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Planned Parenthood videos a 'wake-up call for the community'

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Mary Maschmeier says the life-size images of babies dismembered from abortion have an impact, whether people like it or not.

The posters were displayed by protesters outside Planned Parenthood in St. Louis last week as news continued about the recent undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood allegedly selling fetal tissue from aborted babies. Maschmeier and about a dozen other protesters stood outside the abortion facility, the group called together to pray in response to the videos.

Over the past two weeks, The Center for Medical Progress has released undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood personnel apparently discussing the sale of parts of aborted babies for research, and ways the abortion procedure can be altered to preserve specifically requested body parts. Planned Parenthood denounced the videos, which quickly spread through social media, and denied making a profit on the sale of aborted baby parts. In Missouri, Planned Parenthood said it does not participate in tissue donation programs and follows applicable laws and sends tissue to pathology and then for medical disposal.

Maschmeier, founder of local pro-life organization Defenders of the Unborn, has prayed outside abortion clinics in the St. Louis area for more than 30 years. The latest news about Planned Parenthood, including the callousness of the doctors featured in the videos, doesn't shock her.

"I'm hoping this is a wake-up call for our community," said Maschmeier, who added that pro-lifers need to renew their efforts to stand outside the Planned Parenthood facility at the corner of Forest Park and Boyle avenues. It's the last remaining facility in Missouri that offers surgical abortions. The Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Mo., announced earlier this month that it will again perform abortions via medication, but Maschmeier said she believes it's only a matter of time before the college town clinic starts offering them via surgical procedure.

"These babies deserve to live; these mothers deserve to be protected," she said.

The undercover videos have raised questions regarding the legal, ethical and psychological implications of using fetal body parts procured from abortions.

In one of the videos, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, mentions the Planned Parenthood affiliate in St. Louis as an "untapped" place to obtain specimens.

"One other place I would consider that you're not thinking about possibly is St. Louis," she said, adding that Dr. David Eisenberg is the medical director in St. Louis. "I think that's definitely worth your while. And just looking at the map, if there was one place that was untapped, I would say St. Louis."

That has prompted a probe by members of the Missouri legislature. Senate Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, announced July 21 the creation of a special committee to investigate the allegations against Planned Parenthood. The Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life, to be chaired by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, will conduct an in-depth analysis of Planned Parenthood's business model and methods in which it disposes of human remains from aborted babies. The committee also will hold public hearings and determine whether state funding has been used. A report is expected to be issued to the General Assembly by Dec. 1.

"Missourians deserve to know the truth behind this potentially atrocious violation of our state laws and humane values," Schaefer said in a statement. "Over the next few months this committee will conduct a rigorous investigation into the monstrous and inconceivable acts carried out by Planned Parenthood."

Attorney General Chris Koster also announced July 21 his office will investigate whether Planned Parenthood clinics in Missouri have violated state law, after the public release of the undercover videos.

"Regardless of whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, the questions raised by these videos require careful review," Koster said in a statement. "My office will investigate whether the practices described have occurred within our state and whether Missouri law has been violated."

The Missouri bishops issues a statement welcoming the investigations.

"Any form of trading fetal body parts from aborted babies demonstrates a profound loss of respect for
human life and for the human body. It is a desecration of the human body, which is a gift from God our
Creator," according to the statement. "It further ensnares and makes complicit not only researchers, but many others in the evil of abortion." (See bottom of story for full statement.)

In Missouri, there are several laws relating to the use of human body parts, including a prohibition of selling body parts for valuable consideration, performing an abortion with the intent to use the organs for transplant or experimentation, handling of remains from an abortion and consideration of the abortion procedure and mother's consent, among others.

A Planned Parenthood statement said that it will cooperate in any investigation. "Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri follow all laws and have the highest medical and ethical standards," according to the statement.

At the federal level, Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., has proposed a bill that would place a one-year moratorium on federal funding to Planned Parenthood Federation of America called The Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015.

Mike Hoey, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Missouri bishops, said he welcomes any investigation, and any kind of transfer of fetal body parts -- regardless of whether money is involved -- should be made illegal.

"The other thing to keep in mind here ... the market needs to have a seller and a buyer. We need to ask questions of Planned Parenthood, but also who's buying this?" Hoey said. "It's just wrong to take advantage of women like this. (Planned Parenthood) has already victimized them with the abortion, but to further victimize them like this? We ought to make this illegal."

This isn't the first time Planned Parenthood has been exposed for its dealings with fetal body parts. In 1997, Mark Crutcher of Texas-based Life Dynamics launched an undercover investigation into the potential sale of fetal body parts. ABC News' "20/20" also conducted a hidden-camera investigation involving a pathologist from Lee's Summit, Mo. In 2000, the FBI in Kansas City launched an investigation whether federal law was violated at Planned Parenthood's clinic in Overland Park, Kan. That investigation ended with no evidence any laws were violated.

Beyond the legal aspects, questions have been raised about the ethical implications of donating fetal tissue via abortion. Edward Furton, an ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said any investigation needs to explore how the parents are approached when making such a donation.

"We are assuming for the moment the mother is actually donating it ... there's another possibility that the mother is not told, and the clinic is selling or donating the materials without her knowledge -- that is something that needs to be found out," said Furton.

In 2010, the center published an essay on the commercial markets created by abortion. "Although there is much money to be made in the pharmaceutical sectors, many people who work there are undoubtedly motivated by the altruistic belief that they act in service of humanity," wrote author Victoria Evans.

The undercover videos show just how interconnected the abortion industry is, according to pro-life lobbyist Deacon Sam Lee.

"What surprised me was how ... matter of fact (Dr. Nucatola) was about it," he said. "This includes not just the political activists, but the physicians and institutions. What about the agencies that receive these materials? No one hardly talks about them. If there wasn't a market, so to speak, they wouldn't be talking about doing this."

Federal Law

Transfering human fetal tissue in the United States is legal, as long as payments are used for processing and transportation.

The law (42 U.S. Code § 289g—2) specifically prohibits the acquisition and transferring of human fetal tissue "for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce." The term "valuable consideration," according to the law, does not include reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of human fetal tissue. 

More information

The Center for Medical Progress, with videos and transcripts of undercover meetings with Planned Parenthood officials: www.centerformedicalprogress.org.

National Catholic Bioethics Center essay on "Commercial Markets Created by Abortion," published in 2010: www.stlouisreview.com/T20

In 1997, Life Dynamics began a nearly three-year undercover investigation on marketing of body parts from aborted babies. Read more at www.stlouisreview.com/T28 

#WomenBetrayed Rally

Pro-lifers across the nation will hold rallies on Tuesday, July 28, to call on state and federal officials to investigate and defund Planned Parenthood.

A rally will be held from noon-1 p.m. in front of Planned Parenthood, Forest Park and Boyle avenues in the Central West End.

For more information, see www.womenbetrayed.com. A Facebook page for the event is at www.stlouisreview.com/T2t. 

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