Planned Parenthood’s School for Scandal

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research

Editor’s note. This article appears on page four of the new issue of National Right to Life News, which is now online. You can read Dr. O’Bannon’s article and all the stories in this 45-page edition, at

CecileRichards876Maybe you noticed it before, but with this latest batch of undercover videos, you’re starting to get a really good look at exactly how it is that Planned Parenthood deals with scandal.

Showing remorse, re-examining its commitments, or giving serious thought to getting out the lucrative abortion business? Of course not. What you get is diversion, defiance, and a full-scale effort to shift the blame and (of course) change the subject.

Oh, there was PPFA President Cecile Richards’ “apology” for the “tone” of Dr. Deborah Nucatola’s remarks (though it was never specified what made Planned Parenthood’s medical director’s remarks insensitive or repellent). But there was not the slightest questioning of Planned Parenthood’s purposes, its practices, or giving up its place as America’s biggest abortion chain.

Instead, what we’ve seen is a textbook case of damage control, an effort to weather the storm, the playing out of a plan to get through the next few days and weeks and come out the other side fairly intact and fully operational.

Play the victim. What do you do when you’re caught on camera casually talking about aborting “seventeen weekers,” using “less crunchy” techniques so you can obtain intact hearts, livers, lungs, and joking about getting Lamborghinis for your efforts?

Why, you play the victim. It’s not what you said, it’s those nasty folks who recorded what you said!

Planned Parenthood called the people who exposed Planned Parenthood’s own barbarity “Extremists who oppose Planned Parenthood’s mission and services are making outrageous and completely false claims. They are engaged in a fraud, and other claims they’ve made have been discredited and disproven.” (PPFA Statement 8/4/15)

Planned Parenthood goes further in that statement and says that “… the latest tape shows an extremely offensive intrusion and lack of respect for women, with footage of medical tissue in a lab. These extremists show a total lack of compassion and dignity for women’s most personal medical decisions.”

So far, it isn’t the least bit clear how what CMP did constitutes “an extremely offensive intrusion and lack of respect for women.” To call this offensive or disrespectful would seem to turn on recognizing the humanity of the unborn child, or the special bond between a mother and her offspring, neither of which Planned Parenthood customarily grants.

If anyone is showing “a total lack of compassion and dignity,” it would seem to be Planned Parenthood, who joke about fetal parts in a glass dish on a light table and haggle over procurement prices for intact fetuses over a few glasses of red wine.

Dispute what no one can deny. Even though people can read or see for themselves the disturbingly casual and flippant way employees treat and talk about the tiny bodies and body parts of babies they’ve just killed in their clinics, Planned Parenthood tries to tell people that somehow there is other “unedited” tape that presents a different and somehow exculpatory picture.

The complaint about “edited videos” was one that Planned Parenthood would repeat and many in the news media would pick up over the next few weeks. One problem. CMP made the full videos and transcripts available from the beginning.

People saw for themselves, in context, every time Planned Parenthood staffers talked about reimbursement, adjusting procedures to obtain more “intact specimens,” looking for fetal hearts and lungs and livers and brains in collection dishes. As they culled one baby’s remains, the PPFA official randomly called “And another boy!”

Read through the full transcripts and you won’t find portions where Planned Parenthood employees talk tenderly about the children whose bodies they’ve just ripped apart, where they speak solemnly about the tragedy of lives lost, where they question the morality of taking unborn lives at ten, twenty weeks gestation, harvesting their organs, and getting paid for it. Nope, none of those hints of humanity were “edited out.”

Planned Parenthood would rather you edit those details from your memory.

Marshal the media and your political allies. When Planned Parenthood comes under fire, it’s usually only a matter of time before their friends in media and Congress trot out to defend their reputation. Like automatons, they repeat the same talking points, using whatever tools they have at their disposal to ensure that the abortion group stays happy and well funded.

A few examples should suffice. The Houston Chronicle, referring in its 8/12/15 editorial to “the current video scam” and the “obsession with defunding Planned Parenthood.” It attributes the uproar, again, to “a series of surreptitiously recorded, heavily edited videos.” They claim that nothing in the transcripts released “so far” indicates that Planned Parenthood has done anything illegal. As if legality were the only problem.

Democratic strategist Jason Stanford, a “regular contributor” to the Austin American-Statesman (who just also happens to have worked for Planned Parenthood at one point), classed the videos as “hoaxes” and said that the “easily debunked and obviously edited videos … proved nothing more than Planned Parenthood executives eat salad and drink wine.”

Dismissing all the details about haggling over costs, the possibility of changing abortion methods to get more “intact” specimens, and cavalier attitudes displayed by clinic workers dissecting newly aborted babies, Stanford says “What we know now is nothing new: Sometimes Planned Parenthood clients donate fetal tissue for research, and Planned Parenthood gets reimbursed for expenses’ (Ad Express & Daily Iowegian, 8/9/15)

The politicians Planned Parenthood helped put in office showed they could be counted on in a crisis. A vote to defund Planned Parenthood in the Senate, scheduled in the wake of the recent video releases, failed on 8/3/15 because of a filibuster. All but two Democrats voted against it, keeping the legislation from moving forward.

Democrats in the House were among those urging that the Justice Department investigate, not Planned Parenthood, but CMP! Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she would “review all of the information and determine what the appropriate steps moving forward would be” (Politico, 7/23/15).

President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has gone even further. On Wednesday, August 12, 2015, an HHS spokesman revealed that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal agency, had been in contact with officials in Louisiana and Alabama, warning them their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood may be illegal (Reuters, 8/12/15).

