Outrage over Planned Parenthood Video: A Review of the Unedited Footage (UPDATED)

Updated: At the bottom of the original text, I have appended a response to commenters who read this post as a defense of Planned Parenthood.

Editor's Note: Yesterday I posted a blog about the initial news regarding a controversial video involving a Planned Parenthood official, in which I raised questions about the editing of the video. Since then, some readers, here and on social media, have continued to debate the way the video was presented. So, once time permitted, I reviewed the unedited footage.

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The full, unedited undercover video of the conversation between Dr. Deborah Nucatola of Planned Parenthood and the actors from the Center for Medical Progress about obtaining fetal tissue from abortions and the transcript posted on C.M.P.’s site tell a different—but no less troubling—story than the one that has been covered in most of the news pieces about this issue.

C.M.P. promoted the story, and titled the video, as “Planned Parenthood uses partial-birth abortion to sell baby parts.” That title is, by any fair standard, wildly misleading. Within the longer video Dr. Nucatola explains that affiliated clinics understand tissue donation “is not a service they should be making money from, it’s something they should be able to offer this to their patients, in a way that doesn’t impact them.” In other words, the concern of the abortion clinics is not profit, but enabling fetal tissue collection or donation in a way that does not make their procedures more difficult and might make them easier. The most damning admission about money in the entire video is not quoting a price-per-specimen, but rather the admission that clinics “want to break even. And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that.” Even if interpreted uncharitably, this is a far cry from “selling” tissue from abortions.

Similarly, the fuller context of the video makes it clear that the very troubling discussion of how an abortion procedure can be managed to preserve viable desired tissue and organs is preceded by the insistence, due to ethical concerns, that the basic procedure cannot be changed to accommodate the collection of tissue: “kind of ethically I don’t think [abortion providers] want to do [change or prolong the abortion procedure], they basically want to treat the patient as they would any other, and again, it’s just the disposition of the tissue.” However, she also explains that “ if I know what [the tissue collection company is] looking for, I’ll just keep it in the back of my mind, and try to at least keep that part intact.”

What keeping it in the back of the mind turns out to mean, in further discussion, is to choose which parts of the fetal body to crush, in which order, to avoid destroying valuable tissue. It also turns out to mean—for some providers, though Dr. Nucatola does not admit doing this herself—inverting the unborn child to breech position so that the body itself will continue to dilate the cervix during the procedure, thus maximizing the chances that the head and the fetal brain can be extracted without being destroyed.

Among the long stretches of conversation entirely edited out of the short version of the video is Dr. Nucatola’s moving explanation of how she ended up focusing her practice as a physician on abortion, which starts around 2:10 in the full video:

And on that day [at the end of her gynecology residency], there was patient that was transferred to me, from an outside clinic, who had had a D&E, dilation and evacuation, late second trimester abortion, she was bleeding. That patient was transferred to me and she got to the hospital and I met her in the emergency room and I saw her and she was as white as this napkin, and I still remember her name, I remember everything about her, and she looked up at me, and she said, “Don’t let me die.” And she actually bled to death. We did a hysterectomy in about twelve minutes and she died. It was very distressing and very upsetting. I probably had a very different reaction than most people would, which was well I do D&Es all the time, and I don’t ever have complications. And I think I’m pretty good at them, I need to keep making sure that there are lots of people doing these D&Es safely so there’s not another patient like this. That was the day I said I’m not doing perinatology, which is high-risk OB, I’m going to do family planning, and I’m going to train others to do family planning.

What has been obscured by C.M.P.’s editing of the video for maximum impact—and what is almost always obscured in any public discussion of abortion—is that virtually no one on either side of the abortion debate has motives as demonic as their opponents would like. What is most tragic about Dr. Nucatola’s story, from a pro-life perspective, is that her grief for the patient she lost pointed her to providing less risky abortions, rather than to questioning abortion itself; that her compassion for the dying mother could not extend to the child the abortion had already killed.

Unfortunately, the way C.M.P. positioned this video, describing as “sales” something that is considerably more complicated, has simply reinforced, for many, the pro-choice narrative about pro-life activists: unscrupulous, dishonest players willing to do anything necessary in order to control and limit women’s access to abortion. The video’s revelations about the very matter-of-fact way in which fetal tissue from abortions is treated as a resource rather than human remains—and the way in which the women seeking abortions come to be seen as potential sources of these rare and valuable tissues—were more than troubling enough without being carefully sensationalized.

Our discussions about abortion would be in a better place if we could, as a society, be moved to be troubled about the disposition of fetal remains without having to be outraged by a carefully edited video. One of the reasons that we are not there, of course, is that defending abortion requires and encourages seeing the fetus as something undeserving of our concern, until we are finally shocked enough to take a second look.

C.M.P.’s edited version of the video, not to mention the undercover sting operation itself, is in many respects deeply unfair. Nonetheless, we do not need to defend the video’s production in order to be—properly and appropriately—shocked that a physician can discuss how best to harvest fetal tissue without ever appearing to be troubled by the fact that the fetus is human.


