Accuracy in Media

The Washington Post ran a favorable review of a new book by Cecile Richards, outgoing president of Planned Parenthood, called “Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead.”

But in a section on the undercover videos that showed Planned Parenthood executives negotiating the sale of baby body parts, review writer Linda Wertheimer made characterizations that show how mainstream media has helped the organization whitewash the scandal.

“The book begins in September 2015, when Congress investigated Planned Parenthood after a group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress released a video that appeared to show Planned Parenthood staffers talking about selling fetal tissue,” Wertheimer wrote. “Not true, Richards writes, and not ‘our first rodeo with video scams.’”

“This was an elaborate one that prompted antiabortion activists to leap into action,” Wertheimer wrote.

Richards appeared before a “largely hostile [congressional] committee of mostly men” and did not crack under pressure, Wertheimer wrote.

“This tale almost has a happy ending: Planned Parenthood was vindicated, though the episode did take a toll on an organization that is almost always under siege.”

But Planned Parenthood was not vindicated.

In December, two of Planned Parenthood’s business partners admitted guilt in a $7.8 million settlement with the Orange County District Attorney for selling body parts, and the Justice Department announced it would investigate Planned Parenthood based on the videos from the Center for Medical Progress.  

There have been criminal charges against David Daleiden as well as twin lawsuits in U.S. District Court in San Francisco that are being heard by a judge who helped open, run and fund a Planned Parenthood Clinic.

Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were charged in California with 15 felony violations of the state’s law against recording confidential communications, though the videos took place in public restaurants and other diners overheard the conversations. A judge threw out 14 of the charges.

In Houston, two Planned Parenthood-aligned prosecutors charged Daleiden with using a fictitious photo ID and attempting to buy and sell human body parts, but two judges threw out the charges and the district attorney’s office declared it agreed they should be dismissed.

The videos were not fake. Two organizations – Coalfire Systems, which conducts forensic analysis for Fortune 500 companies, and Fusion GPS, the firm at the center of Robert Mueller’s investigation into interference by the Russians in the 2016 election – looked into it.

Both found the videos had not been materially altered or edited to distort the words of the Planned Parenthood executives.

It has become clearer as congressional committees continue to look into this that the videos identify criminal activity. Richards told Congress that at no time did Planned Parenthood sell baby body parts for profit.

The Wikipedia entry on the Center for Medical Progress states, “The full, unedited videos instead show Planned Parenthood requesting a reasonable fee to cover its costs, without any profit.”

But a House panel reported in July 2016 that Stem Express, the main biotech firm that bought fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood for resale to researchers, functioned as a middleman, sometimes to the point of having employees embedded in Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics to recover and package the specimens.

There was no cost to Planned Parenthood, but Planned Parenthood was still charging the firm. We know this because Richards announced the organization was going to stop charging them.

Planned Parenthood said when charges were announced that it “has never, and would never, profit while facilitating its patients’ choice to donate fetal tissue for use in important medical research.”

It called the charges “baseless and a part of a widely discredited attempt to end access to reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood.”

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