Creator Of Manipulated Planned Parenthood Videos Followed Playbook Of Group Whose False Claims On "20/20" Were Debunked By Congress

››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

Deceptively-edited videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) alleging that Planned Parenthood is illegally handling fetal tissue echo claims made 15 years ago by the anti-choice group Life Dynamics, which fell apart under scrutiny. CMP founder David Daleiden has cited a 2000 campaign by Life Dynamics and its leader, Mark Crutcher, as the inspiration behind his own group's smear campaign against Planned Parenthood.

David Daleiden, 26-Year-Old Founder Of Center For Medical Progress, Says He Was Inspired By The Deceptive Anti-Choice Tactics Of Life Dynamics

David Daleiden Is "Founder" And "Project Lead" At The Center for Medical Progress. According to CMP's website, Daleiden not only spearheaded the "Human Capital" investigation that produced a series of deceptively-edited videos attacking Planned Parenthood, he also founded the organization. From the group's website:

David Daleiden is a citizen journalist with nearly a decade of experience in conducting investigative research on the abortion industry. In 2013, David started The Center for Medical Progress as a vehicle through which to pursue sophisticated, in-depth, and scintillating investigative journalism projects pertaining to contemporary bioethical issues.

As Project Lead at CMP, David recently completed the organization's first long-term project, the 30-month-long "Human Capital" investigation documenting Planned Parenthood's illegal sale of body parts from aborted fetuses. [Center for Medical Progress, Accessed 7/15/15]

CMP's Daleiden Credits Work Of Mark Crutcher's Discredited, Anti-Choice Life Dynamics For Inspiring Planned Parenthood Smear Campaign. Daleiden has cited the work of Mark Crutcher's anti-choice organization, Life Dynamics, as the reason for his interest in fetal tissue used for medical research. During a September 15 webcast hosted by 40 Days For Life, Daleiden called Crutcher "my friend" and said he had spoken to him about his work with Life Dynamics. Daleiden described how he became interested in the fetal tissue issue as it relates to Planned Parenthood after learning about Crutcher's "investigative expose" (emphasis added):

DALEIDEN: The last time it was really in the public discourse or public eye was in the year 2000 when my friend Mark Crutcher and his organization Life Dynamics did their own very sophisticated, groundbreaking kind of seminal investigative expose of the practice of harvesting and selling aborted baby parts. That was a three-year long investigation they did in the late 1990s. It's interesting that 15 years ago -- even though all of the information that came out about this subject and about how the body parts were being trafficked -- 15 years ago, the vast majority of the information came from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park, Kansas and yet the then-CEO of Planned Parenthood national, Gloria Feldt, was able to go on [ABC's] 20/20 on national TV and kind of wave her hands and say, "Oh if anybody was ever doing something like this of course it would be horrible, and of course they should be prosecuted." And yet it was Planned Parenthood's own clinics that were doing it. But nobody called her on it. Nobody made Planned Parenthood own that reality. And so it just kind of got lost in the mix. And they were able to get away with it. So I first really found out about some of the details about what had gone on in the previous investigation, previous expose and just kind of the broader history of the exploitation of aborted children and of their body parts about five years ago. It was something that really moved me and shocked me. I had a three-hour long conversation with Mark Crutcher back in 2010 about it. [40 Days For Life, "Stop Baby Parts Trafficking" webcast, 9/15/15, retrieved 9/21/15]

Daleiden Says He Studied How Life Dynamics Created Negative Media Attention Around Planned Parenthood. In an interview with Catholic News Agency published July 22, Daleiden described how he learned from Life Dynamics' example, which included generating bad publicity for Planned Parenthood and paying "an employee of a fetal tissue-collection organization to provide evidence of illegal practices." As the Washington Times reported, Daleiden's "Human Capital" project was inspired by Life Dynamics' own attempt to smear Planned Parenthood 15 years earlier (emphasis added):

In 2013, at the age of 24, Mr. Daleiden founded the CMP to investigate in-depth bioethical issues. "Human Capital" is its first project.

Part of the preparation for the project included studying Life Dynamics' research from 15 years ago. That organization, founded in Texas in 1992 by Mark Crutcher, had paid an employee of a fetal tissue-collection organization to provide evidence of illegal practices at a Planned Parenthood facility in Overland Park, Kan.

The story got the attention of ABC's 20/20 and a congressional investigation was opened. But it soon became politicized and poorly managed, so the issue was dropped.