Updated in response to comments (July 16, 2015, 10:30 am):

A number of people in the comments here, and more on social media, have suggested that I am defending Planned Parenthood in this post. To my mind, that’s an inaccurate reading of this post itself, but the situation has been made worse by the fact that it seems that some people have not read my first post on this story, also linked at the top of the page, in which I more obviously critiqued Planned Parenthood.

To be clear, then: I believe abortion is obviously wrong and the harvesting of tissues from the bodies of aborted babies is abhorrent, and, needless to say, I don’t believe any defense is possible for Planned Parenthood’s participation in these practices.

C.M.P.’s video, however, accused Planned Parenthood of the illegal sale of human tissue, alongside citations from the relevant federal law. It seems that the only way they were able to do so was through selective editing of the conversation; a viewing of the unedited footage convinced me that while Dr. Nucatola was eager to help in obtaining tissue, she was not focused on profit or sales potential. Her motivations, at least as she described them, were more about enabling patients and clinics to feel that they were accomplishing something seemingly good after the abortions.

As this story unfolds and investigations are conducted, we may get more information about how deeply Planned Parenthood is involved in the financial arrangements made by the companies that collect tissue from abortions. At the moment, based on the evidence made available in the unedited footage, Planned Parenthood appears to be trying to assist in the process of procuring fetal tissue, but careful to remain outside anything that could be described as a “sale.” While it may be possible they are only superficially disguising something that is a sale, we are not at this point entitled to assume the worst merely because we distrust Planned Parenthood.

As I said in the post, our opponents in these debates rarely have motivations as wholly bad as we would think. In this case, in my judgment, the Planned Parenthood representative seems not to be a profit-seeking monster, but rather someone who has so thoroughly dehumanized the unborn child as to be able to consider it as a source to be dismantled for parts. That’s more than bad enough.

The problem with how C.M.P. edited the video is that it has helped convince many pro-choice people that pro-life activists are unscrupulous and dishonest. If we believe that we are called to help people come to see the truth, rather than just to provoke outrage, then we can’t accept this video uncritically. Nor can we accept Planned Parenthood’s defense uncritically. What we can do is watch the whole video and be honest about what we see. Only after that can we start making judgments about how to respond.

Sam Sawyer, S.J., is an associate editor at America.

