly taken where the umbilical cord was cut.) But at the same time, because these videos are so shocking and most viewers only saw them once, many people have understandably misinterpreted what they were seeing and/or misremembered what they saw.
  • Yes, the moving fetus in the video was aborted. The website for the Grantham Collection says their images were “lawfully obtained in working abortion clinics.” I verified that the video clip in question can be found in one of their videos, as described here. (I’m not linking to the video of live abortions directly because it is extremely graphic and starts playing automatically, but there is a link to it on that page.) CBR has confirmed this, saying, “The video clip we provided to CMP depicted an intact delivery abortion. It was filmed at an abortion clinic. It was not a miscarriage.”

We need to be careful about how we talk about these videos. If you give people even the smallest thing to quibble with (even if it’s not ultimately relevant), that is what they will focus on, and they’ll use it to justify dismissing everything in the videos. This is what I’m seeing happen now.

Even stranger, I’m seeing journalists out there saying obviously wrong things, like, “There is nothing in the videos made by CMP, either in the edited or full-length versions, that has anything approaching images of legs kicking or hearts beating”; and, “At no point do they include footage of an entire aborted fetus”; and, “None of the videos have anyone talking about ’harvesting’ brains” (actually, this topic comes up in a few of them); and, “There is no moment where Planned Parenthood discusses procuring fetal tissue for profit” (see here and here); and, “The Center for Medical Progress released five videos” (there are 10, not counting full footage videos); and, most amazingly, “Each video made by an anti-abortion group, The Center for Medical Progress, merely shows people talking” (i.e., without images).

Let’s not add to that confusion. Watch the videos carefully, and don’t assume anything that isn’t explicit. Stick closely to the facts; the facts are horrifying enough on their own.