A story has shown up on my news feed claiming "breaking news" that Planned Parenthood harvests organs from late-term abortions.

link to blog

This is probably the most gut-wrenching story I have ever had to report on in my eight years of pro-life advocacy. It is not for anyone with a weak stomach. If you choose not to read any further, know that it is worse than you think.

A three-year undercover investigation by the Center for Medical Progress reveals that Planned Parenthood is selling organs from late-term babies to medical researchers. And to get the best "product" possible, Planned Parenthood abortionists are putting targeted unborn children in a breech position—the hallmark of the illegal partial-birth abortion method.

Back when partial-birth abortion was front and center in the right-to-life debate, abortion advocates swore that the method could in some cases be the safest for women. But it's not women's needs that are dictating the method; it's medical research companies' needs. These organs are pre-ordered, and it is not until later that Planned Parenthood sells the abortions and kills the children for their parts.

A google search reveals other sites claiming the same, but all of them seem pro-life biased. The original source is unclear to me; the blog above claims a study by the "center for medical progress", which google reveals is run by a conservative think-tank, the Manhattan Institute.

So, does planned parenthood harvest the organs of fetuses? Is this only done for those who request that the organs be donated?

  • 5
    a source that also has an official response from Planned Parenthood is here: nationalreview.com/article/421164/…
    – DavePhD
    Jul 14, 2015 at 19:52
  • 1
    Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/27442/… . While Planned Parenthood admitted to receiving money for fetal tissue, this is no different to the Red Cross receiving money for blood. The original claim still has multiple unverified issues, which should be covered in an answer.
    – March Ho
    Jul 15, 2015 at 8:16
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    @MarchHo - I don't think this question has to do with the ethics of the situation; there's no need to compare it to selling blood, which is only an opinion. Jul 16, 2015 at 2:31
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    Snopes has a really detailed breakdown up now: m.snopes.com/pp-baby-parts-sale No conclusion as yet, but lots of good sources and a discussion of why the original report may not be creditable. Jul 16, 2015 at 14:03
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    @MarchHo if they do it without the consent of the parents, it's definitely another situation entirely.
    – jwenting
    Jul 17, 2015 at 6:16

2 Answers 2


The OP asks 3 questions, 2 in the body plus the title question.

does planned parenthood harvest the organs of fetuses?


According to Deborah Nucatola, MD, Senior Director of Medical Services, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (all quotes taken from the following transcript):

we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact. And with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex, because when it’s vertex presentation, you never have enough dilation at the beginning of the case, unless you have real, huge amount of dilation to deliver an intact calvarium. So if you do it starting from the breech presentation, there’s dilation that happens as the case goes on, and often, the last, you can evacuate an intact calvarium at the end.

The second question is:

Is this only done for those who request that the organs be donated?

This question doesn't correspond to any claim in the OP, so I'm not answering it.

And finally:

Does Planned Parenthood sell the organs of late-term fetuses?

Deborah Nucatola explains that the goal is not for Planned Parenthood clinics to make a profit by selling the organs. They do charge money for the organs, in the range of $30-100 per specimen.

They just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as, ‘This clinic is selling tissue, this clinic is making money off of this.’ I know in the Planned Parenthood world they’re very very sensitive to that. And before an affiliate is gonna do that, they need to, obviously, they’re not—some might do it for free—but they want to come to a number that doesn’t look like they’re making money. They want to come to a number that looks like it is a reasonable number for the effort that is allotted on their part....You know, I would throw a number out, I would say it’s probably anywhere from $30 to $100, depending on the facility and what’s involved. It just has to do with space issues, are you sending someone there who’s going to be doing everything, is there shipping involved, is somebody gonna have to take it out. You know, I think everybody just wants, it’s really just about if anyone were ever to ask them, “What do you do for this $60? How can you justify that? Or are you basically just doing something completely egregious, that you should be doing for free.” So it just needs to be justifiable. And, look, we have 67 affiliates. They all have different practice environments, different staff, and so that number...


affiliates are looking to benefit in very different ways than just dollars and cents. I mean I get, they’re not going to do it in a way that costs them money. They want to break even, they want to be compensated reasonably for the time and space, whatever impact it has.