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Joseph Manta
2 years 5 months ago
This article is a complete disgrace. For the author, a priest no less, to write an article defending Planned Parenthood's selling body parts fro late term abortions "at break even or slightly better price" cannot be defended. It is open mindedness run amok. This website should be ashamed to print it.
Sally Wilkins
2 years 5 months ago
The author did not write that line nor did he defend PP. The words you included are a quote from the interview, not the author's position.
Misha Kessler
2 years 5 months ago
Joseph, did you read the article in its entirety? Fr. Sawyer very clearly describes why the accusations of "sales" taking place is wildly misleading, and not a single time does he explicitly defend Planned Parenthood. I'm full of pride and respect that a Catholic institution can present balanced and fair insight, as Jesuits have long held in tradition. Thank you, Fr. Sawyer, for this article, and Joseph, please reconsider how your polarizing hyperbole damages the vital conversation that helps our conversation move forward -- not backwards, into shame tactics and insults.
John Mayberry
2 years 5 months ago
You summed it up perfectly. This is a disgusting article defending Planned Parenthood and making them out to be compassionate. It's telling how the author makes quite an effort to trash the editing of the video, yet hardly criticizes Planned Parenthood or Dr. Nucatola casually discussing the abortion procedure and dismantling of body parts for sale while eating salad. Human life is sacred at all levels. There is no grey area when it comes to abortion. Look up why St. Gianna is a saint. Also, who wrote the article: Tim Reidy or Sam Sawyer? When I refresh the page, the author of the article changes.
Paul McAvoy
2 years 5 months ago
Joseph is right, this article is without any merit or grace – a true “dis-grace.” Is it the editorial position of America to defend Planned Parenthood? Or to offer media criticism of what other non-religious, non-profit groups publish about abortion? CMP is a group of citizen journalists which are not affiliated with the Catholic Church or Catholic Media in any way. Why is America and Fr. Sawyer picking up the pen to wade into this discussion, and on the side of Planned Parenthood, no less? Your latest cover is "Praised Be Creation" - how is that squaring with this article and the soft-pedaling of those who are destroying creation? Disgust and outrage at the approach of Planned Parenthood is totally justifiable, and I’m shocked that a Catholic magazine is trying to temper the outrage that we should all feel as one human family that a major corporation is nonchalantly discussing the exchange the body parts of those who were innocently killed – our next generation - for money. For “30 to 100 dollars” per fetus. Appalling.
J Cosgrove
2 years 5 months ago
C.M.P.’s edited version of the video, not to mention the undercover sting operation itself, is in many respects deeply unfair.
I find it interesting that CMP seems to be a serious issue with this author. Why is it unfair to expose this behavior on the part of abortion providers by an undercover sting? Does he think they would openly admit what they are doing? I would think that he would applaud CMP.
Sally Wilkins
2 years 5 months ago
Because as Christians we are not supposed to engage in deceit, which apparently CMP did both in obtaining the interview and in presenting it. And by doing so they undermine the Christian witness. "The ends do not justify the means" is a basic precept of Catholic moral doctrine.
John Mayberry
2 years 5 months ago
It's not deceitful. It's being secretive to expose the lies of Planned Parenthood which is deceitful. How many times have we heard a fetus is a clump of cells and is not human? Well, certainly to PP the fetus is human enough to sell organs to born human beings. In this case, the means justify the ends.
J Cosgrove
2 years 5 months ago
Amazing answer. Under this criteria it would have been inappropriate for someone to have infiltrated the Nazi death camps to expose them because it was deceitful. Such people might have saved millions of lives but it would have been Unchristian. Thank God, spies, whislte blowers, under cover policeman and investigative journalists don't adhere to your standards. How Unchristian of them to expose corruption and dangerous behavior. Their ends do not justify their means.
Joshua DeCuir
2 years 5 months ago
If the mainstream media could be counted on to cover these kinds of stories, then perhaps tactics like this would not be used. But how long did it take the mainstream media to begin covering the Gosnell atrocities after they were exposed?
Curtis Griesel
2 years 5 months ago
This video "exposes" nothing. The transfer of fetal tissue is fully legal and documented. Anyone can inquire about the nature of the transfer anytime. You don't have to buy someone a fancy dinner and secretly record the conversation to get the information, you can just call up the FDA and ask for it.
Michael Basile
2 years 5 months ago
I think Pope Francis's efforts to expand our sensitivities to the multiple manifestations of human sinfulness to include political oppression, human-induced misery, deprivation, injustice toward all but the self-elect, as well as exploitation of the resources of the earth for the benefit of too few, all his efforts to redirect our moralistic gaze toward the composite iniquity of societies’ elites to harbor, abet, and reward inhumanity on a global scale--all his efforts to heighten our consciousness face a great challenge when I read the multiple postings to this article. It appears no other topic induces the extent of hyperbolic (in some cases) righteous outrage as abortion does from religious-minded folk, certainly not environmental dissolution, intractable poverty (which afflicts billions every moment), and so on and on. We jump on the sin of abortion as if it has no connection with the lived circumstance of not just cultural, but economic and social condition. We are still at a loss to see the forest of global and institutionalized injustice and misery as an incessant and deepening moral crisis that afflicts all of humanity as we carry on our obsession with the grand sin of abortion as if it alone had no relation to modern misery.
Curtis Griesel
2 years 5 months ago
The entire U.S. healthcare system is troubling. I'm not sure why we criticize abortion doctors for working inside the health system that we set up for them. If we are troubled by the commercial, fee-for-service structure of the U.S. health system, then we should reform it, not use it as a pretense to deny healthcare to women.
MaryMargaret Flynn
2 years 5 months ago
For over 25 years the Physicians for National Health Plan have been advocating for "single party payer". As a retired physician I am proud to be a member. The ACA was designed to funnel money to big Pharma, insurance companies and hospital corporations. Research, education of physicians and other health care providers and actual access to health care only marginally improved. It is like our taxes going to the arms industry to pay for our wars. The financialization of markets, the Supreme Court decision to define corporations as persons, globalization are processes that all work together to increased our growing poverty in the USA marked by huge economic inequality, and the abolition of meaningful human rights and dignity plus ecological destruction. Neoliberailism is not democracy. regarding the social medical blitz about the Planned Parenthood video this week---the horror is everywhere in our society. Different folks focus on different manifestations. Sam Sawyer SJ is a brave Jesuit
