It has only been one week since the last Planned Parenthood sting video was released but Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden is already back with a sequel. The first of many, apparently.
The first CMP video of a now year-old conversation among Daleiden, another CMP actor, and Planned Parenthood official Deborah Nucatola was edited to suggest that Planned Parenthood sells fetal body parts for profit, though the full footage revealed that Nucatola was actually discussing the legal practice of fetal-tissue donation and its associated processing costs.
This new video makes a similar claim. Allegedly filmed in February of this year, it shows CMP actors—including Daleiden—posing as a tissue-procurement company executive in a meeting with Mary Gatter, a Planned Parenthood medical director, at a restaurant. The video has been edited down to a roughly eight-minute runtime and full footage of the conversation had not been released as of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Although mentions of dollar amounts in the conversation may sound alarming—as they were in the first video—small payments for transportation and processing are legal in human fetal-tissue donation. Under 42 U.S. Code § 289g—2 , U.S. law prohibits the “valuable consideration” of human fetal tissue, but it does allow “reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.”
In the video, one of the CMP buyers asks for a figure, Gatter suggests $75 per specimen, and then the fake buyer tries to goad her on, saying “that’s way too low.” The video has been edited to highlight specific comments of Gatter’s that make the conversation seem like a negotiation over profits—comments like, “Why don’t you tell me what you’re used to paying?”
This time around, however, the CMP has also included statements by Gatter that debunk the idea that Planned Parenthood affiliates profit from the practice.
“We’re not in it for the money,” Gatter makes it clear to the CMP actors at one point.
“We don’t want to be in the position of being accused of selling tissue and stuff like that,” she says. “On the other hand, there are costs associated with the use of our space, and all that kind of stuff.”
The CMP actors twice offer $100 per specimen but we never see Gatter commit to accepting that amount, only to “find[ing] out what other affiliates in California are getting.” She emphasizes to who she thought were biotech buyers that their “volume is so low,” referring to the fact that second-trimester abortions are relatively rare.
“It’s been years since I talked about compensation,” she says at one point. “So let me just figure out what others are getting and if this is in the ballpark, then it’s fine.”
In what is sure to become the most-quoted line from the video, Gatter jokes that she “want[s] a Lamborghini,” but she immediately says, “No,” and laughs, apparently at the idea of making money off the practice.
The video also includes some conversations surrounding abortion methods that preserve fetal tissue compared with techniques that tend not to leave tissue intact—an ethical issue that raises questions about practices of informed consent from the patient.
Gatter notes at one point that if they switch methods from a suction method to one with less suction in order to “increase the odds that it would come out as an intact specimen” then it violates “the protocol that says to the patient, ‘We’re not doing anything different in our care of you.’”
In the video, Gatter makes no promises to change abortion techniques to preserve fetal tissue but does appear to raise the possibility of having a discussion with a Planned Parenthood surgeon about that “argument” and their abortion techniques.
“I think they’re both totally appropriate techniques, there’s no difference in pain involved, I don’t think the patients would care one iota,” she says.
Gatter only says that she will “see how he feels,” referring apparently to the surgeon’s opinion on the difference in techniques.
Once again, the footage has been edited and full video has not been released, so, as of this writing, there is no way to decipher the complete context of this conversation surrounding abortion methods. Some sections of the video display time stamps, others do not, and the perspective regularly shifts between two cameras worn by the fake CMP buyers.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said:
“This morning, another very heavily edited video was released without the original footage for verification by activists who have been widely discredited and who edited a video last week to twist its meaning completely and support false claims. At this time, Planned Parenthood cannot confirm the authenticity of this tape, and nobody can tell exactly what was discussed because of the extremely heavy editing and the agenda of the activists who produced it. What we see on this tape is a woman who says ‘We’re not in it for the money,’ and that any money is reimbursement for costs.”
Planned Parenthood anticipated the release of today’s video, noting in a detailed letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee dated Monday (PDF) that Daleiden and the CMP have likely filmed several interactions in which they offered money to Planned Parenthood affiliates for fetal tissue.
In some cases, they believe that the CMP may have offered an “astronomical amount compared to the minimal cost-recovery fees that affiliates with tissue-donation programs currently recoup.”
“All of these efforts were rebuffed,” the letter maintains.
PPFA’s letter was written in response to the committee’s announced investigation of the first video, undertaken at the urging of House Speaker John Boehner, who called the video “horrific.” Several GOP presidential candidates have criticized the video and seven states have announced investigations into their own Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Early Tuesday morning, top Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates had yet to respond to the second video.
At this point—and given the tradition of Planned Parenthood sting operations in which CMP is involved—the videos seem more calculated to produce a strong reaction than to provide immediately verifiable proof of criminal wrongdoing.
Last week, for example, a Roll Call interview with Congressmen Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Trent Franks (R-AZ), suggested that some in the GOP leadership may have known about the first CMP sting video weeks in advance of its release and did not take any action at that time.
When Roll Call asked why Murphy waited until after the video’s release to make a public statement, he ended the interview and said, “This interview didn’t happen.”
