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Fetal Tissue Sting Video the Latest Abortion Controversy

A sting video showing Planned Parenthood's medical director speaking bluntly about fetal tissue has put the national women's health clinic and advocacy group back in the spotlight and at the center of a new controversy.

In a three-minute "highlights reel" culled from a secret video taken during a lunch between Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services, and two anti-abortion activists posing as medical researchers seeking fetal tissue, Nucatola answers questions about whether and how Planned Parenthood provides organs for research.

The sale of human tissue is illegal. However, fetal tissue providers may charge fees to cover costs for harvesting, transporting and otherwise getting it to researchers. In the video, Nucatola says those expenses can range from $30 to $100.

"This is not something with any revenue stream that affiliates are looking at," Nucatola says in the video.

Eric Ferrero, the vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood, issued a statement clarifying Nucatola's comments, saying Nucatola was pressed to come up with a number in the video, which was taken by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion activist group that does not provide medical services.

"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," Ferrero wrote in the statement. He notes that there is "no financial benefit for tissue donation."

A Reuters article about the video quotes Laurie Zoloth, a professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University, who said in an email that the film was "being used to inflame people about abortion, about which there is a substantial consensus, that abortion should be legal, and rare."

And yet, Zoloth also said the video was "terribly disturbing because the physician seems to be engaged in a transaction in which the goal is to extract tissue to meet the needs of a company, rather than being focused on the core purpose of her clinic, which is to provide a safe medical procedure." Zoloth called Nucatola's statements an indicator of an "obvious conflict of interest."

Nucatola's nonchalance in answering the questioners' inquiries about demand for fetal organs—and the strategies used to preserve their integrity—have left many of the video's viewers aghast, including ardent abortion rights supporters.

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