Deb Brunsberg
2 years 5 months ago
I think you might wish to remove the word Catholic from the title of your magazine. This article defending Planned Parenthoods selling off body parts of the unborn is quite disturbing. I am not surprised it was written by a Jesuit. Actually, so many religious orders no longer follow Christ, but the world. An undercover sting operation to reveal this is "deeply unfair." Most real Catholics have been fighting abortion for a very long time and will welcome any method to reveal the horror and evil of murdering children. Those who defend PP are complicit in their sins. May the Lord have mercy upon you. I am not seeing a good shepherd here.
Carlos Orozco
2 years 5 months ago
Could become a short film: "Making a buck off the Through away Culture". Frightening evil.
alan macdonald
2 years 5 months ago
I wish America Magazine and the Jesuits would unequivocally say they oppose: Abortion Same sex marriage, and Female ordination. Every edition they flirt with these unorthodox heresies with carefree abandon.
Gerald Ladouceur
2 years 5 months ago
We are advised to watch the entire video, but it seems some people didn't do this. Moreover they apparently did not read the entire article about the video either. Father Sawyer is in no way condoning Planned Parenthood. This article is about people drawing the wrong conclusion from the video. The irony is that many are drawing the wrong conclusion from the article too.
J Cosgrove
2 years 5 months ago
Planned Parenthood is a fellow traveler on the left and while the Jesuits are not going to overtly defend them, notice the techniques used to minimize or divert. A typical ploy by the left/press is to focus on something unrelated to the actual story so that the story becomes something different. In most cases the story becomes how conservatives or Republicans react to scandals by liberals. The actual story then becomes secondary and over reaction becomes the story. See https://www.commentarymagazine.com/2015/07/15/when-republicans-pounce-media-bias/ In this case the deflection is how the information was obtained and some way to minimize what the doctor said. Notice these words applied to the organization which did the sting: C.M.P.’s edited version of the video, not to mention the undercover sting operation itself, is in many respects deeply unfair. This is a non issue. CMP should have been left out of the discussion but criticizing it becomes a convenient distraction. That title is, by any fair standard, wildly misleading Actually not if you read the transcript and what the doctor said. And then comments about the doctor: is not a service they should be making money from, it’s something they should be able to offer this to their patients, in a way that doesn’t impact them. justifying the process Even if interpreted uncharitably, this is a far cry from “selling” tissue from abortions minimizing what PP is doing There is this from the conversation:
Buyer: So, the main thing, well, not the main thing that I would like to discuss is, I’d really like to connect with people who feel they don’t know we’re out there. They don’t know there’s this opportunity. And that could be a little touchy, for them more for us, and I want to be delicate to any reservations. PP: Yeah, you know, I don’t think it’s a reservations issue so much as a perception issue, because I think every provider has had patients who want to donate their tissue, and they absolutely want to accommodate them. They just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as, ‘This clinic is selling tissue, this clinic is making money off of this.’ I know in the Planned Parenthood world they’re very very sensitive to that. And before an affiliate is gonna do that, they need to, obviously, they’re not—some might do it for free—but they want to come to a number that doesn’t look like they’re making money. They want to come to a number that looks like it is a reasonable number for the effort that is allotted on their part. I think with private providers, private clinics, they’ll have much less of a problem with that.
They don't have reservations but don't want to look bad. It is a perception problem. preceded by the insistence, due to ethical concerns, that the basic procedure cannot be changed to accommodate the collection of tissue But it is changed to harvest the organs. From the transcript:
PP: It makes a huge difference. I’d say a lot of people want liver. And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps. The kind of rate-limiting step of the procedure is the calvarium, the head is basically the biggest part. Most of the other stuff can come out intact. It’s very rare to have a patient that doesn’t have enough dilation to evacuate all the other parts intact. Buyer: To bring the body cavity out intact and all that? PP: Exactly. So then you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, 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. And with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex, because when it’s vertex presentation, you never have enough dilation at the beginning of the case, unless you have real, huge amount of dilation to deliver an intact calvarium. So if you do it starting from the breech presentation, there’s dilation that happens as the case goes on, and often, the last, you can evacuate an intact calvarium at the end. So I mean there are certainly steps that can be taken to try to ensure—
They are taking extreme care to harvest the important organs. Here is the transcript that Fr. Sawyer linked to: http://www.centerformedicalprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/PPFAtranscript072514_final.pdf Why are some of the commenters here and the author focused on things other than what Planned Parenthood does? CMT and how they got the information is a diversion. Whether it is legal or not is a diversion. Denying health care to women is a diversion. The only issue is that PP is harvesting organs and what are the motives of the people that do it.
Sara Damewood
2 years 5 months ago
Thank you for your balanced perspective! Well written.
Teresa Trujillo
2 years 5 months ago
There does seem to be a very non-Catholic defense of this doctor's POV here. Yes, a Jesuit priest can be sympathetic to the doctor but I think the author erred in defending the practice of both abortion and the selling of fetal tissue. Abortion is intrinsically evil in the eyes of the church. Jesuits are supposed to be focused on combating evil in our world through their work in the margins. You cannot combat this level of evil if you give it safe harbor in your words. Abortion is intrinsically evil. It is the taking of life. It is wrong. The doctors who perform abortions have misidentified their actions as being right in man's law, and ignore God's law. It is time to live in the light of the truth.
Crystal Watson
2 years 5 months ago
Thank you for this post.
Joe Kash
2 years 5 months ago
Sam Sawyer says, "Dr. Nucatola’s moving explanation of how she ended up focusing her practice as a physician on abortion" I would have been moved if she would have dedicated her life to helping these women in this crisis situation, not to escape their problem but to come out of the darkness and deal with their problem in a loving way. It sickens me that someone can be moved by her choice. I am sure that there were moving episodes in Dr. Josef Mengele life which lead him to dedicate his life to research also. I watched and listened to this video and I was moved in a different way. I could not help but visualize Hannibal Lector eating his liver.
Sam Sawyer, S.J.
2 years 5 months ago

