Recently, an extreme anti-abortion group released two heavily-edited, misleading videos in an attempt to demonize abortion providers, and discredit legal fetal tissue donation programs that advance life-saving medical research. But in their failed attempt to expose health care providers breaking the law, the group outed their own fraudulent practices. And while a handful of anti-choice politicians in Congress have taken the bait, these videos should be seen for what they are: The latest in an ongoing campaign to attack abortion access.
Anti-abortion groups like the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) — which released these videos — have a long history of using misinformation and intimidation to advance their agenda of banning abortion. In order to obtain this "undercover" footage, CMP engaged in an elaborate scheme of deception. They set up a fake company and deliberately misled the IRS and donors about the nature of their work — even fraudulently obtaining nonprofit charitable status from the IRS as a biomedicine charity.
Agents of this group assumed false identities and used fake driver's licenses to gain access to confidential meetings and healthcare facilities. It appears that at least one of the videos violates state law, as it was filmed in California where it is illegal to record confidential communication between two or more people without the consent of all parties.
CMP head David Daleiden has ties to another anti-abortion group known for releasing similar misleading videos, which have been discredited. Daleiden has also participated in at least 10 attacks on Planned Parenthood, including gaining access to facilities and filming staff and patients. CMP's incorporation papers list Troy Newman, the head of anti-abortion extremist group Operation Rescue (OR), as one of its board members.
OR and its members have a long history of committing crimes against abortion providers. Newman has been arrested, and Cheryl Sullenger, OR's senior policy adviser, served two years in prison following her conviction for conspiracy to bomb a California abortion clinic. In addition, Sullenger's phone number was found in the vehicle of Scott Roeder, who was convicted of murdering Dr. George Tiller. Sullenger has admitted to speaking with Roeder on numerous occasions regarding Dr. Tiller's schedule prior to his murder.
Yet, despite the very questionable tactics and affiliations of CMP, some anti-choice politicians are using these videos as an excuse to try to investigate and defund Planned Parenthood.
This isn't the first time Congress has been duped by anti-choice groups. In 1999, another anti-abortion group, Life Dynamics, released an "undercover" video claiming that abortion providers were profiting from fetal tissue donation. The allegations led to a congressional hearing in which the star witness confessed to having been paid over $20,000 by Life Dynamics.
He recanted his story, saying under oath that he had lied and that he had no personal knowledge of any instances in which tissue donation programs had violated federal law. Even legislators who opposed abortion doubted his story and credibility. Then Representative — now Senator — Richard Burr, R-N.C., told the witness: "I found there to be so many inconsistencies in your testimony … your credibility, as far as this member is concerned, is shot."
The head of Life Dynamics, Mark Crutcher, admitted that the hearing was a train wreck. It's no surprise that Crutcher has also been consulting with CMP. Further investigations this time around will find the same thing as last time: That the anti-abortion group and its agents are the ones who acted fraudulently, and that abortion providers have not broken the law.
We cannot allow underhanded, misleading tactics by anti-abortion extremists to stigmatize life-saving medical research. Many women seeking safe, legal abortion care appreciate the opportunity to further medical research through tissue donation. This research has the potential to help millions of Americans suffering from diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, muscular dystrophy, leukemia and other serious medical conditions. There is no financial gain for women or health care providers involved.
Fetal tissue donation programs are operated under laws and regulations to ensure the ethical collection and donation of tissue. The National Abortion Federation supports the enforcement of established laws and regulations designed to protect the rights of women who wish to make a legal fetal tissue donation.
Medical progress should not be impeded by those whose agenda is to make abortion care inaccessible for women. Scientific research, with its potential to save millions of lives, and health care access should not be derailed by anti-abortion politics.
Vicki Saporta is president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.