While much of the nation was gaping in shock at the release of the undercover video exposing Planned Parenthood’s potential profiting off of the tissue and body parts harvested from abortions, one woman was feeling a sense of déjà vu.
Vicki Evans, highly educated in bioethics, is the Respect Life Coordinator for the San Francisco Archdiocesan Office of Public Policy & Social Concerns, and her research on this very topic was a prophetic herald, as it were, to the nation many years ago. Evans is among those who knows this revelation is actually not a new one, but she believes this time it might be the one that breaks the abortion hold of Planned Parenthood.
Evans earned her Licentiate (a Catholic graduate degree that falls between a master’s and a PhD) in bioethics from Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome in 2009. For her graduate thesis, she combined her accounting background with her concern for life and wrote Commercial Markets Created by Abortion: Profiting from the Fetal Distribution Chain. Evans’ thesis highlights the fetal parts industry and investigations and foreshadows what is among us now with the recent Planned Parenthood video exposé.
When Congress announced last week that it would investigate allegations that Planned Parenthood is profiting off the sale of fetal parts from abortions, it was actually the second time a congressional investigation has been announced. The first was in 2000 and followed a 31-month investigation that began in 1997 by the pro-life group, Life Dynamics.
“Life Dynamics’ report describes a system devised within the abortion industry to financially profit from the growing market in fetal tissues, parts and organs. The system circumvents legal restrictions on buying and selling human bodies or body parts. Three participants are commonly involved—the ‘seller,’ the ‘buyer,’ and the ‘wholesaler.’ The wholesaler (or middleman) enters into a financial agreement with an abortion clinic (the seller) to pay a monthly ‘site-fee’, comparable to rent, to the clinic. In exchange, the wholesaler is allowed to position a retrieval agent inside the clinic, where he is given access to the dead fetuses and a workspace to harvest their parts.”(33)
“On the surface, this system does not appear to violate the legal prohibitions against trafficking in human body parts since, technically speaking, no one is buying or selling anything. The loophole is that site fees and retrieval reimbursement amounts are unregulated. The law requires that such payments be reasonable and reflect the actual cost of securing the parts, but there are no state or federal laws which establish guidelines or sets limits regarding these payments. Additionally, no governmental or law enforcement agency is charged with overseeing the system.
This means that the wholesaler is free to set site fees and retrieval fees at any amount. Despite the fact that the baby parts business is teeming with profound moral implications, and despite the fact it has enormous potential for financial abuse, it is allowed to operate on the honor system.”
The parallels between the original Life Dynamics report and what we are seeing now are eerily familiar; the conversation with Dr. Deborah Nucatola and the undercover actors echos the report from 15 years ago – down to the body parts.
Apparently the liver has always been a popular commodity. On the CMP video, Nucatola says, “A lot of people want liver.” Evans writes details of a “fee-for-service” schedule of some of these parts, and the inventory of specimens is not much different than the discussion we hear over red wine from Nucatola:
“These specimens included 47 livers, 11 liver fragments, 7 brains, 21 eyes, 8 thymuses, 23 legs, 14 pancreases, 14 lungs, 6 arms, 1 kidney/adrenal gland and 3 intact specimens for purposes of securing the blood.” (35)
“The hearings were doomed from the start by the national political system. The Democratic Party leadership is widely known to be beholden to the abortion industry for its significant financial support. What may be less widely known is that the Republican Party routinely receives substantial financial contributions from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. These facts of political life made sure the hearings went no further. The biggest obstacle in trying to stop the trafficking of baby parts was the fact that the Democrats were in bed with the sellers and the Republicans were in bed with the buyers” (36).
But Evans said this week that the current investigation may be different because our political climate is different. She does not expect a repeat of the hearings of 2000. “The climate has changed. I do not believe these investigations are going away any time soon,” Evans says now, noting that her conclusion today is far different than it was regarding the 2000 investigation:
“Large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies no long send the bulk of their financial contributions to the Republican party. Money follows power and when the Democrats seized Congress and the White House, there was a shift in the industry’s political contributions. According to opensecrets.org, big Pharma’s contributions were split evenly between the parties during the 2008 election cycle.”
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Further helping spread the word now is the advent of social media, she says:
“When Life Dynamics did its undercover investigation in the late 1990’s, social media was not the huge force it is today. Coverage of the investigative report conducted 15 years ago was at the mercy of the mainstream media, which effectively buried the story or made Planned Parenthood the victim. Today, exposure of this video has been immediate and far-reaching, disgusting a worldwide audience. The mainstream media was forced to report on it. Presidential candidates were forced to comment.
Not only did House Speaker John Boehner immediately, publicly, and with great disdain announce congressional hearings to investigate Planned Parenthood, but at last count, five states jumped on the bandwagon as well. These states and a significant number of others have pro-life Republican legislatures and governors, guaranteeing more than just a cursory look at its business practices. Further indicating that the tide may be turning, states have enacted 51 new abortion restrictions so far in 2015, bringing the number of restrictions enacted since 2010 to 282. “
Finally, Evans says that because fewer people today are comfortable with abortion-on-demand at any stage of pregnancy,
“This time there appears to be sustainable public outrage. It may very well impede the abortion giant from further callous exploitation of women and their unborn children to increase its obscene profits.”
Indeed, the outcry has been sustained, even as The Center for Medical Progress announces that more videos and documents are on the way.
Editor’s Note: This is Part One in our Fetal Parts for Sale series. In part two of our interview with Evans, we’ll look at the idea of trafficking fetal parts, as Evans comments on the differences between the simple tissue-donation programs and what the first Planned Parenthood video actually shows is happening.