WAGGONER: 5th Circuit Decision Illustrates Why Planned Parenthood Shouldn’t Sell Fetal Tissue

Kristen Waggoner | Alliance Defending Freedom

The abortion conversation in America is changing, and quickly. The euphemisms that have dominated and distorted the debate are falling away, and in their place, Americans are beginning to acknowledge the reality that abortion destroys a human life.

In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit pulled the curtain back when it decided Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Smith. The case began in October 2015, after the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of undercover journalism videos showing that Planned Parenthood was apparently violating the law in several ways — particularly by selling fetal tissue, which is illegal in Texas. Based on the videos and a state investigation, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission ended Medicare agreements with Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood sued, and in 2017, a trial court judge issued an injunction requiring the state of Texas to continue funding Planned Parenthood. The state appealed the decision to the 5h Circuit.

The 5th Circuit sent the case back down to the lower court, ordering further review of the evidence that Planned Parenthood had sold fetal tissue — and particularly noted that the lower court was wrong in saying that the Center for Medical Progress videos had not been authenticated. And in that published decision, the court included a color still from those authenticated CMP videos: a grisly, heart-wrenching snapshot of a dead, aborted baby — its dismembered parts jumbled in what looks like a casserole dish.

The battle to publicize the Center for Medical Progress videos has been a long one. They were first released in 2015, and they document a months-long undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood employees, including senior officials, that uncovered apparently illegal activity, including Medicare fraud and organ trafficking. The videos are difficult to watch. In one frame, a Planned Parenthood director sips wine and discusses pricing for babies’ heads, livers, lungs and intact corpses. In another, a physician chats with journalists while poking through a glass dish of baby parts.

CMP knew they were up against a giant, and they knew that Planned Parenthood and its allies would stop at nothing to ensure their footage never saw the light of day. Astoundingly, Kamala Harris, then attorney general of California, ordered a raid of a CMP journalist’s home and seized some of the unreleased footage. Planned Parenthood and its allies continue to adamantly and falsely assert that the videos were selectively edited, but an independent forensic analysis group authenticated the videos.

A House Selective Investigative Panel was formed in response to the evidence from the videos and found that Planned Parenthood had broken multiple federal laws. But despite this, pro-abortion advocates have continued to downplay and deny the gruesome reality the videos exposed.

It is a cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words, but clichés are repeated because they are often true. Countless words have been spilled about abortion, but this one picture from the 5th Circuit’s decision cuts through the euphemistic mist like a million-candlepower spotlight. What we see in that dish is not a lump of tissue. It is not a vestigial scrap like an appendix or a tonsil. The parts are unmistakably human: tiny feet; perfectly formed hands. We can count the fingers and toes. The 5th Circuit showed in the most graphic terms the most disturbing truth: Abortion is a brutal human death.

Yet this picture speaks far more than a thousand words: It speaks some 61 million (and counting) words — each one of them the name of a child who should be among us today.

When we see this picture, we cannot escape the question: Who was this baby? Would she have been Sophia, Olivia, or Emma; Alexis, Kayla, or Laila? We’ll never know, because that baby human ended her days hacked to pieces in a cold glass dish in a Planned Parenthood building.

But now, because of the 5th Circuit’s opinion, her death does not go unseen.

This is a victory for Americans who cherish life. But it is a painful victory, for it reveals an almost unthinkable reality. Just as many people struggled to cope with the reality of the Holocaust as its horrors unfolded, it is difficult to contemplate the reality of the mutilated baby in the dish.

In 1945, flickering black-and-white newsreels showed footage of long lines of German civilians being herded—sometimes forcefully—through the death camps. The singular purpose of that footage was that they might see the truth. The camps had sprung up in their midst, barely noticed. Unquestioned, these camps operated for years, blackening the sky with the smoke from the incinerators. Millions of people vanished into those camps, unheeded.

The filmmakers who entered those camps in 1945 saw such horror that they feared being disbelieved—so much so that famed movie producer John Ford, then serving as a Navy captain, was brought in to authenticate the films. At last, no one could deny the truth that perhaps they suspected all along: Those grisly grey buildings dealt death, hour by hour, for all the years that people stood by and did nothing. At last, the world knew.

And at last, the seal on the truth of abortion is broken. As a nation, we cannot say that we do not know the truth: The gleaming “clinic” down the road is dealing death, hour by hour.

But the fight is far from over. The 5th Circuit will reconvene en banc in the coming days, with all of the circuit’s judges reviewing the three-judge panel decision. Meanwhile, other states seek ways to sever Planned Parenthood’s tax funding, stop its fraudulent conduct, and send taxpayer dollars to real clinics that provide actual healthcare to women.

Those of us who love life must redouble our efforts to defend it. The brave CMP journalists went where no camera had gone before. They heard the callous wheeling and dealing, saw the casserole dish on the counter. And they confirmed what many of us have long known in our hearts: Planned Parenthood is a merchant of death.

We must do yet more: We must continue to support and defend pro-life pregnancy centers and organizations that serve women, to defend the rights of pro-life healthcare professionals to work in accordance with their conscience, and to uphold the dignity of every human person at every stage of life. For if the picture in the opinion can be said to have a last word, it is this: Every baby should find a home in loving arms, not be left torn apart in a cold glass dish.

Kristen Waggoner (@KWaggonerADF) is senior vice president of the U.S. legal division for the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, which has prevailed in eight recent U.S. Supreme Court victories, including Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.


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