Right-wing blogs have seized on yet another heavily edited undercover video to attack a progressive organization, this time Planned Parenthood. However, the activists behind the video criticized Planned Parenthood employees for referring to a 10-week-old fetus as a "fetus" and for saying that abortion at that stage of pregnancy is safer than giving birth -- both of which are accurate statements.
Right-wing blogs seize on undercover smear video
Conservative activists release undercover video purporting to show "evidence of counseling abuse at Planned Parenthood." On December 9, Live Action -- an anti-abortion activist group headed by Lila Rose -- released a heavily edited video that the group claimed showed, among other things, Planned Parenthood employees "encouraging the one who is pregnant to obtain an abortion because 'women die having babies.' " A Live Action press release adds:
The counselor then says, "A fetus is what's in the uterus right now. That is not a baby." Dr. Prohaska, the abortion doctor, insists, "It's not a baby at this stage or anything like that." Prohaska also states that having an abortion will be "much safer than having a baby," warning, "You know, women die having babies."
Malkin: "The government-subsidized abortion racket is at it again." In a December 9 blog post, Michelle Malkin linked to the anti-abortion activists' video and wrote: "The government-subsidized abortion racket is at it again -- and undercover journalist Lila Rose and her Live Action team are exposing the Planned Parenthood predators in full effect." Malkin claimed that "[t]he latest investigative video shows doctors and nurses in Appleton, WI advising a young girl that having an abortion is 'much safer than having a baby.' " Malkin added that "[i]f Demcare passes, expect untold millions more of your tax dollars to be shoveled into this kind of abortion-first 'counseling,' " and went on to reprint most of Live Action's press release.
Hot Air: Video "aims to expose manipulation by Planned Parenthood counselors intended to pressure women into having abortions." In a December 9 blog post, Hot Air's Ed Morrissey linked to the video and wrote: "Live Action has a new series of videos that launches today called the Rosa Acuna Project. Their new effort aims to expose manipulation by Planned Parenthood counselors intended to pressure women into having abortions, or at the very least, provide dishonest information to support false rationalizations for the procedure." Morrissey also re-printed portions of Live Action's press release on the video.
Fox Nation: "Planned Parenthood: 'That's Not a Baby Growing Inside of You.' " Fox Nation linked to Morrissey's December 9 blog post with the same headline:
Video is heavily edited and provides little context to employees' remarks
Live Action did not release full video of the visit, and context of the staffers' remarks is impossible to determine. The video shows two women visiting a Wisconsin Planned Parenthood clinic, one of whom says she is 10 weeks pregnant. The video is heavily edited and because of this provides little context to remarks made during the counseling sessions the women have with Planned Parenthood clinic staffers. Further, the video does not make clear what pretext the woman gave for seeking Planned Parenthood's services. Live Action did not release a full video, nor did the group release a full transcript of the visit.
"Fetus" is the medically accurate term for a 10-week old fetus
Planned Parenthood staffers' repeatedly described 10-week-old fetus as a "fetus." Live Action, followed by several right-wing bloggers, have highlighted and criticized the Planned Parenthood staffers' repeated description of a 10-week old fetus as a "fetus." From Live Action's December 9 video:
WOMAN: What's fetal?
COUNSELOR: Fetal is a fetus. That's what's in your uterus right now is a fetus.
WOMAN: What's a fetus?
COUNSELOR: A fetus is what's in the uterus right now. That is not a baby. A baby is what's born at 40 weeks. A fetus is what's in your uterus right now.
WOMAN: Oh, OK.
COUNSELOR: If you're pregnant.
WOMAN: Oh, OK. So when does it become a baby?
WOMAN: Like, what comes out? Is it --
DOCTOR: The pregnancy is going to be removed.
DOCTOR: The placenta and the fetus.
WOMAN: What's a fetus?
DOCTOR: The fetus is the develop -- is the embryo that's developing inside.
WOMAN: OK. What's an embryo?
DOCTOR: Well, that's the pregnancy. That's -- you know, there's something growing inside your uterus and it's called a fetus.
DOCTOR: It's not a baby at this stage or anything like that.
WOMAN: Oh. When does it become a baby?
DOCTOR: When you're like seven months pregnant or so. Six, seven months pregnant.
"Fetus" is the medically accurate term for a 10-week-old fetus. The Merriam-Webster medical dictionary -- available through the website of the National Institutes of Health -- defines "fetus" in terms of human fetal development as follows: "a developing human from usually two months after conception to birth."
Doctor's comments about safety of abortions are accurate
Doctor counseled that abortions at that stage are safer than childbirth. In the video, the woman questions the doctor about how far along in her pregnancy she could have an abortion. The doctor advises her that in Wisconsin "you can have an abortion up to maybe 22 weeks or so. But you don't want to do that" because obtaining an abortion in "the stage you're at now is very, very safe. Safer than having a baby actually." From the video:
DOCTOR: But you don't want to wait because the sooner you do an abortion, the easier it is and the quicker it is.
WOMAN: OK. What's the farthest I can do it?
DOCTOR: Here? Thirteen weeks.
DOCTOR: But in the state here, you can have an abortion up to maybe 22 weeks or so. But you don't want to do that.
DOCTOR: Well, because it's a lot harder for you. It's more expensive, a lot more difficult.
DOCTOR: This is very safe. The stage you're at right now is very, very safe. Safer than having a baby, actually.
DOCTOR: Mmm-hmm. Much safer than having a baby. You know, women die having babies.
WOMAN: Mmm-hmm. Do women die with abortions?
DOCTOR: Yes, but it's never happened to me. And I've been doing them for 40 years. That's a lot of abortions.
WOMAN: Yeah, I trust you.
CDC data show maternal mortality rate from abortions is much lower than from live birth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated in November 2008 that in 2004, "839,226 legal induced abortions" were reported to CDC. The CDC further reported: "In 2004 (the most recent years for which data are available), seven women died as a result of complications from known legal induced abortion." Therefore, the mortality rate for women who died "as a result of complications from known" abortions was less than 1 out of 100,000 legally induced abortions. By contrast, the CDC reported that in 2004, the maternal mortality rate was 11.3 (age-adjusted) or 13.1 (crude or non-age adjusted) per 100,000 live births. This figure includes 540 maternal deaths, 32 of which the CDC identified as a result of pregnancies "with [an] abortive outcome."