In an O’Reilly Factor interview last week, Daleiden also stumbled when asked if he had provided any information from his investigation to the authorities.
“Are you saying they are doing something illegal?” O’Reilly asked.
“Absolutely,” Daleiden replied.
But when O’Reilly followed up by asking if he had “reported this to the authorities,” Daleiden paused before saying: “Bringing our information in front of law enforcement was always a goal that CMP had from the beginning of this project and as we can see in the news out of Texas and Louisiana… the entire state governments of both of those states are taking this very seriously…”
While these federal and state investigations are underway, it is likely that even more videos will be released. In the letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, PPFA legal counsel claimed that Daleiden could have “thousands of hours of videotape” from years of corporate espionage. During this time, Daleiden allegedly posed as a buyer from a fake biotech LLC called Biomax Procurement Services, which seems to be his cover for this second video as well.
The letter further claims that Daleiden has taped Planned Parenthood staff “on at least 65 occasions” over the last eight years and that he used a fake California driver’s license to gain access to Planned Parenthood facilities.
The videos appear to be part of a lengthy and expensive project that Daleiden, who is 26 and a relatively fresh face in the pro-life movement, could not have funded on his own.
Indeed, since the release of the first video, new details have emerged about the other individuals associated with the CMP’s undercover investigation—associations that go beyond Daleiden’s history with the anti-abortion group Live Action, which has also produced heavily edited sting videos in Planned Parenthood facilities.
A 2013 registration form obtained by The Nation last week revealed the names of Daleiden’s fellow board members at the CMP: Albin Rhomberg and Troy Newman.
Rhomberg has a long and strident history of anti-abortion activism—one California Planned Parenthood worker says that he once followed her “for an entire city block, barely 3 feet away, filming and shouting at me about my evil work with Planned Parenthood”—but it is Newman’s association with the CMP that has raised the most eyebrows.
Newman is the president of Operation Rescue, a pro-life organization that became the center of national media attention when George Tiller, a Kansas physician who provided late-term abortions, was assassinated by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder in 2009 during worship services at Tiller’s church.
After the murder, Newman, who had moved Operation Rescue headquarters to Kansas in 2002 in order to be closer to Tiller’s practice, released a statement distancing the organization from Roeder, claiming that he “has never been a member, contributor, or volunteer with Operation Rescue.”
When Roeder was arrested, however, police found the phone number of Operation Rescue senior policy adviser Cheryl Sullenger on the dashboard of his car. Sullenger, who had spent two years in federal prison from 1988 to 1990 after pleading guilty to plotting the bombing of a San Diego abortion provider, admitted that she had been in contact with Roeder in the past and had provided information to him about Tiller’s whereabouts, information unrelated to the eventual shooting.
In a 2009 phone interview from prison, Roeder, who was convicted of first-degree murder, told The Wichita Eagle that he felt “relief and joy” about Tiller’s death and maintained that he was, in fact, associated with Operation Rescue. He claimed to have “probably a thousand dollars worth of receipts, at least, from the money I’ve donated to [Newman].”
At that point, Newman told the paper that he could not “find [Roeder] in the database” but left the possibility open that he could have donated to Operation Rescue.
“If he did, we have probably over the past 10 years over 50,000 people who have contributed to us,” he said.
Further connections between Operation Rescue and the CMP investigation have emerged in conjunction with this latest video. In Operation Rescue’s announcement of the second video, the logo for the CMP’s Human Capital Project includes the phrase “In consultation with Operation Rescue.” The logo on the CMP website does not mention this relationship.
The announcement was written by Sullenger, who still serves as Operation Rescue’s senior policy adviser. Her bio with the group says that she “now regrets” her actions and “has openly denounced violence as a means to stop abortion.”
In a three-word response to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, Newman said that Operation Rescue provides “advice, consulting, funds” to the CMP.
In his statement to The Daily Beast, PPFA spokesman Eric Ferrero explicitly referenced CMP’s relationship to other anti-abortion activists: “It’s important to know that the source of these videos is a group of extremists who have intimidated women and doctors for years in their agenda to ban abortion completely.”
If the Planned Parenthood legal counsel has anticipated the CMP’s moves correctly, we can expect more videos to come. According to the PPFA’s letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, these videos could purport to show physicians discussing how abortions might be adjusted “if the patient has requested to donate tissue” and reveal “a highly sensitive area” in a clinic where tissues are processed after abortion procedures.
Another possible video may show a Biomax representative asking “questions about the racial characteristics of tissue donated to researchers studying sickle-cell anemia,” with responses that could be edited to corroborate some pro-life groups’ attempts to depict abortion as a form of racial genocide.
But given the sheer amount of film that the CMP may have in store, there’s no telling how many videos they will release. (The CMP did not respond to a request for comment.) Last week, Daleiden told The Washington Post that he would release videos weekly for the next few months.
It’s going to be a long summer for Planned Parenthood.
Update 7/21/15 12:10 PM: The CMP has now released what it claims to be “full footage” of the conversation from which this morning’s video was taken.