This morning, anti-abortion activist group the Center for Medical Progress released its third undercover video showing what it alleges to be Planned Parenthood’s illegal sale of fetal tissue.
The group’s two previous videos have prompted Republicans to call for investigations into Planned Parenthood at both the state and federal levels.
The Center for Medical Progress differentiates this new video from the two it previously released (watch the first here and the second here) by labeling it “Episode #1” of its Human Capital Project. (The previously released videos are, presumably, precursory contextual measures regarding the Center for Medical Progress’s claims against Planned Parenthood.)
The latest video is markedly different than the Center for Medical Progress’s past releases, as it is the first to explicitly show images of fetal parts, identifying the brain, legs, and arms of a first-trimester fetus in new undercover footage seemingly taken at a Planned Parenthood affiliate in California.
The new video focuses on the first-person story of Holly O’Donnell, a phlebotomist who was allegedly employed by StemExpress, a California-based company that acts as a “middleman,” collecting human blood, tissue products, and stem cells from abortion providers, processing them, and then selling them to biomedical researchers. According to StemExpress’s website, its clients include Harvard Medical School, Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, Stanford University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Food and Drug Administration, among others.
In the video, O’Donnell describes her work with StemExpress as a former procurement technician. O’Donnell’s first-person account of being trained to process fetal tissue donation samples for StemExpress to provide to one of its research partners is overlaid over graphic, “undercover” footage taken by the Center for Medical Progress showing the fetal tissue as it is presented to procurement technicians and individual fetal parts are discussed and identified.
O’Donnell describes passing out the first time she had to handle fetal tissue specimens, having to be revived with smelling salts, and hearing from a nurse at the Planned Parenthood affiliate clinic where she had been assigned to work that day telling her that technicians frequently pass out when confronted with fetal tissue for the first time, and that many who work with fetal tissue “never get over it.”
Like the previous videos, this latest video is highly edited so that many of the statements heard being made by Planned Parenthood providers are devoid of context. Unlike the previous videos, the full, unedited version of the footage shown has not yet been released on the center’s website.
Video comes close to violating patient rights
In the video, time stamps are visible on the undercover footage, specifying the date and time at which it was taken.
A screenshot from the CMP video showing the time and date that the footage was recorded. (Photo: YouTube)
“It was my first morning. I was with one of my trainers. And I walk in. I meet the staff,” O’Donnell says in a voiceover as fetal parts are shown, with a time stamp of 11:02 a.m. on April 7, 2015. “Then I see someone come in with a bottle. And I could see there was blood in it. And they went over to the sink and emptied it over a strainer. And put it in the pie dish. And they lit it up. And I’m like, ‘What is going on?’ And my trainer comes over and she puts on gloves and she gets some tweezers and she’s picking the parts away from the vaginal tissue.”
The Planned Parenthood location where the footage was taken could be the Concord Health Center in Concord, Calif., where O’Donnell works, which is identified in the video. It could also have been taken at the Planned Parenthood location of Savita Ginde, MD, a doctor who is unknowingly interviewed in the video and shown immediately following O’Donnell’s description.
A screenshot from the CMP video identifying the Planned Parenthood where footage was taken. (Photo: YouTube)
These details could allow a woman who had received an abortion — a highly personal medical procedure — at the Planned Parenthood affiliate to be forced to identify her own fetal tissue donation.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) explicitly guarantees that health information is private and protected, and the federal law sets limits on who can look at an individual’s protected health information. HIPAA applies to all forms of an individual’s protected health information, whether electronic, written, or oral, and covers any information any health care provider may put in a patient’s medical record, any conversations about a patient’s care and treatment among medical providers, and most other detailed health information about any given patient.
Investigation into CMP
On Friday, California Attorney General and senatorial candidate Kamala Harris announced her preliminary investigation into whether the Center for Medical Progress has broken any state laws in its work against Planned Parenthood.
The Center for Medical Progress has yet to release its tax filings, so details remain unclear as to from where and from whom the group, which has nonprofit status, has received its funding and the way in which it has allocated those funds.
Poll says most Americans support Planned Parenthood despite videos
New polling released today by Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund found that 64 percent of voters — and 72 percent of Independents — do not agree with Congressional action to immediately end all government funding for Planned Parenthood. Furthermore, 58 percent of voters say they would support a candidate who favors continued funding for Planned Parenthood over one who wishes to defund the women’s health care provider, and 57 percent of voters say they are skeptical of Republican motivations behind the Congressional investigations of Planned Parenthood, believing they are being used to further a specific political agenda.
In a statement, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said, “Today’s poll shows much of what we already knew: that defunding Planned Parenthood is a losing proposition not just for the millions of men and women who come through Planned Parenthood’s doors every day, but also with voters who don’t want to see their politicians focused on restricting lifesaving care. … The anti-abortion extremists behind these videos don’t have any credibility with the American people, and neither do the politicians behind these political attacks against women’s health and the care Planned Parenthood provides.”
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