Mr. Daleiden said that became a learning experience for the "Human Capital" investigation. "There was plenty of evidence, but because they [Life Dynamics] went after the middleman and the investigation fell apart, Planned Parenthood got away." [Washington Times7/22/15]

Priests For Life Praised Mark Crutcher For Advising David Daleiden. Rev. Frank Pavone, executive director of the anti-choice group Priests for Life, told LifeSitesNews on July 23 that anti-choice activists  -- including Operation Rescue President Troy Newman and Life Dynamics' Mark Crutcher -- were providing "strategic input, guidance, and advice" to the Center for Medical Progress. Newman is a member of the Center for Medical Progress' board of directors. From LifeSitesNews (emphasis added):

[Rev. Frank] Pavone praised pro-life activists such as Operation Rescue president Troy Newman and Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher for helping the exposé along, giving "strategic input, guidance, and advice." Pavone highlighted the hard work of lead investigator David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress for going undercover to film meetings with high profile Planned Parenthood employees and attending numerous Planned Parenthood conferences. [LifeSitesNews, 7/23/15]

In 2000, ABC's 20/20 Interviewed The Man Whom Life Dynamics Claimed Witnessed Illegal Fetal Tissue Donation

20/20 Broadcast Medical Technician's Claims About Illegal Sale And Collection Without Consent Of Fetal Tissue. A March 8, 2000 broadcast of ABC's 20/20 featured a segment by Chris Wallace that included an interview with a medical technician named Lawrence Dean Alberty, who claimed that he knew that fetal tissue was being sold for a profit and sometimes taken without consent. From the Nexis transcript of the broadcast (emphasis added):

WALLACE: (VO) 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. 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.

Mr. DEAN ALBERTY: This is purely for profit. Everything was about money.

WALLACE: (VO) Dean Alberty worked for two companies that acted as middle men, getting the fetuses from abortion clinics and shipping tissue to researchers.

Mr. ALBERTY: When I got the fetus, I'd already have a checklist telling me what specific organs they were looking for.

WALLACE: (VO) The law allows tissue companies to recover their costs. This government agency charges $100 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: Is there any way to justify these prices?

Mr. ALBERTY: No. There is not.

WALLACE: So what does this price represent?

Mr. ALBERTY: That represents greed.

[...]

WALLACE: (VO) 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.

Mr. ALBERTY: [Dr. Miles Jones] 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: And did you do it?

Mr. ALBERTY: Yes I did. [ABC, 20/20, 3/8/00, via Nexis]

But Life Dynamics' Claims About Tissue Sales Fell Apart During Congressional Investigation That Discovered Its Star Witness Had Lied

Salon: 20/20 Report Led To A Congressional Investigation That "Floundered When The Star Witness, A Medical Technician, Admitted Under Oath That He'd Lied On Camera To '20/20.'" During the congressional investigation that was sparked by the 20/20 report, a sworn affidavit Alberty had given months earlier in a legal case involving his previous employer -- tissue donation company Anatomic Gift Foundation - was entered into the record. The affidavit directly contradicted what Alberty had said on air during the 20/20 broadcast. As a result, Salon reported, "'By the end of the hearing, even the legislators who were opposed to choice said that Life Dynamics had no credibility,'" according to Vicky Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation.

Life Dynamics is the same group that in the late '90s promoted the myth that abortion providers illicitly traffic in the sale of fetal tissue. In March 2000, sparked by a report on "20/20″ that included the Life Dynamics claim, Congress launched an investigation of the supposed traffic. But the inquiry floundered when the star witness, a medical technician, admitted under oath that he'd lied on camera to "20/20″ about witnessing fetal tissue smuggling and that he had been paid more than $20,000 by Life Dynamics. "By the end of the hearing, even the legislators who were opposed to choice said that Life Dynamics had no credibility," says Vicky Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation. [Salon.com, 11/4/06]

In His Sworn Affidavit, Alberty Denied Having "Personal Knowledge" Of The Illegal Acts He Told 20/20 He Had Seen. The affidavit that destroyed the credibility of Life Dynamics' star witness in the congressional investigation was unequivocal. Not only had Alberty testified under oath that he knew "of no instances" of a violation of fetal tissue donation law, he strongly suggested that Life Dynamics had edited the footage of their anti-choice videos in a deceptive manner. From Alberty's affidavit (emphasis added):

1. Since 1993, I have worked for several organizations obtaining tissue for use in medical research and treatment. From 1995-99, my work included obtaining fetal tissue at clinics that provided medical services including abortion services.

[...]

2. In 1997, I contacted Life Dynamics Inc. to inform them of certain events that I observed while retrieving fetal tissue at a clinic whose services included abortions. I spoke with Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics, and I agreed to allow Life Dynamics to videotape an interview with me. To protect my anonymity, I wore a wig during the videotaping session and went by the name "Kelly." Life Dynamics placed the camera behind me, and they digitized my voice. The videotape session lasted approximately 5 hours.

3. I have seen a very small part of the edited, 14-minute excerpt of that tape, which I understand that Life Dynamics is circulating. Life Dynamics may have changed some of my answers and it is possible that Life Dynamics substituted another person in my place during portions of the videotape as it has been circulated. Based on the small portion of the videotape that I have seen, I do not know if the videotape is reliable or correct. I am providing this affidavit to clarify what I know about the subjects discussed in the interview.

4. I am generally familiar with the state and federal laws that limit the ability to charge of fees for tissue procurement. I have no personal knowledge of any instances in which an employer of mine charged any fees or received compensation for re retrieving fetal tissue in violation of any of these laws.

[...]

