Planned Parenthood and its defenders have constantly played up that the recent undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress were "highly-edited," and that producers are "not journalists," but "violent extremists." However, one of the Big Three networks aired their own segment on biomedical firms possibly breaking the law to obtain organs from unborn babies. In 2000, Chris Wallace, then with ABC, revealed on 20/20 that a "hidden camera investigation has found a thriving industry, in which aborted fetuses women donate to help medical research are being marketed for hundreds – even thousands of dollars." [video above the full transcript]
The main target of the ABC investigation, Dr. Miles Jones, "over lobster bisque and roast duck...explained the business of selling human fetuses" – echoing the first Center for Medical Progress video, where Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical service, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, ate a salad and sipped on wine while discussed the sale of fetal body parts. The network's report also included a clip from the then-president of the abortion organization, Gloria Feldt, who contended that businesses such as Dr. Jones's were "totally inappropriate. Where there is wrongdoing, it should be prosecuted; and people who are doing that kind of thing should be brought to justice."
It should be pointed out that back in 2000, National Right to Life reported that Planned Parenthood actually "supported the harvesting of baby parts for research and had at least one clinic that helped supply aborted babies to firms featured in Wallace's 20/20 report" – a detail that the Federalist's Denise C. McAllister pointed out in a July 15, 2015 item. A July 2008 report by CNS News (a division of the Media Research Center) confirmed that Dr. Jones's firm "held a contract with Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri to dispose of the clinic's fetal tissue."
Wallace, who is now with Fox News (and mentioned his 2000 report on the July 19, 2015 edition of Fox News Sunday), began his segment with the account of Cindy Smith, who donated the bodies of her unborn twins after they were gravely affected by her radiation treatment for cancer. The bodies ended up in the hands of Dr. Jones, who "would be making money off her twins."
The correspondent ran several extended clips from their hidden camera footage, where two producers met up with Dr. Jones over dinner. The pathologist, who ultimately went to prison for tax evasion and died in 2013, revealed that average fetal tissue sample or organ cost his firm, Opening Lines, "just $50, plus overhead – but that he charges an average of $250. The law only talks about recovering costs. But on a single fetus, Jones said he can make $2,500."
Wallace also turned to bioethicist Arthur Caplan, who viewed the undercover footage and denounced Dr. Jones's "trading in body parts." Caplan underlined that "it's flat-out buying and selling, It's flat-out profiteering. It's flat-out saying, 'I'm going to charge you whatever you're going to pay me.'"
At one point in the footage, Dr. Jones also blatantly referred to his operation as a "golden goose," adding that "you can certainly keep it well-fed, and it will lay lots of eggs for you." Caplan blasted the physician for being "blatant – 'I'm going to get the maximum value out of mining a fetus'...it's shocking."
Besides the hidden camera video, the journalist featured two whistleblowers: Dean Alberty, who used to work for Opening Lines and the Anatomic Gift Foundation (AGF), another firm that obtained organs from aborted babies (and later served as an informant for the pro-life group Life Dynamics); and Ross Capps, who also worked for AGF. Alberty revealed that "abortions were altered to get better tissue" – something that Planned Parenthood officials also admitted to in the Center for Medical Progress videos. He cited how a "clinic in Overland Park, Kansas normally did early abortions with a suction machine. But when the fetus was being donated....[a] special syringe was used – which experts say puts women through longer, more uncomfortable abortions."
Capps corroborated Alberty's account by confirming that "women donating fetuses were given different abortions," and that AGF even supplied the "special" syringes for the procedure. Wallace interviewed James Bartly of AGF, who admitted that his firm did indeed provide the syringes, but punted on admitting that the abortion procedures were altered to preserve the babies' organs and/or tissues.
The full transcript of Chris Wallace's report from the March 8, 2000 edition of ABC's 20/20:
CONNIE CHUNG: Now, a story we guarantee most of you have never heard before. The subject is highly charged and controversial. Behind the scenes of some promising medical research, big money is being made from the sale of fetal body parts.
Chief correspondent Chris Wallace has been investigating this story. Chris?
CHRIS WALLACE: Connie, our hidden camera investigation has found evidence that some businessmen are trafficking in fetuses. One has even put out a price list. And there are claims that some are selling fetuses that women have not even given for research. Here's what can happen, when something that is supposed to be used to spur medical breakthroughs, is used instead to make money.
WALLACE (voice-over) It's a moment too painful to imagine: after getting radiation treatments for cancer, Cindy Smith – a mother of five – learned she was pregnant with twins.
CINDY SMITH: They basically told me that my children were dying inside me; that I was the only thing keeping them living.
WALLACE: Cindy decided to end her pregnancy. She says her only comfort came from signing this consent form – giving the fetuses to medical researchers looking into cures for terrible diseases.
SMITH: What I wanted to do was – was make something positive out of a horrible situation.
WALLACE: What she didn't know is that this man would be making money off her twins.
