A lot has been written about what you can see in a heavily edited “sting” video, in which a Planned Parenthood official is caught on tape talking about providing fetal body parts to anti-abortion activists who are posing as medical researchers.

But lets take a minute to talk about whats not in the video. Despite what its creators claim:

• Nobody is seen selling tissue.

• Nobody is seen profiting from abortion.

• Nobody is seen breaking the law or even behaving unethically, except maybe for the off-screen actors who are trying to coax their target into crossing a line.

What we do see is a doctor talking about the human body and a medical procedure in the matter-of-fact way that professionals use when they talk about their work.


It may sound coarse and unfeeling, but its no different from the way lawyers might talk to each other about a case or detectives about a crime. A little professional detachment is not a sign of malice — its a necessary discipline that permits people to put aside their emotions and focus on their jobs, which, in this case, was helping advance medical research.

But the biggest thing the video makers left out is the real reason for its existence.

The activists who filmed it and their allies in Congress are against abortion, but not because they think it leads to for-profit fetal-tissue sales. They are opposed to legal abortion itself. They believe that a woman should not be given the option of ending an unintended pregnancy, and they want the government to get in her way. Since they cannot outlaw the constitutionally protected procedure, they have undertaken a multi-pronged strategy to make it more difficult to access.

Part of that strategy is going after providers such as Planned Parenthood, and that is the real reason for this alleged sting. As soon as the video was made public, anti-abortion members of Congress flew into action, demanding investigations into Planned Parenthood, even though the heavily edited video does not reveal anything other than some callous talk.

The manufactured controversy already has translated into the rewriting of a bill that would authorize the creation of a commemorative coin to raise money for breast cancer research so that it excludes the Susan G. Komen for the Cure group, which pays Planned Parenthood for performing breast cancer screenings.

There is also pressure to bring up for a vote in the House a bill that would end federal funding for Planned Parenthoods womens health programs (excluding abortion, which already gets no federal funds).

The video and the threatened investigation create the impression of scandal where there is no scandal. It is a strategy designed to weaken Planned Parenthood politically, which would make life more difficult for low-income women who rely on its clinics for checkups and screenings, as well as forcing some of them to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. Women with means will continue to have a full range of options.

The real dishonesty that the video reveals is that these activists are willing to invent a phony black market in fetal body parts to interfere with low-income womens health care decisions. They are willing to distort reality to further the anti-abortion goals that they cannot advance without hiding their intentions.

There are said to be more videos, which will be released one by one during the 2016 election cycle. We hope that as they appear, people will pay at least as much attention to what they attempt to hide as they do to what the recordings claim to reveal.

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