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Planned Parenthood exec. offered help, better way

NASHVILLE (BP) — A prolife advocate and former Planned Parenthood clinic director has written an open letter extending compassion to the Planned Parenthood executive caught on video discussing the sale of baby parts gained through abortion.

Meanwhile, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America called charges that her organization has behaved illegally “outrageous.” Prolife advocates appear divided regarding the likelihood that Planned Parenthood violated the law. Still, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Judiciary Committee have launched investigations of Planned Parenthood, as have five states — Louisiana, Texas, Ohio, Georgia and Indiana.

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director in Bryan, Texas, wrote in a July 14 open letter published by LifeSiteNews that she opposes abortion but also condemns “hate and vile comments about” Planned Parenthood executive Deborah Nucatola, the subject of the debated video. Nucatola is not “evil” but “misguided,” Johnson wrote, telling the abortion provider of a better life to be found apart from Planned Parenthood.

“We care about you,” Johnson wrote, referencing her nonprofit organization that seeks to help abortion clinic workers leave the industry. “We want you to find peace. We want you to find true happiness. We know that won’t happen as long as you are involved in Planned Parenthood. We believe that your life matters. We believe that your life holds infinite value and worth. You matter to us. As hard as I fight to save unborn babies, I fight just as hard to save people like you from the grips of the abortion industry.”

Johnson understands Nucatola’s perspective, she wrote, because she “used to be just like” her — a harvester of post-abortive baby parts. In Johnson’s experience, consent was obtained from patients to harvest their babies’ tissue, and most women consented “because we made it seem like that by donating, they were helping others” in supplying materials for researchers.

Johnson described the process she employed in her former life to harvest baby organs.

“All of the blood, body parts and extra tissue would be collected into a glass jar,” Johnson wrote. “That glass jar would come to me in the POC (products of conception) lab through a ‘pass through specimen cabinet.’ I would take the jar to our sink, dump everything into a huge strainer, rinse out the jar and then rinse the blood out of the strainer. After I had a clean body, I would dump it into the glass baking dish that was sitting on top of an x-ray light box. I would put a little bit of water in the glass dish so that the body parts would float … that made it easier for me to manipulate them.”

Johnson said she understands Nucatola’s apparently callous attitude toward dismembering children.

“After a grueling abortion day, we would all go out for margaritas and Mexican food. We would talk about the day and specific abortion cases. It wasn’t gross to us. We honestly didn’t think anything about it. We would plainly talk about harvesting fetal parts as if we were talking about harvesting a field of corn. That was our normal … and we were proud to live in it. I get the humor. I get how something grotesque to others can seem ordinary,” Johnson wrote.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards defended America’s largest abortion provider in a video posted online July 17.

“Recently, an organization that opposes safe and legal abortions used secretly-recorded and heavily-edited videos to make outrageous claims about programs that help women donate tissue for medical research,” Richards said. “I want to be really clear: the allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true.”

Planned Parenthood’s “top priority is the compassionate care that we provide,” Richards said. She apologized for Nucatola’s speaking “in a way that does not reflect that compassion.” Nucatola’s “tone and statements” are “unacceptable,” Richards said.

Women who donate tissue from their aborted children promote “life-saving research” and “should be respected, not attacked,” Richards said, listing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases among the conditions researched and treated through use of fetal tissue.

Groups like CMP “have never been concerned with protecting the health and safety of women,” Richards said.

Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for Americans United for Life, told Baptist Press it is “premature to say whether Planned Parenthood has broken the law.” The abortion provider may have violated federal laws banning partial-birth abortion and profiting from the sale of human remains, she said, adding that state laws may have been violated as well.

“Not a single investigation has yet been completed,” Hamrick said, “so it’s premature to say what they’ll find.”

Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent letters to Richards and Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting information about Planned Parenthood. Writing to Lynch, Grassley said the CMP video “raise[s] questions about whether abortion providers are acting in full compliance with the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.”

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., took to the Senate floor, calling his colleagues to act in defense of the unborn.

Lankford lamented that a July 16 Senate committee hearing included “extensive conversation about the rights of orca whales” and “protracted conversation about horse slaughter and how horses would be humanely put down” but the Senate has not discussed Planned Parenthood’s treatment of unborn babies.

“Why [would] this Congress … spend time today debating horse slaughter and debating orca whales, but yet we’ve become so numb to children that the other debate doesn’t seem to come up?” Lankford said July 16. “Maybe we need to start again as a nation, asking a basic question. If that’s a child, and in our Declaration [of Independence] we said every person … is endowed by our Creator [with] life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, maybe we need to ask as a nation again, do we really believe that?”

Lankford, who is a Southern Baptist, added, “On a day that we passed an education bill, before we pat ourselves on the back saying how much we care about children, let’s make sure we’re dealing with a compassion for children at every age, not just at certain ages.”

As of midday July 17, Lankford was the only senator to speak about the Planned Parenthood video on the senate floor.

At least 11 Republican 2016 presidential candidates have condemned the Planned Parenthood practices described in the controversial video published by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), a Baptist Press survey of media sources found. None of the Democratic presidential candidates have addressed the controversy, according to the Washington Free Beacon, which noted that Hillary Clinton has received nearly $10,000 in campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood employees.

Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said July 17 in its email newsletter “The Weekly” that Planned Parenthood’s actions are “horrific” but “unbelievably” may be “protected by [federal] law.” The ERLC did not evaluate state laws.

After offering an analysis of relevant federal law, the ERLC concluded, “This despicable practice of selling the body parts of aborted children is likely to be legal and an accepted, if not common practice, among abortion providers. The video should serve as a disturbing wake-up call for the pro-life community. We are justified in being outraged by the trafficking in human parts by Planned Parenthood and their justification of the practice and we should be outraged at the federal government that made it legal to traffic in the sale of aborted human flesh. What’s more we should call on our legislators to act to both defund Planned Parenthood and to ban the sale of fetal tissue.”