Chris Wallace, when still working for ABC, did a 20/20 investigative report which aired on March 9, 2000. It covered the exact themes we now see in the Center for Medical Progress videos — namely profiting from fetal tissue sales obtained from abortion and altering those abortion procedures in order to obtain that tissue. In fact, clips and references from the news story have already been seen in the Center for Medical Progress videos. The very first CMP video began with clips from that 20/20 report. And in video 10, Deb VanDerhei explains that Planned Parenthood doesn’t want to repeat what happened 15 years ago, where an accusation of procedural changes caused a congressional hearing and legislation.
Wallace’s story, though dated in quality, has that eerie feeling of déjà vu, of history repeating itself. It is even a little discouraging that the nation went through this before and is now facing the same issue — as yet unresolved.
ABC 20/20 Episode on Fetal Body Parts Trafficking
Most Disturbing Aspects:
- The video begins with the story of a woman who was told to abort her twins due to her health complications as a cancer survivor. She chose tissue donation to try to bring good out of “a horrible situation.” But she became horrified that profit was made in the process.
- Dr. Jones, the 2000s version of Dr. Nucatola, is shown undercover at a lunch with an investigator posing as a tissue buyer middleman. The similarities in content, tone, and undercover set up are uncanny. Jones states, “If you have a guy that’s desperate for — let’s say a heart — then he’ll pay you whatever you ask. … Let’s say someone needs feet. Feet are real common. They’re — they’re not hard to get.”
- Wallace explains that there were existing laws: a woman must decide to have an abortion before agreeing to donation, procedures can’t be altered, and profits can’t be made.
- The efforts of activists in 2000 were somewhat tainted by the questionable testimony of a man named Dean Alberty, who had been paid thousands of dollars by a pro-life group. Wallace interviews a man named Alberty (whose testimony had faced scrutiny because he was paid by a pro-life group to be an informant against tissue donation. He said in Wallace’s report that what he is saying is true.) Featured in the report, he explains his past as a tissue procurement middleman (much like Holly in the CMP videos, except that she was working for the research company director) who was asked to obtain specific organs.
- Wallace shows a list of needed fetal organs and prices from a company called “Opening Lines,” including $325 for a spinal cord and $999 for a brain. Alberty says there is really no way to justify these prices and that they represent greed. There is also a brochure shown, titled, “Fresh Fetal Tissue Harvested and Shipped to Your Specification Where and When You Need It.”
- When an undercover investigator asks Dr. Jones what certain body parts “go for,” the doctor responds quite clearly, “Um, it’s market force. It’s what can you sell it for.” He later says, “We had projections of $50,000 a week. And you know some weeks you can hit that, some weeks you can’t, it’s just a matter of being able to match supply and demand.” Wallace continues, “Over lobster bisque and roast duck” — which sounds like Nucatola’s wine and salad — “Dr. Jones explained the business of selling human fetuses. … Dr. Jones says the average specimen costs him just $50 plus overhead, but that he charges an average of $250. The law only talks about recovering cost, but in a single fetus, Jones said he can make $2,500.”
- “That one fetus — the cost of procuring is the same whether you get one kidney, or you get two kidneys, a lung, a brain, a heart. … Each researcher gets charged.” He responds “mmhmm” when asked if that’s just “money in the bank.”
- Alberty says he was pressured to get as much tissue as he could, that he was told to sometimes take tissue without consent, and that the procedure changed from suction to syringe, adding time and discomfort to the abortion procedure (which others deny).
- Dr. Jones says consent is easy to obtain: “You can do something that has all the legal mumbo-jumbo in it, and they’ll sign it anyway. If you have someone trained to ask properly, you can get eighty, ninety percent consent rates.” Wallace says that Dr. Jones dreams of opening a clinic in Mexico — offering cheaper abortion and, thus, getting a great supply of fetal tissue. “It’s probably the equivalent of the invention of the assembly line.” The Commerce Committee, says Wallace, investigated all this.
- Planned Parenthood’s president at the time, interestingly, says to Wallace that profiting is totally inappropriate. We don’t know if Planned Parenthood was doing the same thing at the time, but her comments are still eerily similar to Cecile Richard’s response video.
- When discussing the syringes, a provider admitted to supplying a sterile syringe to a clinic, claiming that this syringe wasn’t altering the procedure but admits that maybe the procedure is sometimes longer. Wallace then shows a letter stating that the syringes are always used in early abortions. These were just a special type of syringe given to ensure sterility — an odd story.
Wallace says there were laws on the books against this before 2000 that weren’t being enforced, and his investigation led to further laws. CMP has quoted those same laws in their videos, showing that, quite clearly, enforcement still remains elusive; criminal activity and ethical horrors clearly remain. Though there was a Congressional Hearing on March 10, the day after the story aired, the bill introduced on March 15, 2000, (which is possibly the hearing and legislation that Deb VanDerhei was referring to in CMP Video 10) called the “Human Fetal Tissue Reporting and Disclosure Act,” which would have required detailed tissue donation reports to be filed with HHS, was never enacted. Let pro-lifers seize this second chance to enact real change against this horrible industry.
Chaney Mullins is a special projects writer for Concerned Women for America.