See more of our coverage on the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.
Three weeks ago, a group of anti-abortion religious extremists with close ties to domestic terrorism released the first in a series of heavily edited videos showing medical professionals from Planned Parenthood discussing fetal tissue donation. In order to obtain these videos, the group—calling itself the “Center for Medical Progress”—lied to the State of California about its purpose as a nonprofit.
Its agents then lied to Planned Parenthood employees, saying not that they were anti-abortion activists with axe after axe to grind, but that they were representatives from a medical company looking to obtain tissue samples for research purposes.
CMP then filmed Planned Parenthood employees without their consent, which is illegal in at least one state where footage was obtained.
Then the group selectively edited what is swiftly becoming literal days’ worth of footage into few-minute blips deliberately meant to misrepresent the nonconsensual recording.
In the aforementioned nonconsensual recordings, members of CMP who were deliberately impersonating a nonexistent biomedical research contractor tried to convince Planned Parenthood employees, who repeatedly said they didn’t do illegal fetal tissue donations, to do illegal fetal tissue donations.
Almost immediately, national and state lawmakers started pledging to investigate Planned Parenthood on the basis of these videos. Almost as if lawmakers had been apprised of the videos and their content before their release but were instructed to wait until a more politically expedient time—say, I don’t know, closer to the first GOP presidential primary debate—to pretend to get all up in arms about them in order to send the extreme-right voting base into a froth.
What we know without doubt—by virtue of the fact that we know when these videos were filmed—is that CMP, and whichever lawmakers they hipped to the videos, have known about the content of the footage for months and, in some cases, more than a year. During which time they did literally nothing about the supposedly illegal activities in which they’d caught Planned Parenthood engaging.
Even though, you know, it’s all about saving the babies. Super urgent. Time of maximum essence. Gotta save those babies right quick. Toot sweet.
Eventually, progressive groups started calling for an investigation into the so-called Center for Medical Progress, and they started pushing Democrats, who’d largely been silent on the videos even as Republicans competed to out-froth each other, to do the same.
Meanwhile, we learned more about the sketchy tactics used by CMP to goad its targets into…well, not doing any of the not-illegal things they’ve not-illegally not-done. Ethics: fungible, apparently.
But the opportunity was ripe for right-wing hotheads and perpetually campaigning lawmakers to inflame an audience ready and willing to believe anything at all about Planned Parenthood. Despite a wholesale lack of evidence showing anything definitive, lawmakers lined up to compare doctors to crack dealers and legal abortion to the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and slavery.
But throughout, the overarching narrative became this: Anti-choice lawmakers, elected officials, and their representatives called for an outright end to legal abortion care in the United States. The actual Texas attorney general, a man who this week was indicted on first-degree felony fraud charges for allegedly swindling his own Republican colleagues out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, told a state senate panel that “We must accept these videos as a reminder of the horror that is abortion in America.”
And also, um, something something baby parts. Always the baby parts. Baby parts! Except for that teensy detail that: Planned Parenthood isn’t selling baby parts. Let’s use our actual brains and actual medical terminology, shall we? In some cases, Planned Parenthood collects fetal tissue, also known as “products of conception,” and retains payment for the logistical aspects of doing so, in the service of the not-at-all ignominious motive of helping cure diseases.
But the truth is, the anti-choice lawmakers who are willing to use these ill-gotten videos as an excuse to try to take reproductive health care out of the hands of literally millions of the neediest Americans don’t actually care about baby “parts.” Neither does CMP. Hell, just this week they started cranking up the outrage machine about intact fetuses, even though they just got done expressing horror at dissected ones.
I am not kidding you, gorgeous GIF-Rihanna! There is nary a shred of intellectual consistency to be found here. We find ourselves in a critical thinking desert, barren of logic.
We are surrounded by the flames of false indignation, fanned ever higher by politicians who feed on fear and feigned outrage.
None of this is about “baby parts.” None of it is about honoring “intact” fetuses. It’s not even about fetuses at all. It’s about making abortion illegal. And that? Is about no-holds-barred misogyny in the service of naught but the patriarchy.