Planned Parenthood on Thursday gave congressional leaders and a committee that is investigating allegations of criminality at its clinics an analysis it commissioned concluding that “manipulation” of undercover videos by abortion opponents make those recordings unreliable for any official inquiry.
“A thorough review of these videos in consultation with qualified experts found that they do not present a complete or accurate record of the events they purport to depict,” said the analysis of a private research company.
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, underscored that message in a cover letter to the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker John A. Boehner, both Republicans, and to Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leaders.
With Boehner’s urging, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in July opened an investigation of Planned Parenthood after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, began posting online secretly recorded videos that the center says show Planned Parenthood affiliates illegally profit from selling tissue from aborted fetuses to researchers and, in some late-term abortions, prevent a possible live birth.
Planned Parenthood denies the charges and says that the videos were deceptively and misleadingly edited.
The analysis was by Fusion GPS, a Washington-based research and corporate intelligence company, and its co-founder Glenn Simpson, a former investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
The videos, recorded by two activists posing as representatives of a biotechnology firm procuring tissue for researchers and universities, continue to be released online about once a week. One of the activists, David Daleiden of California, told The New York Times last month that his “thousands of hours of videotape” was enough to release videos into the fall. That will coincide with Congress’s final budget debate, and the videos have stoked growing Republican threats of a government shutdown unless Planned Parenthood is stripped of about $500 million it gets annually, mostly to care for low-income Medicaid patients. By law, public funds cannot pay for abortions.
The analysis commissioned by Planned Parenthood cover the first four videos and transcripts from the Center for Medical Progress, which were recorded in California, Colorado and Texas. Several have been released since with footage repeated from earlier videos, though the most recent ones focus not on Planned Parenthood but on a company, StemExpress, that procures fetal and human tissue globally for research.
The reviewers looked at both shorter, edited videos that are about eight minutes to 15 minutes long and what Mr. Daleiden said were full-length recordings, some more than two hours long, that he released simultaneously.
A transcription service was hired to transcribe the videos, without being told that Planned Parenthood was the client, to compare with transcripts publicized by the anti-abortion group. That comparison, the analysis said, showed “substantive omissions” from the group’s version. Mr. Simpson was assisted in the analysis by several others including a video forensics expert, Grant Fredericks, and a television producer, Scott Goldie.
According to the investigation, the reviewers could not determine “the extent to which C.M.P.s undisclosed edits and cuts distort the meaning of the encounters the videos purport to document.”
But, it said, “the manipulation of the videos does mean they have no evidentiary value in a legal context and cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries” unless C.M.P. provides investigators with its original material, and that material is independently authenticated as unaltered.
For example, Fredericks said recordings in Houston and Denver were each missing about 30 minutes of video, judging from time stamps and frame counters on the recordings.
The analysis also supported Planned Parenthood’s objection to two allegations that have elicited some of the most outrage from anti-abortion forces, disputing that Planned Parenthood staffers at one point say of fetal remains, “It’s a baby,” and in a second instance, “another boy.”