Have your lawyers find and exploit every legal loophole. At about eight minutes into the fourth video, one of the reporters posing as a buyer asks an interesting question about how well they are prepared to address the legal issues surrounding reimbursement for the delivery of fetal tissue. The answer given by Savita Ginde, the medical director for Planned Parenthood’s Rocky Mountain affiliate, is most revealing.

Ginde: We’ve got it figured out, that he knows that—because we talked to him in the beginning, we were like, we don’t want to get called on, you know, selling fetal parts across states….

A few seconds later she says,

“I’m confident that our lawyers, legal will make sure that we’re not put in that situation.”

Obvious from this discussion and from earlier conversations with Drs. Deborah Nucatola and Mary Gatter is that the medical directors have been briefed by Planned Parenthood as to the letter of the law.

It is remarkable that Planned Parenthood is so seriously concerned about the legal issues, but shows little sensitivity whatsoever to the deeper moral issue.

Their long-cultured habit of ignoring of the unborn child’s humanity blinds them to the horror and revulsion experienced by the general public when they see staffers at Planned Parenthood so flippantly and casually examining the body parts of just dismembered children, working out deals to transfer the parts, gulping down wine while talking about aborting “17 weekers” and altering abortion procedures to get better, more intact, specimens.

If necessary, offer up a sacrificial scapegoat. So far, Planned Parenthood has apologized for the “tone” of some of its employees, but no one has lost their job. Yet, If past behavior is any indication, don’t expect any of the top talent, the abortionists or “medical directors” who spoke a little too freely, to get a pink slip. But any nurse, counselor, or low-level staffer who messed up (aka told the truth) could be gone. Publicly offered up as a token sacrificial lamb, PPFA would suggest their departure is “proof” that the group has sufficiently dealt with the problem so that Planned Parenthood can quickly resume its business.

It is a pattern that has been repeated over and over.

When undercover videos recorded at Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana in June of 2008 showed a counselor telling what she thought was a 13-year-old girl who claimed she was pregnant by an older man how she could get an abortion in surrounding states without parental consent, both of those employees lost their jobs, one fired, the other resigning. And then Planned Parenthood of Indiana announced that it had employees at its 35 clinics in the state retrained (Indianapolis Star, 12/20/08).

As far as we can tell, all the abortion clinics featured in these videos (and others) are still open, still in business, still doing abortions. A few employees are gone, but the mill grinds on.

Shift the focus to your “good” works. Before you get too worked up over awful words and images from these latest videos, Planned Parenthood wants to make sure you know that abortion is really just a small part of their business and that they do lots of “cancer screenings.”

A recent article by Ashley Welch, of CBS News, helpfully titled “Abortion controversy overshadows Planned Parenthood health services” (8/7/15) buys into the diversion. After quoting several Republican leaders explaining why they support defunding, Welch says, “Though such rhetoric may leave the impression that abortion is Planned Parenthood’s primary focus, those procedures in fact account for only 3 percent of the services it provides per year, according to the organization’s annual report.”

Welch is not through: “The organization says the recent controversy has taken attention away from the many health care services it provides to both women and men that are not abortion-related.”

While NRLC has been deconstructing this misleading mathematical misdirection for years, a few news sources have finally started to question the claim (National Review 3/4/15, Washington Post, 8/12/15). The gist of the analysis is that Planned Parenthood can only obtain this 3% figure by counting every STD test, every packet of pills given out, and even a woman’s initial pregnancy test as a separate service, though these may all be bundled and sold together as part of the abortion.

It also fails to take into account the relative price differential for these services, so that a $500 abortion counts the same as a $10 pregnancy test kit, downplaying the significance of abortion to Planned Parenthood’s bottom line.

Planned Parenthood would rather have people talk about their “cancer screenings,” though they do not want people to know that women can get these services at community centers which don’t sell abortions or be told that pap smears at Planned Parenthood are sent to outside labs. (And they virtually never do mammograms there at the clinics.)

What Planned Parenthood implicitly knows is that if people realize what the group really does, how it makes its money, and how callously it regards human life – just what the latest videos are exposing – they’ll be repulsed. And that could threaten their billion dollar empire, which is heavily subsidized by state governments and the federal government .

Planned Parenthood would rather have people look anywhere but at the cold, hard truth.

Keep on killing. In a scandal, all of Planned Parenthood’s tactics are calculated to buy it time, to minimize the damage, to give the appearance that something has been done, but above all else, to keep the clinics operating at full capacity.

PPFA tries to convince people that if they understand the whole “context,” they will understand that they did not see what they thought they saw, or heard what they thought they heard. “Sure it’s repulsive,” they say, “but aren’t all medical procedures?”

As the videos make apparent, however, this isn’t just another surgery. It is the deliberate killing of human beings, a truth that Planned Parenthood employees probably have to work as hard to quash in themselves as they do in others.

Make it about those who expose their venal and callous insensitivity, not PPFA’s grotesque behavior. They try to use the relationships they’ve nurtured over the years with the press and political leaders to make people question their own consciences when the evil is present right before their eyes.

Change the subject. Draw attention to other “positive” things they do, even if incompletely (referring out for mammograms, rather than performing them) or poorly. Look at that instead of the more than 300,000 babies a year they abort and then exploit.

And some people will buy it. Perhaps some have so hardened their hearts that they, like Planned Parenthood, don’t see the baby parts come from a baby, others because they simply ignore what Planned Parenthood, its media followers, and the politicians in Planned Parenthood’s pockets tell them to.

But Truth is a pesky thing. The scandal of what Planned Parenthood thinks, says, and does in those clinics finally getting out. No spin can change that reality.

Let’s hope that the more people know the truth, the better they will understand the truth.