I have added an update to the post above in response to a number of the comments here.

ROBERT STEWART
2 years 5 months ago
A well-written, thoughtful article, Fr. Sam. I particularly liked the paragraph that begins with "What has been obscured" and ends with "her compassion for the dying mother could not extend to the child the abortion had already killed." Think you are spot-on with your comment about "virtually no one on either side of the abortion debate has motives as demonic as their opponents would like," and that is a major problem, one that makes for little or no room for a discussion that could possibly change minds about the moral imperative to choose life. However, working as an Ignatian Volunteen for a social justice advocacy group, what I have found equally distressing is trying to persuade many opponents of abortion to advocate for life at all stages of life, namely life after birth. The consistent ethic of life does not get much of a hearing here in Virginia, as I note below in recounting my advocacy work as an Ignatian Volunteer for a faith-based advocacy group made up of mostly Catholics but also inclusive of Protestants, Jews, Muslims and a few folks with a sensitive conscience but not affiliated with any particular religion. This issue became real for me when discussing the issue of expanding Medicaid to close the coverage gap for 400,000 Virginians, mostly working poor Virginian, with Virginia legislators, elected officials that opposed the expansion of health care . Legislators with whom I discussed the issue assured me that they were "pro-life," but what I found out in those discussion was that every legislator opposing the expansion of medical care coverage was really no more than anti-abortion. I was most grateful that the two Virginia bishops wrote a strong, persuasive letter emphasizing that expanding coverage and closing the coverage gap was clearly a "pro-life" issue. However, the bishops' plea, unfortunately, did little to move the opposing Virginia legislators to change their mind or expand their view of "pro-life."
Annette Gape
2 years 5 months ago
Exactly. Convincing people that our responsibilities do not end at birth is a tough task. But I believe that each persons witness to that part of Social Teaching matters. Keep trying.
Joshua DeCuir
2 years 5 months ago
America, and Fr. Sawyer, are to be commended for its balanced, well-analyzed reporting on this story. It is scandal to me that the other prominent Catholic publications, such as National Catholic Reporter, have failed to even allude to this controversy. If we are called to be Catholics concerned about the "seamless garment" of life, then we cannot ignore issues that make our favored side of the aisle uncomfortable. To my readed, this controvery is precisely in the bullseye of Pope Francis' criticisms of unfettered markets & an economy that kills. It ought to provide an opportunity to cross some of the "culture war" divisions between Catholics. Unfortunately it seems to be another front in the tiresome internecine Catholic wars. I must also say I find it uncomfortable that no major Catholic social justice organization - such as Network or Sr. Simone Campbell - have made any statement about this controversy. Again, where is the "seamless garment." The Knights of Columbus were criticized by many Catholic liberals (including several prominent Catholic journalists on twitter) for their perceived silence when Laudato Si was released; such criticism ought to apply across the boared.
Annette Gape
2 years 5 months ago
Distressing to say the least. I am convinced that social media is no place to have this conversation. If the point is to change hearts, and this applies to all of us, no matter what our stand, the superficiality of conversations on social media is not going to get us there. This is a well thought out and clearly measured article, and yet, the desire to simply read what one wants takes over in our byte driven society. I know I am guilty of it too and it seems to dishonor the lives of the babies that we are advocating for or for the patients who are caught up in this. Thank you though for such a balanced and convicted response.
Mark Mansfield
2 years 5 months ago
"Moving" Seriously, Fr. Sawyer??? First of all, I don't even know if she should be granted the benefit of the doubt that her story is true as to what led her to choose medical school considering the dispassionate and ghoulish way she describes extracting organs. However, that is besides the point: Let me ask you a hypothetical as a Catholic priest (or scholastic): If David Duke said he entered the Ku Klux Klan after witnessing a black man rape and murder a white women, would you refer to that as a "moving story". If Dr. Goebbels recounted that he conducted his experiments at concentration camps after he witnessed a Jewish man rape a German woman, would that be "moving" also?? I don't think there is any difference. Everyone has different motives for choices they make in life. I have problems with you using that phrase considering how she is currently using her medical education. I somehow doubt you would have used that phrase under the scenarios stated above. I just don't get your need to engage in false moral equivocation for intrinsically evil practices. Editing a video is not akin to murdering unborn children and harvesting organs. To spend the majority of this article hand wringing that this doctor was somehow victimized and really, really means well misses the point entirely. You are buying into the Planned Parenthood spin.
Joshua DeCuir
2 years 5 months ago
Respectfully, I think you are confusing several distinct issues in the piece. The analysis is directing to whether or not Planned Parenthood is facilitating a "sale" of anything; that is a distinct issue wholly & apart from the issue of abortion. I don't really view the comments about the doctor in the video as "hand wringing" or claiming she is "victimized." The video is horrendous; but that doesn't mean false accusations not substantiated by the actual evidence can be let to stand.
Mark Mansfield
2 years 5 months ago
I am not confusing the issues but trying to make multiple points quickly and (perhaps sloppily). I understand what Fr Sawyer is trying to do. I "get" that this group highlighted/edited the "sexier" bits and publicized it for maximum effect. That doesn't change the fact that the tone of his article appears to offer excuses for what is a morally abhorrent practice.
Joshua DeCuir
2 years 5 months ago
But when you say "a morally abhorrent practice" you are clearly confusing issues: the abortion itself & the disposition of the aborted baby. When you accuse Fr. Sawyer of "offering excuses" for this act, you seem to be accusing him of rationalizing abortion. If that is the case, then in fairness, that accusation is completely baseless. Saying that one ought to understand the motivation of why someone would choose the type of practice this doctor did (in an effort to try to sway her) is NOT the same as saying one understands why she commits abortions. What Fr Sawyer is doing is saying that the accusation of Planned Parenthood facilitating the selling or sale of aborted babies - in contravention of federal law - is not necessarily borne out by the video. That is a totally different matter.
Mark Mansfield
2 years 5 months ago
No I am not. Both practices are abhorrent. The callousness displayed by this individual in how she describes the extraction is beyond disturbing considering the oath she took as a physician. Furthermore, I don't buy the whole "the baby is dead anyway" spin from PP and others who try to justify this practice. Abortion is wrong and using a dead baby for utilitarian means is wrong too. Period. I don't believe Fr. Sawyer is secretly pro choice or pro harvesting. And I am in not in position to judge this doctor's soul or what motivates her or what issues she had in her past, etc., etc. However, we all can certainly make moral judgments on actions of others and call it out when it is immoral and wrong. This publication has no problem calling out sins of racism, sexism, etc, etc even if not necessarily illegal and using strong language. I found the tone of this article irresponsible and unfortunate. To spend the majority of it seemingly lamenting how the video was edited, the "public perception" it gives pro lifers, and a "law review" type treatment of the various merits of her position I think was unfortunate in its tone. Matters of faith and morals (not people) are not worthy of that type of dispassionate treatment - particularly in a Catholic publication.
Sam Sawyer, S.J.
2 years 5 months ago

