Nothing illegal: See raw footage from antiabortion attack on Denver’s Planned Parenthood

Nothing illegal: See raw footage from antiabortion attack on Denver’s Planned Parenthood

The antiabortion group that’s behind the sting videos targeting Planned Parenthood on Friday released raw footage from its undercover foray into a Denver clinic. The edited version makes up barely a minute in “Human Capital – Episode 1: Planned Parenthood’s Black Market in Baby Parts” and has been touted as evidence that the abortion provider illegally profits off the sale of “aborted babies’ body parts.”

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains President and CEO Vicki Cowart fervently denied any wrongdoing, but wouldn’t comment on any specifics until full context was made available.

Now, full context is available – minus a few omissions on behalf of the antiabortion activists.

The Center for Medical Progress — a tax-exempt nonprofit billed as “a group of citizen journalists […] concerned about contemporary bioethical issues that impact human dignity” — released the raw footage and an accompanying transcript on the organization’s website.

The whole encounter is nearly three hours long and features plenty of inane business-meeting banter like when the Panera delivery driver arrives.

Here’s the gist of the video.

Medical director Dr. Sativa Ginde and some other PPRM staffers are meeting with people they believe to be representatives from the tissue-procurement company “Biomax.”

“Good to see you again,” says one of the actors posing as a Biomax rep. They’ve met before, but never at the clinic, he says. It’s their first time in Colorado, he indicates.

The footage is apparently captured by a camera inconspicuously affixed to the buyer’s lapel.

Prior to the meeting, the two parties had been corresponding about an arrangement in which Biomax would procure, transport and sell fetal tissue from the clinic to research facilities. PPRM didn’t have a fetal tissue donation program at the time, but Biomax’s proposals swayed them to entertain the idea. It’s a practice that gives women who choose to get an abortion the option of donating the byproducts to science, and it’s perfectly legal as long as nobody’s profiting from the sale.

During the conversation captured on video, the group discusses all the nuts and bolts of how such an arrangement would look but never actually strikes a deal. They discuss the logistics of what gets procured (careful not to crush anything), how it’s preserved (jars in refrigerators), and how it’s transferred (overnight shipping from the FedEx next to a nearby Sonic).

They also talk about a payment scheme that’s priced per specimen rather than at a flat rate. Similar talk appears in the edited version. Over the duration of the raw footage, the supposed Biomax rep is the only one to use the word “profit.”

Ginde and the other PPRM staff only say the words “donation” or “reimbursement” in the context of payment.

Aabout 45 minutes in, the actor wearing the camera explicitly references a contract that Biomax and PPRM are in the process of drawing up. PPRM staffers continually reiterate that their legal department handles the terms of any financial transaction.

Here’s the full version:

Biomax rep 1: “I was going to ask, we had talked about, we emailed back and forth with your attorney about the prototype materials transfer agreement that we use currently with some donation centers. Then, I know that in the past you said with CSU it was a research contract that I guess the attorney is redacting right now. Is there, does it make a difference right now on your end which of those, what that needs to look like?”

Ginde: “No. I mean, I’d have to look at the original one and look at yours, see what yours- see what’s in it. But of course we’re doing some slightly different activities for you than we were for them. Just making sure that all the language, and that’s the lawyers, what they’ll do. And just making sure it’s all spelled out. And I know that our legal is obviously very in tuned to just the overall politics of the state and what you, you know, the antis would do. I don’t know if you ran into them when you guys came in here?”

Biomax rep 1: “Oh yes, the welcoming committee!”

Ginde: “But the welcoming committee, how they would respond, you can imagine where they would run with this. “Oh, they’re selling body parts!” You know. And so I think he’s sort of making sure that all of our ducks are in a row, that that would never be an issue.”

Biomax rep 1: Mhm.

Ginde: “So, I don’t—”

J.R. Johnstone, PPRM Clinical Research Coordinator: “I think as long as legal is fine with any contracts that we work out, whether it’s —”

Ginde: “And that’s why we do it under research. It makes it a lot different, to do it as a research program, you know. This is research just like any other program where we also collect specimen for a bunch of other studies that we do. Whether it’s cervical tissue or anything else.”

Biomax rep 2: “So that’s the key then, if I’m hearing you, that it’s research, the attorneys will frame it that way, and there’s not a problem, or would there be a problem that, I’m just trying to foresee any problem that an attorney would say, well, no, this is not gonna work, or—”

Ginde: “No, I mean I think that the other sort of PR piece, the spin on it, right, is that this is stem cell research, this is going to stem cell research. It’s not for, that we’re selling a liver to someone else for transplantation. It’s not organ sales or anything like that that would otherwise be, that someone could take out of context.”

Biomax rep 2: “Okay, so as long as they have the language in place that frames it properly.”

Ginde: “Yeah, and I think it makes it easier too to know that these samples will be going directly to a research program or a researcher and not to like some warehouse. You know what I mean? It makes it a lot more legit.”

Biomax rep 1: “Right, right.”

The two parties never actually enter into an agreement. Even the arrangement they discuss but don’t enter into does not entail a commercial sale for profit.

It’s also worth noting the “full footage” Center For Medical Progress released Friday isn’t exactly “full.” Both the video and the transcript have omissions.

Here’s the edited version, released last week:

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About the Author

Nat Stein

Nat Stein is a Denver-based reporter. Check out her other work at Cipher magazine, KRCC public radio, Jacobin magazine and In These Times.

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