Vox Writer’s Admission: ‘I Watched All 12 Hours of the Unedited Planned Parenthood Videos. Here’s What I Learned’

A main sticking point in the debate surrounding the series of undercover Planned Parenthood videos released over the last several weeks — at least from advocates for the agency — has been that the videos purportedly showing discussions concerning the sale of aborted fetal tissue are “heavily edited.”

But alongside that assertion is the fact that the Center for Medical Progress, the anti-abortion group behind the videos, released complete, unedited footage as well — 12 hours of it so far.

Sarah Cliff, a writer at the left-leaning outlet Vox, has covered the controversy over the last month and viewed all of the raw footage for a piece titled, “I watched all 12 hours of the unedited Planned Parenthood videos. Here’s what I learned.

A sign hangs in the offices of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America December 7, 2001 in New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Mario Tama/Getty Images

First off, while she noted that the videos seem to be edited to make Planned Parenthood “look bad,” Cliff added it “doesn’t mean Planned Parenthood didn’t do anything wrong.”

While she said the fake buyers are the ones who “move the discussion toward money” and the Planned Parenthood staffers often talk of medical advancements from fetal tissue research, Cliff noted that “there are also moments that should give supporters of the women’s health provider pause — moments when officials with the group seem to haggle over fetal tissue compensation and appear to make women’s health a secondary priority.”

Cliff said this issue isn’t “any less troublesome when watched in the full video. They are not simply a product of biased editing — and, if anything, the biased editing is making them too easy for Planned Parenthood’s supporters to ignore.”

Adding to this are “problematic” moments in the second video, Cliff said, which include an lunch with Mary Gatter, president of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Directors Council and the medical director for a clinic in Pasadena, California. Cliff observed that while Gatter was “clearly being baited” into a price negotiation, “haggling over price shouldn’t happen if the clinic simply intends to receive reimbursement for costs associated with procuring tissue.”

Then she shared what to her was the most disturbing element about the unedited videos.

It’s not simply whether or not Planned Parenthood makes money from the sale of fetal tissue, but “more damaging,” Cliff said, is the “ethics of changing the abortion procedure to procure better tissue.”

“This is something Planned Parenthood officials talk about more openly than cost, and it’s a difficult ethical issue to think through, even for supporters of abortion rights,” she said. “Is it okay to change a medical procedure in service of something other than the patient’s health? What about changes that don’t alter the odds of success? What about those that make the procedure last a few seconds, maybe a minute, longer?”

In the end, Cliff concluded that the issue wasn’t so much about the sale of fetal tissue or even Planned Parenthood in general.

“But imagine, for a second, that Planned Parenthood came out tomorrow morning and said that the Center for Medical Progress had caused them to reconsider their position, and henceforth, they would no longer participate in fetal tissue research,” Cliff wondered. “Does anyone think Republicans would stop trying to defund Planned Parenthood? Or that the Center for Medical Progress would believe it had won?”

Not a chance, Cliff concluded  — which to her said that above all, the root issue is whether or not abortion is right.

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