I wouldn't have said "moving" unless I could clarify, as I did following the long quote, that she wasn't moved nearly far enough, to compassion for the child along with the dying mother.

You might not agree with the word choice, but it doesn't constitute moral equivocation. If we can't be moved by the stories of how people convince themselves to support abortion, how are we ever going to dialogue with them enough to encourage them to change their minds?

Mark Mansfield
2 years 5 months ago
"If we can't be moved by the stories of how people convince themselves to support abortion, how are we ever going to dialogue with them enough to encourage them to change their minds?" Fr. Sawyer, Not good enough. I appreciate your response but still respectfully find your word choice and tone of your article absolutely irresponsible. Again, it reads like an apologia. I pray that she has a change of heart and converts. She is obviously a talented and smart woman who is morally blind to the atrocity. But to say we are "moved" by her story is again, irresponsible and I stand by my hypotheticals. If this wasn't abortion but racism, I don't think you would have used that word choice.
Sam Sawyer, S.J.
2 years 5 months ago

I understand you disagree with my word choice. However, your hypotheticals aren't properly analogous, because they deal with a situation that has only one victim, rather than two, and Dr. Nucatola's intention—as she understood it—was to avoid situations that would create future victims, not to, as in the KKK example, go about persecuting the victimizer. The problem with Dr. Nucatola's response isn't that she was inspired by a tragedy that was caused by a morally bad act, the problem is that she was only inspired to compassion for one of the victims of that act — and none of that is, nor was ever intended, as an apologia for the fact that her response to that inspiration was to devote herself to practicing abortions. I can acknowledge that a story about her responding to the death of a patient is moving without endorsing exactly what she did in response.

And I join you in your prayer for her change of heart.

Bob Hunt
2 years 5 months ago
I have to say I was also taken aback by use of the word "moving." If the bomber of the 16th Street Baptist Church had been unintentionally mortally wounded by the bomb that killed the four girls, I doubt we would describe a doctor's account of his frustrated attempts to save the bomber's life and his resulting dedication to make better bombs to avoid future unintentional deaths as "moving." Even if we were willing to concede that his compassion for the bomber did not go far enough to include the girls. Yes, the woman the doctor tried to save was herself a victim of abortion. But, we could also say that the bomber was a victim of his own racism. What disturbs me most about the video was what has disturbed most, and even led the president of PP to offer an apology - the cold, calculated language the doctor used to describe the destruction and mutilation of human life, made all the more abhorrant by her casual, matter-of-fact attitude toward the enterprise. While I agree with Fr. Sawyer that there's no gain in dismissing our opponants on this issue as "monsters," it's also true that we must not be afraid to describe their actions and their attitudes as monstrous. I've just finished listening to a recording of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." I was struck by the casual, matter-of-fact way in which the characters in the novel, correctly reflecting the attitudes of white folks in those times, describe black folks. The racism of the culture was so entrenched that it never entered into the minds of whites during that era that the way blacks were treated was in any way, shape or form unfair or inherently unjust, never mind criminal, immoral or sinful. The notion that blacks are equal to whites would be nothing short of ludicrous to them. Were whites "monsters" for the way they regarded and treated blacks? Some would say, "yes!" Others would argue that they were themselves victims, in a certain sense, of their times and their culture. But, I would venture to say that no one today would fail to describe their actions and attitudes as monstrous.
Gabriel Syme
2 years 5 months ago

Thank you Fr. Sawyer for your update today.

