Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Can We Investigate The Group Behind The Planned Parenthood Videos For Breaking The Law?

The Center for Medical Progress just released its second video, in which a Planned Parenthood official appears to be haggling on the price of providing fetal tissues and organs. It does not contain new information, and it certainly does not implicate Planned Parenthood in illegally selling fetal organs and tissues for profit. But as these videos come out, so do details about the shadowy group behind them. There is real evidence that this group has committed actual crimes.

First, the video: Conservative websites are using it to accuse Planned Parenthood of running an illegal and lucrative trade. But it does not give evidence for this at all. In fact, it's clear that the people posing as buyers are trying to convince the PP official, Mary Gatter, to take more money than she's asking for, and she tells them that her group is not actually making a profit on this, and that the money is actually for their costs. Exactly what was said in the first video:

Gatter: Okay. $75 a specimen.
Buyer: Oh. That’s way too low.
Gatter: Okay.
Buyer: And that’s, really, that’s way too low. I don’t, I want to keep you happy.
Gatter: I was going to say $50, because I know places that did $50, too. But see we don’t, we’re not in it for the money, and we don’t want to be in a position of being accused of selling tissue, and stuff like that. On the other hand, there are costs associated with the use of our space, and that kind of stuff, so what were you thinking about?
Buyer: Exactly. Way higher than that.
Gatter: Mhm.
Buyer: So I’d like to start at around $100.
Gatter: Okay. Now this is for tissue that you actually take, not just tissue that the person volunteers but you can’t find anything, right?

Later in the conversation the fake buyer presses Gatter to take more money, Gatter emphasizes that she doesn't want to do anything that isn't right, and the fake buyer tries to convince her that his or her concern is merely to make sure that Planned Parenthood is compensated.

Buyer: So, would you, I could see where it might present some sort of problem for you. So, to, if we could compensate more on something like that, or—
Gatter: Well, now you’re shading into the area of you’re paying me to do something that’s not right. So [laughs] that’s not what I want to talk about!
Buyer: No, I don’t, I don’t see that. What I want to make sure is that you, whatever you have to go through to deliver intact specimen, that that’s compensated. Not that I'm paying you to do something shady or—
Gatter: Well I will discuss it with Ian, our surgeon. We’ll see what he has to say.

Even the range of money they're discussing - around $100 - tracks with the same amount of money per specimen that was discussed in the earlier video, the one in which the other Planned Parenthood official repeatedly stressed the tissue samples were donated, that the cost was for expenses, and her group wasn't making a profit. The Washington Post is reporting that officials in Congress and at the state level are investigating Planned Parenthood.

But one thing that's clear is there are real signs that the group involved in this undercover sting may have itself broken several laws and engaged in a campaign of harassment and intimidation against abortion providers and their patients. Planned Parenthood sent a letter to Congressman Fred Upton containing serious charges against the group and its leader, David Daleiden, and someone needs to follow up on them:

Over the last eight years, Mr. Daleiden has participated in at least 10 separate attacks on Planned Parenthood involving gaining access to our health centers and offices under false pretenses, taping staff (and sometimes patients) without their knowledge on at least 65 occasions (not counting this latest fraud), and misleading the public with heavily edited tapes and flat-out false charges.

Planned Parenthood says Daleiden's group created a phony bio-medical company called Biomax Procurement Services. According to the Huffington Post, in filing IRS paperwork and maintaining a public identity as this kind of entity, the group may have committed fraud:

If the Center for Medical Progress deliberately misled the IRS and donors about the nature of its nonprofit work, it could be subject to civil and criminal fraud penalties. IRS forms are signed under penalty of perjury, and a nonprofit misleading its donors about the nature of its work is "up there with all other kinds of fraud," according to Bruce Hopkins, an attorney who specializes in nonprofit law.

"The authorities have the right to shut down the charity, and the individuals behind the fraud can go to prison or pay a substantial fine," Hopkins said.

An article by the pro-choice website RH Reality Check accuses the group of routinely plying targets with alcohol in order to get them to talk more freely. In the first video the fake buyers are clearly encouraging the Planned Parenthood official to share wine with them. From the article:

What’s clear from a careful reading of the transcript is that by the end of the meeting, the operative remains sober - enough to permit himself some sly digs at the unsuspecting Nucatola - but as Nucatola’s answers get steadily longer, one has the distinct impression that she has been affected by the alcohol.

As she relaxes, Nucatola tells the operative and his associate that another local medical director could be willing to speak with them. “Is she in the area? Does she want to come and have a drink?” the operative asks.

Planned Parenthood accuses the group of violating the privacy and dignity of patients by filming undercover at its clinics. It adds:

We also believe that in at least one interaction at a Planned Parenthood facility, the Biomax representative asked questions about the racial characteristics of tissue donated to researchers studying sickle cell anemia, apparently seeking to create a misleading impression. 

Finally, although the group itself is almost a complete black box - the addresses on its website and on its official paperwork are mailbox facilities, for example - it seems to be backed by Operation Rescue's Troy Newman. Planned Parenthood states this and an article on the Operation Rescue website confirms it. Newman evidently has a position on the group's "board," although no other details of this board are available.

This is important, because Newman targeted Dr. George Tiller, the abortion doctor murdered by a pro-life extremist. From CNN:

In 2002, Newman's organization moved from California to Kansas, a state that has restrictions on late-term abortions, including requiring a second physician's approval. In Wichita, Newman targeted Tiller's clinic and worked through legal means to try to put him out of business. Newman believes Operation Rescue was about two months away from closing Tiller's clinic when he was shot in May. Abortion rights supporters dispute that claim and accuse Operation Rescue of harassing Tiller with endless lawsuits and picketing.

MS. Magazine reporter Amanda Robb interviewed Scott Roeder, Tiller's murderer, who said he spoke about killing an abortion doctor with Newman beforehand:

Robb: What did you say to him?
Roeder: Oh, something like if an abortionist—I don’t even know if it was specifically Tiller…was shot, would it be justified? … And [Newman] said, “If it were, it wouldn’t upset me.”

Newman denies this. But there's a clear and disturbing pattern of evidence that the makers of these sting videos might be breaking laws and ethical rules to target abortion clinics. What is an undeniable fact is that people who work at or visit these clinics live in fear that fanatics will hurt, terrorize, or kill them.

Will anyone take this seriously?

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