Former Planned Parenthood Clinic Director Explains the Tissue Donation Process
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For eight years, Abby Johnson, who used to work for a branch of Planned Parenthood, didn’t just witness the fetal tissue donation process—she participated in it.
During her tenure at a southeast Texas clinic—the same location featured in the fifth undercover video shot by the Center for Medical Progress—Johnson said she would “coerce” women to sign up for studies, then reap the financial benefits.
In 2009, a year after being named “Employee of the Year” at her clinic, Johnson, 35, said she witnessed a doctor performing an abortion on an ultrasound and quit her job.
When a woman walks in for an abortion, what are the first steps?
Nothing is different with her coming in, signing paperwork, all of that is the same. The actual fetal tissue study—the research—is not brought up until she goes into counseling. I’m saying counseling, but it’s really when she goes in to sign all the papers. After she signs the consent form for the abortion, then we would bring up the study.
What would you say?
We would tell the client that we are participating in a study and she has an opportunity today to donate the tissue that’s removed from her uterus to a research laboratory where they will be working on life-saving treatments for various diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other types of medical studies. We would tell her this is an opportunity for her to possibly save the life of someone else by donating this tissue. By creating this altruistic scenario, women would almost always consent and say, “Yes, absolutely.”
Was there a strategy behind the way you phrased that question?
We never discussed, “They may want just a leg, or an arm, or these specific organs.” That would create a sense of humanity in their unborn child. And really, we would even shy away from calling it fetal tissue research because just calling it tissue sanitizes it—the women don’t necessarily think about the body of their baby, they’re just thinking about blood and tissue.
Did Planned Parenthood officials train you on what language to use?
They did. In the fifth video that was released, that was actually my affiliate, where I worked. Missy Ferrell—Melissa, we call her Missy—she was head of the research department when I worked there as well. Anytime we would embark on a research project, someone from the research team would come in and say, “This is what we’re doing, this is how you need to talk to the clients about it.”
Were Planned Parenthood employees told about the “life-saving treatments” they were supposedly collecting tissue for?
We had absolutely no idea what the tissue was going to be used for. We weren’t told that information. We simply had a contract with a research facility, and they said, “Hey, we need to buy specimens from you, how many can you provide? We’ll give you ‘X’ amount of dollars for each specimen you send.”
How much were you compensated?
It depended on how much Planned Parenthood was getting per research participant. For our fetal tissue study, we got paid about $200 per baby that we sent. If I recall correctly, I think the compensation to the staff was about $20 per enrollment. If it was a minor study … one time we did a study where they were testing different kinds of pap brushes … we got about $5 for each patient.
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