I read your first post on Monday and this original post yesterday (7/15/15).

I have to admit that I had many question and concerns regarding this post when it was initially posted and to an extent I still do, although to a lesser extent after the update today (7/16/15).

It is still troubling to me lean so much on judging the way the necessary and important information was brought to light given the current culture's second by second attention span.

I find it hard to believe exclusively relying on the full length video to get this necessary information out in front of people would have been nearly as effective if at all considering how most of the minuscule coverage of this issue is equally helpful in repackaging, softening and covering up the grotesque facts far more so than what you accuse C.M.P. of selectively presenting hand in hand with the full length video.

“The right to life is the first human right. Abortion is killing someone that cannot defend him or herself.”
– Cardinal Bergoglio, S.J., with Rabbi Abraham Skorka in book ‘On Heaven and Earth’

“Defend the unborn against abortion even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court or kill you.”
– Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, S.J., Pope Francis

And from your update today, "In this case, in my judgment, the Planned Parenthood representative seems not to be a profit-seeking monster, but rather someone who has so thoroughly dehumanized the unborn child as to be able to consider it as a source to be dismantled for parts. That’s more than bad enough." The latter is excellently stated, however the former about the representative not seeming to you to be 'profit-seeking monster' seems to miss the $30 - $100 comments the representative mentions. If it's all done in here or there (Planned Parenthood's) "goodwill" why is money even mentioned at all and or the mention of making it look like the headquarters is getting money?

Thanks again for the update today. I can now better appreciate the open minded perspective along with compassion for the PP staff even if I still disagree to an extent. To roughly quote Chesterton, "The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid." Post compassion for the staff, the Planned Parenthood side of this story is like trying to eat air.

Join me and keep Fr. Sam Sawyer, the Society of Jesus and all religious orders in your prayers during this interesting time for Catholics everywhere.

Theresa Benton
2 years 5 months ago
At last and THANK YOU for being a reasonable, rational, concerned person who can be believed!!!!! I am so tired of unscrupulous people who are on our side and who are ruining the cause simply because they are unable to be pro-life in a calm and rational manner. Seriously, we do need to stick to the facts in order to change minds about this. Thank you for your refreshing article - and I totally agree with you!
Michael Kelly
2 years 5 months ago
In contrast to Sam Sawyer’s purported “criticism” of Planned Parenthood’s latest outrage in “America, the National ‘Catholic’ Review”, see "Planned Parenthood and the Statist Abyss" for an excellent critical analysis http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/07/16/planned_parenthood_and_the_statist_abyss_127399.html
J Cosgrove
2 years 5 months ago
I am sorry but this update is nonsense. There is a whole industry involved here (abortion) and the sting was about another industry that flows from it. To say there was no money or profit involved is ludicrous. There are hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into these organizations and the sting actor was posing as one who would make lots of money and this doctor was cooperating. The doctor was willing to facilitate it and probably is well compensated and her future renumeration would probably depend on how she cooperated in such activities. She also said there was not qualms about using this to make money but only worried about perceptions. To then focus on CMT was ludicrous. It was a diversion and how were they supposed to promote the video. Especially when big bucks were involved in what they were exposing just not as directly as they might have indicated. Money is involved and to deny this is missing something important. I suggest everyone read the article posted by Mr. Kelly below and get Ms. Wilhelm as an author here.
Nora Bolcon
2 years 5 months ago
Unfortunately what none of this points out is the real truth behind keeping abortion legal. I don't agree with abortion but making it illegal will not stop it. It has not even reduced the amount of abortions in the countries where it was illegal and many countries where it has always been illegal have a worse percentage compared to countries that have had it supply on demand for many decades. What we have recently learned and had proven to us is this truth: when our country provides women reliable and free birth control methods, the abortion rate drops 12 %. This is fact not fiction. We may actually be at a lower abortion rate percentage wise than we had in the 50's when it was illegal in our country. I do believe preaching that it is human life you are ending, to those who are considering abortion is helpful, if this teaching is done in a loving, non-judgemental way, always with the respect that it is the human being that is pregnant who has the right to make the final decision. Our churches' constantly attacking that right rather than treating women with respect is part of the problem not the solution. No one listens to people who order them around, especially strangers they don't trust. Jesus tells us not to judge but be an example and teach what is right to those who wish to know. "Give to anyone who needs help" works far more powerfully on a woman who is concerned she can't afford her baby, than telling her to "Give your kid up for adoption because we want you to have your kid but we don't feel you deserve a hand-out, if you keep your child" does. We also need to show we mean to help women in general by following Europe by creating daycares paid for by the government, that are well run, like public schools. This way women are not trapped by their child and she can afford to raise her child even if there is no dad on the scene. This also helps married people who fear can they afford another child. If pro-life continues to sensationalize the subject rather than become a real solution for women, they will lose more and more support every day. Stop attacking the law. Instead attack the problem.
William Rydberg
2 years 5 months ago
I am wondering if Associate Editor Sam Sawyer reviewing the Comments page? Just wondering...
Sam Sawyer, S.J.
2 years 5 months ago

I am reviewing them, but apparently not as quickly as you would like.