DR. MILES JONES, OPENING LINES: If you have a guy that's desperate for – let's say, a heart – then he'll pay you whatever you ask.
WALLACE: His name is Dr. Miles Jones, and he says he can make big bucks selling human fetuses to researchers.
JONES: Let's say someone needs feet. Feet are real common. They're – they're not hard to get.
WALLACE: A 20/20 hidden camera investigation has found a thriving industry, in which aborted fetuses women donate to help medical research are being marketed for hundreds – even thousands of dollars.
We showed what we found undercover to Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics.
ARTHUR CAPLAN, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: That's trading in body parts. There's no doubt about it.
WALLACE (on-camera): Turning human fetuses into a commodity?
CAPLAN: Into a product.
WALLACE (voice-over): There's a demand for fetal tissue, because doctors believe it may be the key to medical breakthroughs – cures for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease; diabetes and other illnesses. Some researchers use fetal cells; others need whole organs or limbs.
WALLCE (on-camera): But no one on either side of the abortion debate wants fetal research to become an incentive for abortions – so laws have been passed to draw a clear line. A woman must decide to have an abortion before she's approached to donate the fetus; abortions can't be altered to get better specimens; and above all, tissue can't be sold for profit. Despite all that, some businessmen have slipped in and turned human fetuses into dollars.
DEAN ALBERTY: This is purely for profit. Everything was about money.
WALLACE: Dean Alberty worked for two companies that acted as middle men – getting the fetuses from abortion clinics and shipping tissue to researchers.
ALBERTY: When I got the fetus, I'd already have a checklist telling me what specific organs they were looking for.
WALLACE: The law allows tissue companies to recover their costs. This government agency charges a hundred dollars per shipment. But take a look at what one private company is demanding: Opening Lines put out this price list – $325 for a spinal cord; $550 for a reproductive organ; $999 for a brain. Alberty says he helped put together the price list.
WALLACE (on-camera): Is there any way to justify these prices?
ALBERTY: No, there is not.
WALLACE: So what does this price represent?
ALBERTY: That represents greed.
WALLACE (voice-over): Who runs Opening Lines? Dr. Miles Jones, the Missouri pathologist whose company handled Cindy's fetuses. Last year, Jones not only mailed out the price list, but also this brochure.
WALLACE (on-camera): 'Fresh fetal tissue harvested and shipped to your specifications where and when you need it.'
ALBERTY: That's correct.
DR. JONES: Pleased to meet you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE PRODUCER: Nice to meet you.
WALLACE (voice-over): We wanted to find out for ourselves how these companies do business. So, posing as a prospective investor, a 20/20 producer met with Dr. Jones, who wanted to talk over dinner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PRODUCER: What does a brain go for? What does a kidney or liver go for?
DR. JONES: It's market force. It's, what can you sell it for?
WALLACE: Over lobster bisque and roast duck, Dr. Jones explained the business of selling human fetuses.
DR. JONES: We had projections of $50,000 a week. And you know, some weeks you can hit that, and some weeks you can't. It's just a matter of being able to match supply and demand.
WALLACE: Dr. Jones said the average specimen costs him just $50, plus overhead – but that he charges an average of $250. The law only talks about recovering costs. But on a single fetus, Jones said he can make $2,500.
DR. JONES: That one fetus – the cost of procuring it is the same – whether you get one kidney or you get two kidneys; a lung; a brain; a heart. It's the same cost that you've put into it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PRODUCER: But you keep charging?
DR. JONES: Each researcher gets charged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PRODUCER: And each time, that's just money in the bank?
DR. JONES: Mmm-hmm.
CAPLAN: It's flat-out buying and selling, It's flat-out profiteering. It's flat-out saying, 'I'm going to charge you whatever you're going to pay me.'
DR. JONES: You can't kill the golden goose. But you can certainly keep it well-fed, and it will lay lots of eggs for you.
WALLACE (on-camera): A human fetus as a 'golden goose.' I know you've been studying this business a long time, but does that shock even you?
CAPLAN: That kind of blatant – 'I'm going to get the maximum value out of mining a fetus,' is – is – it's shocking.
SMITH: Just from a human standpoint, that – that's horrific.
WALLACE (voice-over): When we told Cindy Smith about Dr. Jones, she also was upset.
SMITH: I did not donate that thinking ever that someone was going to profit. And that just really bothers me, because that's not what I intended at all.
WALLACE: Alberty says some tissue companies went even further to boost their revenue. He says both companies he worked for – Opening Lines; and this firm, Anatomic Gift Foundation, or AGF – pressured him to get as much tissue as possible; and at times, even told him to take it from fetuses women had not donated for research.
ALBERTY: Miles told me, if they're not looking; they're not looking. Why don't you grab that pancreas? Even though it wasn't consented for.
WALLACE (on-camera): And did you do it?
ALBERTY: Yes, I did.
