By Christine M. Williams, Anchor Correspondent
BOSTON — The pleas of Massachusetts Catholics fell on deaf legislative ears last week. Members of the faithful from across the Commonwealth called for taxpayer dollars to be allocated away from Planned Parenthood. On August 4, a federal bill with that aim failed to garner enough votes; both United States senators from the state voted against it.
A few hours later, the Center for Medical Progress released the fifth in a series of undercover videos showing high-level PP employees pricing fetal organs over lunch. Believing that they were speaking with biotech researchers, the employees’ discussions were casual, cavalier and, at times, off color.
The videos have spurred several corporations and three states — Alabama, Louisiana and New Hampshire — to rescind funds from PP; a total of 12 states, including Massachusetts, launched investigations. After a week-long review, Attorney General Maura Healey cleared the PP League of Massachusetts of any wrongdoing, adding that the organization does not have a fetal tissue donation program.
The sale of human body parts is a federal crime. PP officials at the national level have denied illegal activity, saying that the employees were merely discussing the “reasonable payments” for the “transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of human fetal tissue” allowed by federal law.
In the August 4 video, director of Research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Melissa Farrell suggests that higher payments for higher quality fetal body parts can be accomplished by claiming such specimens required “additional time, cost, administrative burden.” At one point she quips, “It’s all just a matter of line items.”
Several videos feature PP employees discussing how to manipulate the abortion procedure in order to preserve more fetal organs, which is also illegal. In one, the employee admits to abortionists performing illegal partial-birth abortions for that purpose.
David Daleiden, head of the undercover video project, said in a statement, “Anyone who watches these videos knows that Planned Parenthood is engaged in barbaric practices and human rights abuses that must end. There is no reason for an organization that uses illegal abortion methods to sell baby parts and commit such atrocities against humanity to still receive more than $500 million each year from taxpayers.”
The Senate measure needed 60 votes but received only 53. Voting mostly followed party lines with two Democrats and two Republicans breaking ranks (though Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted no so that the bill can be brought up again later). The Senate’s two independents also voted it down.
McConnell argued that funds currently going to PP should be reallocated to community health centers that “provide more comprehensive health services” and have a greater number of locations. He noted that 21 million Americans are served by such centers while only 2.7 visit Planned Parenthood annually.
Prior to the Senate vote, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference sent out a letter from Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM. Cap., urging support of the bill, along with Massachusetts senators’ contact information.
Cardinal O’Malley, chairman of the Pro-Life committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the callousness PP shows toward women and their unborn children is shocking to many Americans.
In a statement, he called abortion “a direct attack on human life in its most vulnerable condition” and criticized fetal organ harvesting, adding that “Both actions fail to respect the humanity and dignity of human life.”
Anne Fox, a Catholic and president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said that the undercover videos put a spotlight on the gruesome nature of abortion. “We have been given the opportunity to show the humanity of the unborn and the inhumanity of abortion,” she said.
Agatha Bodwell of Sandwich, head of Catholic Citizenship, agreed, “The truth about this organization is finally seeing the light of day.”
On July 28, Students for Life America organized rallies in 64 cities, including Boston, calling for investigations and defunding of PP. They noted that previous undercover videos have caught PP employees covering up the sexual abuse of minors and teaching sex traffickers how to continue breaking the law.
Scott Schaeffer-Duffy of Catholic Worker in Worcester said to the Boston crowd, “It isn’t easy to love the unseen child in the womb.” He added that failure to do so can lead to devaluing, then dehumanizing and finally demonizing them. Once that happens, it becomes easier to violate their right to life and even exploit them for profit.