She does state at one point "this is not something you should be making an exorbitant amount of money on", which makes it sound like some profit is ok.

She does also state:

...they want to break even. And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that.

So, summarizing, she is mainly saying that the Planned Parenthood clinics don't want to appear to be profiting from selling the organs, but that some are happy to do a little better than break even on the selling of organs.

  • 6
    Is this a definitive answer, or a repeat of the claim? Snopes isn't convinced.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 15, 2015 at 0:10
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    @Oddthinking snopes says no conclusion about whether an "illegal sale" was admitted. The questions here are different and more clearly answerable. Certainly the fact that organs of fetuses are harvested is definitive.
    – DavePhD
    Jul 16, 2015 at 20:00
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    I spent the better part of two hours reading about this, including the Federal Register's account of NIH Guidelines regarding use of fetal tissue in funded research. I agree with it. Money is allowed to change hands to cover expenses. The question is, does Planned Parenthood make a profit from this? That answer isn't in yet, I think. Jul 16, 2015 at 21:12
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    Snopes has deleted their article.
    – March Ho
    Jul 17, 2015 at 14:18
  • @medica I don't think it's appropriate to only consider the guidelines, the law itself has to be considered. law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/289g-2 Not all expenses are permitted to be paid for, only those exceptions listed in (e)(3). For example, Deborah Nucatola repeatedly says they charge for the time it takes the staff to get the patient to consent to the donation. This is not one of the permitted charges listed in (e)(3). Also, for non-fetal donations, it is permitted to charge for "removal" of the organ, but that is not permitted for fetal tissue.
    – DavePhD
    Jul 20, 2015 at 16:13

According to an official statement from Planned Parenthood Vice President of Communications Eric Ferrero (emphasis mine),

At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does -- with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards. There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood. In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.

In fact, even the Center for Medical Progress, the organisation which released the controversial video, has documented the consent forms used by Planned Parenthood clinics, claiming that Planned Parenthood did not disclose the reimbursement of costs from medical research labs/middlemen. It is reasonable to conclude that had Planned Parenthood not obtained appropriate consent, the CFMP, being a pro-life organisation, would be targeting that issue instead. Therefore, we can conclude that in the absence of better evidence, Planned Parenthood did in fact correctly obtain consent for abortion tissue donations.

The CFMP's list of documents also show that Stem Express (a fetal tissue middleman company) paid $50 per fetus from Planned Parenthood's clinics. Advanced Biosciences Resources, another middleman company, charges research labs between $340 to $550 per fetus. In the absence of financial statements, and considering that the Red Cross sells blood at $400 per pint, we can see that the prices are likely to be within the range of covering for the costs of packaging and transporting the fetal material, much like the Red Cross has costs for packaging and transporting blood. Therefore, it is unlikely that Planned Parenthood receives any significant profit from fetal tissue donation.

In any case, the controversial video has sparked a Congressional investigation as well as multiple state investigations, so we will likely receive better sources on this soon.

  • 1
    Eric Ferreo's statement isn't compatible with Deborah Nucatola's statement "if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that"
    – DavePhD
    Jul 17, 2015 at 12:02
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    The "informed consent of donor" statute, 42 USC 289 (g-1)(b) reads in part "no alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy was made solely for the purposes of obtaining the tissue" law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/289g-1 ; so when Deborah Nucatola explains "with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex" she is acknowledging that the informed consent of donor statute is not being followed.
    – DavePhD
    Jul 17, 2015 at 13:50
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    @DavePhD That seems to be a valid point, that the pro-choice side seems to have not covered in their rebuttals to the video. I also noticed that the form by Planned Parenthood says "substantive alteration" while the original law says "alteration".
    – March Ho
    Jul 17, 2015 at 13:59
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    Also, the law for not selling fetal tissue is more strict than the law for organs generally. Specifically, for organs generally, reasonable payment for "removal" of the organ is permitted; whereas for fetal tissue, there is no exemption for "removal". Compare history.nih.gov/research/downloads/PL98-507.pdf at 301(c)(2) to law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/289g-2 at (e)(3)
    – DavePhD
    Jul 17, 2015 at 14:48

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