WALLACE (voice-over): That's not all. Alberty alleges that abortions were altered to get better tissue. He says this clinic in Overland Park, Kansas normally did early abortions with a suction machine. But when the fetus was being donated, he says this special syringe was used – which experts say puts women through longer, more uncomfortable abortions. Where did the clinic get the syringes?
WALLACE (off-camera): AGF was supplying these special syringes to the clinics?
ROSS CAPPS: That's correct.
WALLACE (voice-over): Ross Capps also worked for AGF. He and nurses, who worked at the clinic, confirm that women donating fetuses were given different abortions.
WALLACE (on-camera): If the woman didn't consent, they wouldn't use the special syringe?
CAPPS: No. They only used the special syringe if they knew I wanted the specimen.
WALLACE (voice-over): Again, the law says abortions can't be altered to get tissue. Alberty – who says he was originally pro-choice – was finally so disturbed by what he saw that he contacted Life Dynamics, a Texas pro-life group that paid him $10,000 to be an informant, while he continued to work in the tissue business. But Alberty denies making up stories to push a political agenda.
WALLACE (on-camera): Why should people believe you? Why shouldn't we believe that there are just some things that you've said that are part of this movement?
ALBERTY: I will stand behind my words until I die. I will go in front of Congress, if I have to, and testify under oath.
WALLACE (voice-over): But Alberty's allegations are only part of the story. Some of the most troubling evidence we found came from our undercover conversation with Dr. Jones. Here he explains how easy it is to talk a woman into donating a fetus.
JONES: You can do something that's got all the legal mumbo-jumbo in it, and they'll sign it anyway. If you have someone trained to ask properly, you can get 80 – 90-percent consent rates.
WALLACE: His dream, he said, is to run his own clinic in Mexico, where he could get a greater supply of fetal tissue by offering cheaper abortions.
DR. JONES: If you can control the flow, it's probably the equivalent of the invention of the assembly line.
WALLACE: We showed Dr. Jones' comments to Congressman Thomas Bliley, chairman of the House Commerce Committee.
REP. THOMAS BLILEY: Terrible – just absolutely terrible.
WALLACE: After hearing allegations of the illegal activity, Bliley's committee is now investigating four companies – and he says has found evidence that tissue is being sold for profit.
BLILEY: We are interested that the people who do this recover their legitimate costs. It appears that it's more than that – that it comes down to trafficking in tissue parts – in body parts.
WALLACE: Bliley is pro-life, but even the most ardent pro-choice advocates – like Planned Parenthood president, Gloria Feldt – are disturbed by what we found.
GLORIA FELDT, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: It seems inappropriate – totally inappropriate. Where there is wrongdoing, it should be prosecuted; and people who are doing that kind of – of thing should be – should be brought to justice.
WALLACE: We wanted to talk with some of these fetal tissue businessmen. When we called Dr. Jones for an interview, he hung up on us. But James Bartsly of AGF said his non-profit company recently got out of the business. He maintained his fees, which were lower than Jones', were reasonable, and that AGF never asked anyone to take tissue without consent. And he suggested Alberty is angry because AGF sued him over a business dispute.
WALLACE (on-camera): Did AGF ever encourage doctors to alter the way they did abortions to get specimens?
JAMES BARTSLY, ANATOMIC GIFT FOUNDATION: No – absolutely not. First of all, that would be illegal.
WALLACE (voice-over): But wasn't AGF supplying those special syringes to get better tissue?
BARTSLY: Yeah. That's – that's – that's – that's the logical conclusion that you would draw. I don't believe that was altering the abortion technique.
WALLACE (on-camera): Doesn't this special syringe add as much as 15 minutes to the length of the abortion?
BARTSLY: I don't know.
WALLACE: Oh, sure you did.
BARTSLY: In some cases – perhaps. It takes longer.
WALLACE (voice-over): Bartsly later sent us this letter – saying the Kansas clinic already used syringes, and that AGF provided special ones just to keep tissue sterile. The clinic finally severed its ties with AGF; and later, Opening Lines. But that came too late for Cindy Smith. All she thinks about is what happened to her twins.
SMITH: It's just wrong for someone to be making money off the dead. I didn't want somebody to profit off of my heartache. It makes me almost feel like the one good thing I did really wasn't that good after all.
WALLACE (on-camera): Tomorrow, a congressional subcommittee will hold a hearing on fetal tissue trafficking. And Dean Alberty, the whistleblower from inside the business, will be the star witness. As for Dr. Miles Jones, he's been subpoenaed to testify, but has not responded. Investigators say if he fails to show up, Jones could be held in contempt of Congress. Charlie?
CHARLES GIBSON: Chris, if there are laws on the books on this subject, why is it still going on? Why hasn't something been done?
WALLACE: It's a question we kept asking in this investigation. We couldn't find anyone in the federal government enforcing those laws – which is why tomorrow's hearing is such an important first step.
GIBSON: All right, Chris Wallace thank you very much.