(Reuters) - Planned Parenthood said on Tuesday a secretly recorded video that surfaced on the Internet falsely portrayed the reproductive health group's participation in the sale of tissue and body parts from aborted fetuses.
The non-profit organization said the video had been heavily edited and recorded by a group that was established to damage its reputation. It said in a statement the video "falsely portrays Planned Parenthood's participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research."
The video, which has gotten widespread exposure on the Internet, was produced by the California-based Center for Medical Progress, a self-described organization of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances.
Reaction to the video from some Republican presidential contenders was swift. One of them, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, called for an investigation of Planned Parenthood.
Another, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, called the video "a disturbing reminder" of what he characterized as "the organization’s penchant for profiting off the tragedy of a destroyed human life."
The video identified a woman speaking about selling fetus body parts as Planned Parenthood Federation of America's senior director of medical services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola. Planned Parenthood confirmed on Tuesday that Nucatola was in the video.
The Center for Medical Progress said the video showed Nucatola discussing the sale of body parts from aborted fetuses during lunch with actors posing as buyers from a biological company.
The group's leader, David Daleiden, said that for about two and a half years it had been investigating the sale of tissue by Planned Parenthood. "We very quietly have been on this long-term investigation," he said.
Laurie Zoloth, a professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University, said in an emailed reply to a request for comment that the film was "being used to inflame people about abortion, about which there is a substantial consensus, that abortion should be legal, and rare."
However, Zoloth said it was "terribly disturbing because the physician seems to be engaged in a transaction in which the goal is to extract tissue to meet the needs of a company, rather than being focused on the core purpose of her clinic, which is to provide a safe medical procedure."
She termed that "an obvious conflict of interest."
Zoloth also pointed to the attitude of the physician in the video, observing, "The doctor seems extraordinarily cavalier ... Having this discussion over a meal, while drinking what appears to be wine, takes this further from the realm of professional clinical medicine and into the realm of business."
From another perspective, Zoloth, who is also a professor of religious studies, noted, "Within many religious traditions, the act of abortion itself is morally impermissible. The specter of cutting up and using hearts and lungs and legs from aborted fetuses disturbs even supporters who are pro-choice. The physician seems in the video to be unaware of this basic moral problem."
'NO FINANCIAL BENEFIT'
Planned Parenthood, which in addition to abortions provides healthcare and information regarding birth control and other reproductive issues, explained in its statement, "Patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases.
"At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does - with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards.
"There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood."
The organization added that "in some instances" costs such as those "to transport tissue to leading research centers, were reimbursed, which it said was "standard across the medical field."
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by Patrick Enright in Seattle and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Toni Reinhold)