In answer to your questions about the editorial process, blog posts go through internal editorial review; this one and the update did as well.

William Rydberg
2 years 5 months ago
Then I'll try submitting this again... Really? When I read this, was my first reaction. Then I thought about it and was not surprised, because I realized that the Author is a member of the Society of Jesus, who happens to be well connected enough to get things published practically without much of the rigour associated with outside submissions, and in my opinion, critical editorial review (except perhaps for spelling). This practice, in my opinion of saying anything in the pages of America and getting a “pass” seems like a “right” of certain privileged members of the America Staff-and it works like a kind of “tenure” is one is actually a Priest of the Society! It likely has a lot to do with the American practices of the Society implemented decades ago and stretching back to the early days when guys like Fr. John A. Hardon S.J. was in his prime. Interestingly, his Cause is being considered, but the Society is not the Sponsor (he was on the outs with the in Crowd)! As an aside, I would like to know the number of formal and informal submissions to America of Fr Hardon’s S.J. that were rejected over the years? To conclude, elements of this article, in my opinion, read as though it were a highly desirable redeemable christian trait to “cover expenses”. In my opinion, this article is the equivalent of a fly’s perspective after landing on a cadaver. Unfortunate overall, but some good can be observed if one were a fly. In my opinion, as far as the “updated response” goes, and taking a page out of today’s news, I liken it to the equivalent of the Famous Singer that is alleged to have licked unsold donuts at a Shop and is alleged to have been caught on video tape. With the America Editorial Board acting like the police….no charges! Let’s all pray for Editorial Board changes, and a lot more critical evaluation of articles submitted by America staff or well-connected members of the Society going forward...
Janet A.
2 years 5 months ago
Very Interesting. So, suppose some one knows a woman that was born with a condition that predisposes her to have a very short fuse, and who can only experience pleasure when a she kills a man that is trying to rape her. Now, she hates doing such thing, but she cannot help it, she was born that way, and she is as equally entitled to experience pleasure in this life as any one else. besides, she is only killing rapists, so she should actually be thought of as a modern day hero. And she only kills them after she knocks them unconscious, so technically they are not human because they are not conscious of themselves, or their surroundings. Plus it was a compassionate death because the victims didn't feel a thing and they were freed from their misery of being a rapist. So the person that knows this woman is heading a genetics research and investigation project, and strikes a deal with this woman in order to buy human parts from her victims in order to conduct this research, which he is doing in oder to create a gene that will enable mankind to be born with an antibody for cancer. So he is not only curing cancer, he is making it impossible for humans to ever get cancer again. But he is buying human body parts, and from a murderer. But lets not focus on what her crime makes her, because that is unkind and we would be chauvinists. Rather, lets focus on the fact that it is a huge injustice to her to have been born that way. And lets not focus on the man buying human body parts (not willingly donated by the person to whom they belonged), lets focus rather on the fact that he is doing this to help humankind. And lets not focus on the woman selling these body parts, for she is not selling them for profit; that would be awful! Lets focus on the fact that she is selling those parts to help orphan girls... What a pretty picture warped by the use of nice words... it does not change one bit the horror of the crimes in all cases! These is true of the story above too, and I cannot believe that something such as this article, nor someone such as the author under the banner of "Catholic" is trying to make light of this issue, and make it sound like it is unkind to Dr. Nucatola and what Planned Parenthood is doing through abortion clinics, as well as abortion itself. Let us remember that throughout the entire history of the human race, the most barbaric thing a ruler could do to oppress a nation would be the massive killing of infants. It was the most inhumane act possible! How dark have our minds gotten that now that history repeats itself, it's been done no other than by the parents themselves, willingly... And we call ourselves "evolved" and "enlightened" when in fact we are more barbaric and savage than generations past.
Tim Reidy
2 years 5 months ago

Please use full names as per our policy.

Crystal Watson
2 years 5 months ago
I was a volunteer at a Planned Parenthood one summer in college, answering phoned-in questions about contraception. The place isn't some kind of abortion conveyor belt staffed with monsters, it's a low cost women's health clinic where people without much money can get gyn exams, cancer screening, prenatal care, contraception, and also abortions.
Sam Sawyer, S.J.
2 years 5 months ago

For anyone happening along to this piece for the first time, or returning to it, who may be interested in or concerned by how the discussion in the comments has developed, I'd like to recommend Mark Shea's very perceptive piece over at his blog.

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