The video was a bombshell. On Tuesday, July 14, an organization called the Center for Medical Progress released a video on YouTube highlighting a conversation with Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Medical Director from Planned Parenthood. The subject? Sale of tissue and body parts of aborted babies. Within hours of its posting, Christian leaders began tweeting outrage and sorrow over the contents of the video. Many called for a Congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood, which along with several other abortion providers, receives annual grants from the federal government.
As outrage and conversation continues on social media and makes its way into mainstream media, it’s important not to lose sight of what the issues surrounding the video are.
Is the selling of fetal tissue and body parts ethical?
One question that has come up is this: is the selling of the body parts and tissue from aborted babies legal? Joe Carter from the ERLC states that, sadly, it might be. If written permission is obtained from the mother after the abortion, that tissue may be donated in whatever way the clinic wishes. Carter explains:
In light of the discussion, the video mentions two federal laws related to organ selling. Unfortunately, neither of these laws appear to be applicable to this issue or to the discussions in the video. In each of these laws, the term “valuable consideration” does not include “reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.”
Legality is one thing. Ethics is another. In the video, Dr. Nucatola describes in grisly detail how abortions are performed to make sure that vital organs that researchers request are not damaged:
“So you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver because we know that. So I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”
Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, told the New York Times that Planned Parenthood faces ethical questions, even if their practices are legal. “You cannot, must not, alter how or when you do an abortion simply to obtain tissues you want. Basically, the only concern is the health and safety of the mother.”
The description of a procedure to extract a baby as intact as possible to harvest its organs should appall all of us. Legalities aside, Planned Parenthood must answer for practices like these without the spin of choice that so often accompanies it.
How can people continue to support Planned Parenthood and abortion after seeing the video?
There have been questions and concerns raised about the legitimacy of the video. Most who are pro-choice see the video as another sting operation and dismiss it out of hand. Others have voiced their support of Planned Parenthood through the hashtag #standwithtPP. Pro-choice supporters have long heralded the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion, without saying much about the practice itself. However, the procedure discussed by Dr. Nucatola should make even the most staunch pro-choice supporter rethink some of their stances. For now, it seems, the divide between pro-life and pro-choice only widens.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that the ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children. As we consider what has been brought to light through this video, we must examine our hearts. Are our consciences not pricked at the horrors described? Do we want to leave our children a society where the smallest and weakest among us are left unprotected? If we truly believe what the Word of God says about the sanctity and dignity of all life, then now is not a time to be silent.
We must advocate for the precious gift of life, from the moment of conception through death. We need to advocate for those who have no voice. Surely if we defend the least of these, we defend the Lord.
The Center for Medical Progress eventually released the full, two-hour video which you can watch here. The original, eight-minute video is below. If you have not yet watched the video, be advised, it is disturbing.