Defending Planned Parenthood with Medical Language


The possibility that an organization like Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue procured from the dismembering of unborn children is deeply troubling.  However, some of the statements offered by defenders of Planned Parenthood are quite revealing.

In the New Republic, Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN makes the following statements:  “These are not ‘baby parts.’ Whether a woman has a miscarriage or an abortion, the tissue specimen is called “products of conception.”  This is pure rubbish.  Unborn babies are still babies whether you want to call them that or not.  Parts of their bodies are therefore baby parts.  I will grant that these are fetal baby parts, but they are baby parts all the same.  If they were not, then why would biotechnology companies or university research laboratories find them so valuable?  Because they are cells, tissues, and organs from unborn babies.  A very young human embryo results from conception (or the completion of fertilization), and this young embryo represents the earliest stages in the life of a human person.  “Products of conception” is a general term to describe the bodies of unborn after they die either by natural or unnatural means.    The term says nothing about how the unborn baby died, when they died, or why they died.  Likewise when an adult dies their body is called a “cadaver.”  The term says nothing about how the individual died, and neither does it reduce the humanity of the person who just died.  Therefore what we call an unborn baby’s lifeless body does not detract from the fact that this unborn baby in the fetal or embryonic stage of development is a young, unborn human person and, yes, a baby, albeit one who has yet to be born.

Dr. Gunter continues:  “The term baby is medically incorrect as it doesn’t apply until birth. Calling the tissue “baby parts” is a calculated attempt to anthropomorphize an embryo or fetus. It is a false image—a ten to twelve week fetus looks nothing like a term baby—and is medically incorrect.”  If the term “baby” is medically incorrect, then why did the documentary “Twice Born” about fetal surgery refer to this procedure as surgery on an “unborn baby.”  This is not anthropomorphizing unborn babies.  Look at the picture below of a ten-week-old baby and tell me that this unborn child does not look like a human baby.  Despite her incipient state, she is clearly a very young human baby at this stage.

10-week-fetus

There is nothing false about this image.  When we end the life of a ten-week-old baby like this one we are killing an unborn baby.  All the defining it out of existence and medicalese will not change that.

“Hearing medical professionals talk casually about products of conception may seem distasteful to some, but not to doctors. Medical procedures are gory by nature.”  She then goes on to discuss medical procedures that include surgery.  The procedures described are designed to save lives and not end them.  We find the cavalier discussion of the trafficking of baby parts distasteful because it results from the physical dismembering of the weakest and most vulnerable members of the medical community.  To place abortion alongside life-saving procedures like cutting out cancers or dealing with broken limbs is a non sequitur of the first order.

Then she claims that “FactCheck.org contacted several researchers who work with human tissue, and the price range mentioned in the videos—$30 to $100 per patient—is on the low-end. ‘There’s no way there’s a profit at that price,’ Sherilyn J. Sawyer, the director of Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Biorepository, told the website.”  Since Dr. Sawyer does not run an abortion clinic, how would she know?  I will grant that she knows about compiling with federal law when it comes to the procurement of fetal tissue, but how would she know how much it costs the clinics?  If the companies or tissue repositories are coming into the clinics and taking the tissue straight after the procedures are performed, as mentioned in the videos, what expenses are incurred besides paperwork costs?  If the tissue is shipped there are shipping costs, but those are paid by the company.  In these videos, there was no talk of covering administrative costs, which is allowed by law.  Instead there was talk of prices for fetal tissue for the clinics for the sake of profit and that is illegal (see statute above).  How would we know if the clinics are making a profit off this unless they are investigated?  Dr Gent’s entire argument is irrelevant and a dodge.

Finally, Dr. Gent equates those who are troubled by these videos with those who deny the moon landings.  This is ridiculous and is the sign of a failed, desperate argument.  She writes, “there are those who refuse to believe that the full scope of reproductive health care is grounded in medical evidence.”  Well the medical evidence shows that abortion ends the life of the youngest members of the human community who are at their weakest and most vulnerable simply because, in the vast majority of the cases, they have the misfortune of being an inconvenience.  Equating those of us with the sense to see that with people who deny the moon landing is risible.

Hopefully Congress will do what they need to do and the Justice Department will do what they should do, but in this highly politicized administration, I would not hold my breath.

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mburatov

Professor of Biochemistry at Spring Arbor University (SAU) in Spring Arbor, MI. Have been at SAU since 1999. Author of The Stem Cell Epistles. Before that I was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA (1997-1999), and Sussex University, Falmer, UK (1994-1997). I studied Cell and Developmental Biology at UC Irvine (PhD 1994), and Microbiology at UC Davis (MA 1986, BS 1984).