ABC "This Week's" host George Stephanopoulos asked a series of questions that seemed designed to provoke some introspection from Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, but instead she repeatedly asserted that controversial undercover videos were "highly edited" by a "militant" anti-abortion group that seeks to "entrap doctors" who do "not profit at all from fetal tissue donation," even as unedited footage rolled of high-level executives haggling over fetal organ prices.
Richards started by comparing the video makers, the Center for Medical Progress, to those who bomb abortion clinics or murder abortionists.
Stephanopoulos then asked Richards about reports that the doctors shown in the videos had been "reprimanded" after the videos' release and pointed out that Richards herself apologized for the "tone" of the videos.
"How have they been reprimanded?" he asked.
"Planned Parenthood has broken no laws," she said defiantly, after conceding they had been reprimanded. "We have the highest standards; the care and healthcare and safety of our patients is our most important priority."
"How many clinics harvest this tissue and how much money [do] they receive?" asked the host.
"Very few, [there are] only a handful of states where fetal tissue are being harvested," responded Richards.
"When you say very few, what are we talking about?"
Richards asserted that "less than five" states sell the organs and fetal tissue, before she again launched into a rather stilted attack of the people who had prepared the video, claiming: "This was actually a three year effort to entrap doctors; they were completely unsuccessful … now they're using these very highly edited videos … they have zero credibility; they set up a fake company; they apparently used fake government IDs; they faked tax filings; and completely falsified what they were about."
Stephanopoulos said he took her point that it was an edited video, but that the group also released the full video without editing.
"And in that longer video, doctors repeatedly say more than ten times, 'Planned Parenthood does not ever profit, or do any of this for profit," said Richards.
Stephanopoulos rebutted that in one of the videos Dr. Mary Gatter appears to be haggling over the prices, and then played a clip where the Planned Parenthood doctor argues about the prices for the organs and then states, "I want a Lamborghini."
Richards, who had just mischaracterized the video, stares at Stephanopoulos with an angry no-teeth grin as he asks, "If there's no financial benefit to the clinics, why are they haggling over the cost?"
"They're not!" she shot back angrily. "The only people haggling in these videos are the undercover folks who are absolutely trying to entrap doctors! And they were completely unsuccessful!"
"But when you see something like that, what do you think?" said a quiet Stephanopoulos.
"It's completely taken out of context!" she said, before pivoting to Planned Parenthood talking points. "We serve 2.5 million people every single year … the vast majority [of women] come to us for breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, birth control … half of our health centers are in medically underserved communities in America … that's actually what's at stake. This entire effort is a complete political smear campaign, in order to cut off funding for basic healthcare for women in America at Planned Parenthood."
"But…" interjected Stephanopoulos.
"And I think one more thing is really important to understand," said Richards with an unconvincing smile. "We do more at Planned Parenthood every single day to prevent unintended pregnancy than any other organization in the country. We have for 99 years, and I stand behind our clinicians and our doctors."
Stephanopoulos began to quote Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, who "has pointed out that charging a fee for this material" before Richards cut him off.
"It's not a fee," she said, "It's not a fee. It's actually just the cost of transmitting the material to research institutions."
"But that does include the finances of the clinic, doesn't it?"
"Absolutely not," she said. "Absolutely not."
"In fact … George, it's really important — they have repeatedly tried to entrap doctors; we've now seen, you know, that they repeatedly say 'wouldn't you do this for money?' and the doctors say 'no, we do not make money.'"
"But Stem Express, which is one of the companies you work with, they have a brochure where it talks about the financial profits, the financial benefits…" he began, before Richards interrupted.
"Stem Express is a for-profit company — that's not Planned Parenthood, we're 100 percent nonprofit company," said Richards quickly.
"But it talks about the financial benefits to the clinics…" he rebutted.
"There are no financial benefits to the clinics!" she exclaimed.
"Absolutely none?" he asked.
"Absolutely," she repeated.
He then asked her about the videos which show doctors mentioning how they will alter the abortion in order to "better harvest the fetal organs" in demand.
"It's absolutely not done," said Richards.
"But it does appear that is what is being described in these tapes," he replied.
"It's because these tapes have been edited and they've tried to entrap doctors to say things," Richards asserted again.
"So when these doctors are talking about, and this gets graphic, but they're talking about 'less crunchy' ways to perform these abortions so that these organs can be preserved, what's happened there? Are they just lying?"
"No — all of this is taken out of context," said Richards. "What's happened there is women at a very few places are allowed to donate fetal tissue for life-saving medical research … this is actually laudable."
In one video, Planned Parenthood Dr. Deborah Nucatola said that "some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it's not vertex" in order to better harvest whatever organs are in demand.
"You know, we've been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I'm not gonna crush that part, I'm going to basically crush below, I'm gonna crush above, and I'm gonna see if I can get it all intact," she said in the video.
"As long as the procedure is never altered," said Stephanopoulos. "And you're stating that unequivocally?"
"Absolutely," said Richards.