These past few weeks, the completion and results of an undercover investigation by the Center for Medical Progress have been creating an ongoing national stir throughout the United States. Citizen journalist investigators from CMP, which serves as a watchdog organization monitoring the ethical and legal life issues of the emerging biomedical industry, posed as buyers for a human biologics startup company to investigate Planned Parenthood’s behaviors regarding not just the legality but also the ethics of fetal tissue sales. CMP has unveiled nine videos so far, with several more scheduled for release these upcoming weeks.
These disturbing videos have sparked a massive controversy regarding the legality and ethics of fetal tissue sales and donation of aborted fetuses to the biomedical industry. Due to the intense focus on this issue right now, now is a good time to sit back and think about what the allegations are and seek to get answers to those questions. If I had the chance to sit down and talk with a supporter of Planned Parenthood right now, there are several questions that I would ask. While many excellent questions have already appeared elsewhere, there are some questions that have not been discussed much, and I would like to call attention to those questions here.
Pass me the Pudding, Please
Common folk wisdom tells us that “the proof is in the pudding”. In the olden days, when comunities would get together for cookouts, the “proof was in the pudding” to determine what woman was the best cook. Today, this statement encourages us to evaluate all claims by its related evidence and then decide which “pudding” best proves itself based on the available evidence.
In response to CMP’s first video, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards released a video in which she claimed that Planned Parenthood does not profit from fetal tissue donation. CMP’s second video, however, featured the exact opposite happening—Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Mary Gatter was seen haggling over the reimbursement value of fetal tissue, clearly arguing that Cecile Richards was wrong.
Here’s the thing: either CMP or Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards deliberately lied about a claim that can easily be resolved simply by auditing financials. CMP has presented credible evidence that Planned Parenthood is profiting by illegally selling fetal tissue, but Planned Parenthood has so far failed to provide clinic financials to conclusively refute CMP’s argument. The best thing we have from Planned Parenthood are the innocence claims of Cecile Richards, but anyone can claim innocence when accused of wrongdoing. That places burden of proof on Planned Parenthood, and so far they have made no effort to meet their end of the burden of proof, unlike CMP. Considering the speed with which Planned Parenthood hired SKDKnickerbocker to handle their public relations, I am assuming that they are also hiring an outside auditor to determine if any illegal profits were made so the situation could be rectified. After all, Cecile Richards is claiming that Planned Parenthood follows the highest ethical standards, so I am looking forward to tasting her “pudding” when the auditors produce their report.
Not surprisingly, when the videos were first released, Planned Parenthood dredged out a frequent talking point about being a victim of pro-life harassment. As we all know, the pro-life movement is massive, and while there unfortunately are a number of unsavory characters who self-identify as pro-life, that number is minuscule and does not reflect at all on the pro-life movement as a whole. The pro-choice movement has the same problem; and I am willing to accept the argument that their movement is likewise not defined by unsavory characters. Any large group of people will have at least some unsavory characters; it is a well-known and frequently studied social phenomenon.
However, this talking point begs a very intriguing question: If, as Planned Parenthood alleges, pro-life people are indeed harassing their staffers, clinics, and patients, would they not have a very stringent screening process for anyone who wished to interact with their organization? I work for a global Fortune 100 corporation where every potential business partner must be thoroughly vetted, researched, and background checked before we can do business with them. Not only must our company protect our intellectual property from being stolen, but we must also confirm that our suppliers are strong enough to deliver on their commitments if we wish to remain in business in the future. Startup companies, in particular, are analyzed the most rigorously since they are the biggest threats in both areas.
Keeping that in mind, let’s go back to what happened in this Planned Parenthood baby parts saga. David Daleiden, a known pro-life activist who had published online content with Live Action, founded a startup company as a front group for his investigative work. If I were screening potential partnerships for Planned Parenthood, a startup company founded by a known pro-life activist would make me suspicious right there. Yet Daleiden and his team (Daleiden himself is the male investigator in the videos) were given a green light to hobnob with multiple Planned Parenthood top-level doctors and executives in multiple levels across several different affiliates, including CEO Cecile Richards herself.
Obviously, Planned Parenthood is failing to rigorously screen their business partners against potential harassers. If that is the case, and if anyone can talk their way into a Planned Parenthood clinic, then how can Planned Parenthood guarantee any privacy at all to their patients? Is that the high-quality, trusted healthcare that they are talking about?
How would you respond?
Last but not least, I would like to close by popping a question to anyone who may still be inclined to defend Planned Parenthood. While this question is rooted in Socratic dialogue principles, it is a question that must be taken seriously.
So far, nine videos have been released, and CMP promises that there will be at least another half dozen more to come at some point in the future. Is there any evidence that could be presented in these videos that could convince you beyond reasonable doubt that Planned Parenthood is indeed a corrupt organization? Is there any hypothetical evidence that could be presented by CMP that would convince you that Planned Parenthood has broken the law, betrayed its patients, profiting illegally, etc.?
If you answered yes, hooray. I enjoy dialoguing with open-minded individuals! What would convince you? Where would you draw the line? On the other hand, if you answered no, hopefully you will consider becoming more open-minded about this possibility.
I am willing to be open-minded on this issue. As I said earlier, the proof is in the pudding. Let’s keep an eye on the pudding, and see where the proof can be found.
About Joshua Baldwin
Joshua Baldwin is a full-time aerospace software engineer and a convert to the Catholic Church, joining from a Baptist background at Easter 2015. A Phoenix native, Joshua holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Arizona State University and is passionate about studying Scripture and mastering apologetics to further the Church in its New Evangelization mission. Joshua is a parishioner at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center in Tempe, Arizona, where he serves in many capacities to shine for the New Evangelization!