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Anti-Choice Group Features Former StemExpress Employee in Latest Planned Parenthood Attack Video

Teddy Wilson

A California court recently issued a restraining order blocking CMP from publishing videos of three StemExpress employees.

See more of our coverage on the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.

The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the anti-choice organization behind a series of videos spreading misinformation about Planned Parenthood, published a video Tuesday that the organization claims exposes the “practice of fetal body parts harvesting.” 

Scientists have used fetal tissue for decades to conduct research that has proven essential for the development of vaccines and treatments for a host of diseases, including AIDS and Ebola.

The video features an interview with Holly O’Donnell, a former employee of the biomedical company StemExpress. The video does not include any undercover footage of Planned Parenthood employees, unlike previously released videos.

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A California court recently issued a restraining order blocking CMP from publishing videos of three StemExpress employees.

During the video O’Donnell describes the daily routine and protocols she followed as a blood and tissue procurement technician while working in a Planned Parenthood for StemExpress. O’Donnell repeatedly characterized her colleagues, the physician who performed abortion procedures, and clinic policies as having sinister or nefarious motivations to coerce women into consenting to fetal tissue donation.

O’Donnell claims StemExpress employees working in Planned Parenthood clinics would obtain fetal tissue without obtaining consent from the patients. “If there was a higher gestation, and the technicians needed it, there were times when they would just take what they wanted. And these mothers don’t know. And there’s no way they would know,” said O’Donnell.

As previously reported at Rewire, abortion patients legally must give consent to donate fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has denied breaking any laws with regard to its tissue donation programs.

David Daleiden, the project leader for CMP, said in a statement that the video illustrates why Planned Parenthood should be investigated by law enforcement agencies.

“Experiences like Holly O’Donnell’s show that Planned Parenthood’s abortion and baby parts business is not a safe place where vulnerable women can be cared for, but a harvesting ground for saleable human ‘product,’” Daleiden said. “Law enforcement and other elected officials must act decisively to determine the full extent of Planned Parenthood’s offensive practices and hold them accountable to the law.”

Republican lawmakers in states around the country have called for investigations and hearings, but to date none of the investigations have uncovered any evidence that Planned Parenthood affiliates have broken any laws with regard to fetal tissue. The South Dakota Health Department said in a statement Tuesday that it has not received any reports or evidence that the sale of fetal tissue has occurred in the state since the agency started regulating abortion facilities in 2006, according a report by the Associated Press.

CMP has repeatedly charged that Planned Parenthood has engaged in illegally selling fetal tissue of aborted fetuses. However, the unedited video footage, which CMP often will not publish until hours or days after the video “highlights” are published, has consistently shown Planned Parenthood officials saying that they do not sell or make a profit from fetal tissue.

Federal law explicitly allows for the donation of fetal tissue for research or transplant. The law also allows entities involved to make and receive “reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.”

Stanford University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin defended using fetal tissue in research, which she argued plays a vital role in medical advances. “If researchers are unable to work with fetal tissue, there is a huge list of diseases for which researchers would move much more slowly, rather than quickly, to find their cause and how they can be cured,” Lapin told the Associated Press.

Fetal tissue has played a critical role in research conducted to find treatments for Parkinson’s, AIDS, and Ebola.

The videos, which have been released in coordination with anti-choice Republican lawmakers, have sparked outrage directed at Planned Parenthood from Republican legislators and anti-choice activists.

Anti-choicers across the country have compared Planned Parenthood to everything from drug dealers to Nazi Germany.

During last week’s Republican presidential primary debate, candidates used the videos as fodder not just to attack Planned Parenthood, but to attack a woman’s right to access safe and legal abortion care.

Lawmakers have used the videos to justify a failed attempt by congressional Republicans to ban Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds for services unrelated to abortion.

A host of lawsuits have been filed against CMP since the release of the front group’s first video. In addition to the restraining order on behalf of StemExpress, Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted a temporary restraining order against the release of video materials obtained at meetings held by the National Abortion Federation (NAF). A hearing is scheduled to take place on August 27. 

The lawsuits filed by NAF and StemExpress give credence to the questions that have been raised about CMP’s deceptive tactics, ideological agenda, and connections to radical and violent anti-choice activists.

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