If you’ve ever had dinner with surgeons, you know that ‘shop talk’ among doctors and nurses can be quite gross for outsiders. People who work with the human body often find themselves falling into restaurant discussions which can disturb or revolt non-medical civilians with the graphic details of procedures and illnesses. I will never forget the experience of listening to a pair of Army doctors eat MREs and chat matter-of-factly about the diarrhea and incontinence some soldiers were suffering due to a virus that was burning through the brigade during a field exercise. In fact, I was lying on a table receiving intravenous hydration at the time, because I was one of those soldiers — yet I was still disgusted by their conversation.
Which brings me to the big fake news item of the day. In another example of the forced-birth lobby’s total dependence on lies, squeamishness, and emotionalism to overcome the inertia of scientific and medical fact, forced-birth activists have produced a James O’Keefe-style video purporting to show a Planned Parenthood abortion provider discussing an illegal trade in fetal tissues. The problem with that narrative? It’s just not true. As Planned Parenthood explained in a press release today, Senior Director of Medical Services Deborah Nucatola was discussing the collection of fetal tissues for scientific and medical uses — an activity that’s 100% legal and has been going on for decades.
In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases. Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different. At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does — with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards. There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood. In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.
In social media, blogs, and right wing news outlets, the fact that Nucatola ate lunch while discussing this practice is seen as the height of immorality and proof of some sort of character flaw. One wonders what they might think if she had been discussing hysterectomies, bladder cancer, or any number of medical topics that outsiders might find off-putting. They should definitely never, ever try eating in a hospital cafeteria. Perversely, her apparent skill at conducting procedures so that useful tissues are not destroyed has also been re-framed as evidence of monstrous behavior, but most of us would hope to have someone so talented in the operating room when it’s us on the table.
Of course, it’s illegal to actually sell aborted fetus tissues in the United States — but that’s not what Planned Parenthood does, and the prohibition is just further proof of the outsize political power of the forced-birth lobby. In the United States, it’s completely legal to sell the products of other surgical procedures and cadaver parts:
Generally speaking, here’s the upside of these groups: They pay to have your body transported to their facility, and with the parts that are not used in research, they pay for cremation and to have the ashes returned to your family (some will, if you prefer, distribute them at sea). This can save your family a lot of money.
The downside: You don’t know where your parts will go. “We don’t guarantee that we can use the body in any specific research program, and that’s because our research is always changing,” said Kristin Dorn, community relations manager at Science Care. “Your intent is to donate to science, not a specific research project.”
While it’s illegal to steal pieces of a corpse, and there are ethical requirements to obtain consent, the sale and re-use of human tissues for research and surgery is actually quite common in the United States. Dentists use powdered human bone to treat patients, for example, and plastic surgeons use human cadaver skin to enhance lips.
Grisly stuff? Bad mealtime conversation material? Maybe, but it’s also scientifically and medically sound — and it’s not against the law. Just like abortion.
An abortion procedure is only as gross and disgusting to watch or describe as, say, an appendectomy, or a gall bladder removal, or hip replacement surgery, another procedure which often results in donated bone tissues. These tissue donations also involve reimbursement, but carry nowhere near the same kind of stigma. Forced-birth activists play on this revulsion for our interior biology with those big, fake pictures of aborted fetuses at their protests and bleating slogans such as “abortion stops a beating heart.” It’s all about distracting you from their control-freak agenda of denying every woman’s right to self-determination.