Opinion

JEFF JACOBY

Planned Parenthood videos should appall even abortion-rights advocates

It’s not often that a business-lunch conversation becomes a viral YouTube video. But then, it’s not often that a top Planned Parenthood official is recorded discussing, over a leisurely lunch of salad and red wine, the business of selling fetal organs harvested from aborted babies.

More than 2.5 million people have seen the undercover video in which Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, readily details the ins and outs of harvesting the body parts of aborted fetuses, which are then sold for research. Nucatola thought she was speaking to buyers for a fetal-tissue supply firm in California. In fact, her lunch companions were researchers for the pro-life Center for Medical Progress, which posted the recording online — both the full footage, as well as a nine-minute abridged version.

The video came as a bombshell. Selling fetal organs for profit is illegal under federal law, yet Nucatola appears quite candid in describing Planned Parenthood’s lively commercial interest in human tissue from abortion. She is alert to market demand — “I’d say a lot of people want liver,” she tells her lunch companions — and understands how to carry out an abortion to maximize the quality of the organs that can be supplied to buyers afterward.

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“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that,” says Nucatola, “so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” She talks about properly trained abortion doctors using ultrasound to ensure that forceps don’t damage organs destined for sale. When she is asked for a “price range,” Nucatola replies: “I would say it’s probably anywhere from $30 to $100” per specimen, depending on the facility.

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Planned Parenthood adamantly insists that it does not traffic in fetal remains. Women who have abortions “sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research,” the organization said in a formal statement, and Planned Parenthood receives “no financial benefit” for facilitating such donations — merely compensation for its “actual costs,” which is legal.

As a matter of law, Planned Parenthood may be on solid ground. But it isn’t illegality that makes this video so scandalous. It is amorality. It is the nonchalance with which Planned Parenthood’s senior medical director schmoozes, between swigs of wine and forkfuls of salad, about dismembering a healthy unborn child and selling its parts for “anywhere from $30 to $100” apiece. It is the sheer indifference to the enormity of destroying life in the womb and then “donating” the wreckage for money.

On Tuesday, a second undercover video was released. This one shows Dr. Mary Gatter, the president of Planned Parenthood’s medical directors council, haggling over the price for fetal organs. “We’re not in it for the money,” Gatter says; still, the payment “has to be big enough that it’s worthwhile for me.” She settles on $100 a specimen — and says she’ll talk to the abortion doctor about using a “less crunchy” technique to retrieve more intact body parts.

You don’t have to be a pro-life activist to be sickened by such ghoulish banality. Even abortion-rights advocates — especially abortion-rights advocates — should insist that abortion and its aftermath be treated with the gravest dignity and respect. For nothing turns hearts and minds against the culture of abortion than its tendency to dehumanize. And could anything be more dehumanizing than the reduction of an unborn baby to its parts? Well, yes: the sight of abortion providers confirming, over lunch, how much less that baby was worth alive than its parts are now that it’s dead.

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at jacoby@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeff_jacoby.

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