During the eighth day of the Planned Parenthood v. The Center for Medical Progress civil trial, employees of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC) took the stand, including Jeffrey Palmer (Chief Financial Officer of PPGC) and Bonnie Smith, a nurse practitioner who works at PPGC’s family planning clinic. In addition to those witnesses, videos of the depositions of Tram Nguyen (Director of the Ambulatory Surgical Center at PPGC) and Melissa Farrell (Director of Research for PPGC) were played. During Farrell’s video deposition, Peter Breen can be seen asking her about an email she sent to “Robert Sarkis” (David Daleiden) in which she wrote, “We have processes in place that will make a working relationship for a procurement project mutually beneficial.”
Terrisa Bukovinac, founder and executive director of Pro-Life San Francisco, told Live Action News that Farrell testified that PPGC had been involved in many fetal tissue donation studies but that she had only taken part in two. Still, she told Daleiden (undercover as “Sarkis”) that providing fetal tissue to his company, “BioMax,” could be “mutually beneficial” — implying that PPGC would somehow benefit from donating fetal tissue and organs to “BioMax.”
According to Bukovinac, Farrell also said during her video deposition that while a confidentiality agreement was signed with undercover journalists from CMP, no one knew who signed the name “Susan Tennebaum” on the form because it was not signed in front of her and was not received by her until after the meeting. Farrell said she expected to receive a non-disclosure agreement from “BioMax” the day “Tennebaum” (Sandra Merritt) and “Robert Sarkis” visited PPGC as a prerequisite to their meeting but did not receive it until later.
Breen also brought up the seafood restaurant that Farrell visited with Merritt and Daleiden and asked if she recalled what they spoke about and she said she didn’t. Breen also asked Farrell about how Daleiden would have known what information was confidential and what information wasn’t and Farrell admitted, “I can’t interpret what his understanding would have been.”
Farrell also said that she found it odd when “BioMax” asked for $750 per liver because there was a “knowledge of standard costs.” She said that the price was high and “the fact that per-specimen remuneration was listed” was strange to her because “you cannot pay for tissue specifically.” But Farrell’s statement contradicts what CMP investigators discovered in a StemExpress dropdown menu order form of fetal body parts, which showed that there was a demand for certain organs.
According to Bukonivac, Smith, a nurse practitioner at PPGC, said persons who enter a designated conference area at Planned Parenthood Medical Director (MeDC) conferences must present a badge every time. However, defense attorney Harmeet Dhillon played a video of a CMP investigator walking into an MeDC meeting room by going through two doorways – one to enter the building and one just steps away to get into a crowded meeting room. The investigator was not stopped at any point for a badge to be checked.
When defense attorney Katie Short asked Smith if she had ever signed confidentiality agreements at MeDC conferences, Smith said, “I don’t recall.”
Palmer, CFO of PPGC, testified on the stand that Daleiden’s name was on the list of people not to be allowed at Prevention Park, the mega Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston, Texas. He said that if Daleiden had used his real name he “would have been escorted out of the building.”
In a video clip, Farrell can be seen meeting with Daleiden and Merritt in the reception area at that Houston facility. Bukovinac said that after walking through a locked security door and going to Farrell’s office, Merritt can be heard asking if Farrell wanted the door shut.
“Whichever. Shut, open. I don’t think we’re going over anything extremely confidential yet,” said Farrell.
Defense attorney Peter Breen cross-examined Palmer and showed a video of Daleiden setting off a metal detector at Prevention Park and that security seemed to simply wave him through. Breen also said to Palmer, “There was no information identified as confidential, isn’t that true?”
“To my knowledge, that is true,” said Palmer.
Palmer was also asked about the apparent threats sent to Planned Parenthood staff after the undercover videos were released, including Farrell’s neighbors approaching her and a threatening voicemail they received. He said the voicemail was from a woman but he couldn’t remember the context of the words she said, which were quoted earlier that day in court. In an email from PPGC’s security, a staff member mentions a voicemail that said, “They’re coming for you,” but security said it was “not a realistic threat.” Palmer, however, said he believes that anything that comes from “anyone who expressed upset at their involvement in abortion” could be seen as a threat.
Defense attorney Paul Jonna also questioned Palmer and asked if “BioMax” sent PPGC a draft contract for tissue procurement. Palmer said they did. Though the attorneys for Planned Parenthood objected, Orrick allowed the email showing that draft contract to be shown. The email showed that “BioMax” asked for $750 per fetal liver. Jonna asked Palmer if Tram Nguyen said PPGC should move forward with the contract, to which Palmer replied, “It’s not her decision to make.” Jonna was then able to play for the jury muted videos of CMP with Nguyen and PPGC’s Assistant Medical Director Dr. Ann Schutt-Aine, but had the screen turned away from the gallery because, as Orrick explained, the video was about “sensitive matters” including people “describing abortion procedures.”
Bukovinac told Live Action News that at the end of the day, a portion of the video deposition of Nguyen was played, during which Jonna asked her what made her seek employment with Planned Parenthood. She said it was because she needed a job in college. She worked as a Health Care Assistant, helping with surgical abortions by handing doctors abortion tools. Eventually, she became Director of the Ambulatory Surgical Center. The rest of her testimony will be shown on Friday, October 18 when court resumes.
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