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Amid Controversy, Head Of Planned Parenthood Testifies Before Lawmakers


The head of Planned Parenthood testifies before Congress today. A House committee is investigating videos recorded secretly by an anti-abortion group. That group accuses Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood says that is not true, and experts have shown the videos to be heavily edited and misleading. But they have become a rallying point for some Republican presidential candidates.


CARLY FIORINA: Anyone who has watched this videotape - I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes.


RAND PAUL: This callous disregard should inflame and infuriate us all, and we should stop any penny of money going to Planned Parenthood.


BEN CARSON: An organization that doesn't seem to understand the sanctity of human life and is willing to destroy that.

GREENE: That last voice was Ben Carson. There were also Republicans Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina. We brought in NPR's Jennifer Ludden, who has been following this story very closely. We do want to warn you that what we're about to discuss might be disturbing to some listeners.

Jennifer, just start, if you can, by reminding us about these videos. What did they show? Where did they come from?

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: OK, well, the first one kind of appeared online back in July. It was put together by David Daleiden, who's with a group called the Center for Medical Progress. It's had funding from some large anti-abortion groups. And they're undercover videos, shot in restaurants, in Planned Parenthood clinics with various officials talking about - what looks like they're talking about selling fetal tissue to researchers. And then there's also quite a bit of graphic footage. The camera person went behind the scenes into some labs, and you see pictures of fetal parts and some really graphic images from abortion clinics.

GREENE: These videos got a lot of attention. Planned Parenthood saying that there were a lot of problems with these videos. Explain to us exactly what they've been saying.

LUDDEN: Right, well - and they hired some outside experts to do a forensic analysis, and lots of people have poured over these. First of all, they are very heavily edited. And even the longer video said the Center for Medical Progress, who made the videos, has put up online featuring them as the full footage. It has been deemed they're not full footage. They're also edited.

And also, you know, Planned Parenthood says, you know, their officials are made to appear to be talking about one thing and are, in fact, talking about something completely different. And among the parts edited out is when Planned Parenthood officials repeatedly say, we do not profit from providing fetal tissue for research. Also, Carly Fiorina talks about these very graphic images of almost an alive fetus. It turns out that the images she's referring to have nothing to do with Planned Parenthood.

There is one, and you can see it very clearly when you watch this video. It says it's file footage from a place called The Grantham Collection and The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, which is an anti-abortion group. They have not said exactly where that fetus comes from. It's privileged. Another image that Carly Fiorina has referred to actually was posted by a mother. It's of her 19-week-old stillborn child that she had put up on her blog. She has come out and acknowledged this and says that these anti-abortion activists did not have permission to use her child's photo, but they did.

GREENE: Criticism and sort of picking apart these videos aside for a moment, I mean, this is speaking to a question that people take incredibly seriously and feel very passionate about. I mean, there are many people in this country who just don't believe it is moral. Abortion is not moral. And people are opposed to using fetal tissue for research.

LUDDEN: It's true. I think that for some people, Planned Parenthood and its advocates keep pointing out this is legal. There's a whole set of rules governing fetal tissue procurement and research. And I think for some people that doesn't really matter. They don't think it should be legal. And, you know, certainly, I think the politicians are highlighting this because they know there are a large number of people who would like to see abortion banned. And I think the next question would be, well, do you then want to also ban fetal tissue for research?

GREENE: That is NPR's Jennifer Ludden. Jennifer, thanks a lot.

LUDDEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
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