6. I know of no instances in which a doctor was asked or otherwise decided to perform a different type of abortion procedure solely for the purposes of obtaining fetal tissue. [Federal News Service, 3/9/00, via Nexis]

During House Investigation, Life Dynamics' Witness Alberty Told Committee His Affidavit Was Truthful. During the congressional hearing into the 20/20 report at which Alberty testified, Alberty told lawmakers his affidavit was "the truth," not what he told 20/20. From the National Journal (emphasis added):

The hearing of the House Commerce Health and Environment Subcommittee was called the day after the ABC newsmagazine "20/20" ran a report alleging illegal sale of fetal tissue for research by two companies, Opening Lines and the Anatomical Gift Foundation.

The 1993 law allowing federal funding of fetal research stipulates that such tissue cannot be sold at a profit. The subcommittee has been investigating since November.

[...]

But Dean Alberty, who worked for both firms and who also appeared in the "20/20" story, did show up. Democrats had resisted having him appear because he was paid by an anti-abortion group to make a videotape alleging a variety of abuses--including first-hand knowledge of the illegal for-profit sale of fetal tissue, as well as witnessing 30-40 third trimester abortions weekly.

But early in Thursday's hearing, Democrats introduced as evidence a sworn affidavit from Alberty in which he said he had "no personal knowledge of any instances in which an employer of mine charged any fees or received any compensation for retrieving fetal tissue in violation of any of these laws," and that "I am not a physician and am not qualified to make medical judgments about fetal viability."

Asked by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., about the discrepancies between the videotape and his affidavit, Alberty responded: "Right. I would go by the affidavit. When I was under oath, I told the truth. Anything I said on a videotape not under oath is a different story."
[National Journal, 3/10/00, via Nexis]

FBI Subsequently Cleared Kansas Clinic Smeared By Life Dynamics Of Wrongdoing. Following the airing of the 20/20 segment, the Kansas City FBI investigated Alberty and Life Dynamics' claims that a local Planned Parenthood clinic had illegally profited from the sale of fetal tissue. In September 2001, Jim Flory, the U.S. attorney for Kansas, told the Kansas City Star that the investigation was concluded after it was "determined there was no violation of federal statutes." From the Topeka Capital Journal (emphasis added):

An FBI investigation into fetal tissue removal and marketing at a suburban Kansas City clinic that performs abortions has ended with no evidence that any laws were broken, officials said.

The FBI in Kansas City was investigating whether independent contractors at an Overland Park, Kan., clinic affiliated with Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri illegally profited from fetal tissue. Fetal tissue and organs are used for medical research but can't be sold at a profit.

Jim Flory, acting U.S. Attorney for Kansas, told The Kansas City Star on Friday that authorities, "after thorough review of the issue, determined there was no violation of federal statutes." Flory added, "The matter has been closed."

The investigation began in March 2000, after Dr. Miles Jones of Lee's Summit, Mo., was summoned to appear before the House Commerce health and environment subcommittee. Lawmakers wanted to question the pathologist about comments he made before a hidden camera on an episode of ABC's "20/20" about the profitability of selling fetal tissue.

[...]

Planned Parenthood wasn't accused of breaking the law. [Topeka Capital Journal, 9/2/01]

In 2015, As In 2000, Official Investigations Have Cleared Abortion Providers And Credibility Of Accuser's Star Witness Has Been Challenged

Growing List Of Official Investigations Into Planned Parenthood Has Found Zero Wrongdoing.The deceptively-edited, secretly-recorded videos released by CMP have spurred at least 11 states and the federal government to launch investigations into Planned Parenthood's operations, even though there are "only three states in which Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics can participate in fetal tissue donation programs," according to Yahoo News. Five states -- Massachusetts, Indiana, South Dakota, Georgia, Pennsylvania -- and the Department of Health and Human Services have all announced that they found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood or known violations of federal fetal tissue laws. [Media Matters, 8/24/15]

The Credibility Of Medical Technician In Center For Medical Progress' Videos Has Been Challenged By Former Employer. Stem Express, the fetal tissue procurement company accused of illegal activity in the CMP videos by former employee Holly O'Donnell, claims the medical technician's claims are false. From an article in Jezebel (emphasis added):

Ms. O'Donnell was a 1099 independent contractor, subject to written confidentiality restrictions and Code of Conduct agreements which she signed and which she has violated by stealing confidential documents from StemExpress and disclosing them to CMP. Contrary to her assertions, Ms. O'Donnell responded to and applied for a contract opening as a procurement technician. She was contracted only after interviewing for that specific position. Her other representations in the video are also false. Ms. O'Donnell's resignation letter states she was thankful for the opportunities and experience she received from the company and expressed regret she was leaving. She further stated that due to financial difficulties and lack of opportunities for work with StemExpress, she must seek out other employment to provide herself more financial stability. In other words, she was not earning enough money as a StemExpress procurement technician. She worked for StemExpress from Dec. '12 thru April '13. [Jezebel, 8/12/15, via Media Matters

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Person
Chris Wallace, David Daleiden
Show/Publication
20/20
Stories/Interests
Planned Parenthood, Center For Medical Progress
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.