Does undercover Planned Parenthood video describe donations or sales?

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The video purporting to show a Planned Parenthood executive casually discussing the body parts of aborted fetuses can be disturbing. (Video Center for Medical Progress)

But is what she's describing the illegal sale of body parts, like the anti-abortion group that produced the video claims, or the legal donation of tissue for research, like Planned Parenthood claims?

"A lot of people want intact hearts these days. ... Yesterday was the first time she said people wanted lungs. ... Always as many intact livers as possible," Planned Parenthood Senior Director of Medical Services Deborah Nucatola said.

In the video, released by anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, Nucatola discusses certain types of fetal tissue and, at one point, throws out a number.

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"I would say it's probably anywhere from $30 to $100 [per specimen], depending on the facility and what's involved," Nucatola said.

CMP called the video proof of a "criminal conspiracy to make money off of aborted baby parts." But Planned Parenthood and its defenders say what she's describing is legal and meets ethical guidelines laid out by health officials.

Planned Parenthood released a statement about the undercover video, saying, "In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases." 

Researchers have used fetal tissue cells to help develop vaccines for hepatitis A, rubella and even rabies. And in stem cell research, fetal tissue cells are more desired than adult cells because the former can be used to treat a wider array of illnesses.

But it's how researchers get the fetal tissue that's key to the legal and ethical concerns. According to the National Institutes of Health, researchers who want to use fetal tissue cannot be involved in the termination of a pregnancy and no profits can be involved in acquiring fetal tissue.

Which brings us back to the video. Nucatola mentions a dollar figure. In today's political climate, it's virtually guaranteed that fact will lead to accusations that Planned Parenthood is profiting from the sale of fetal tissue.

Conservative politicians have issued strong statements condemning Nucatola and Planned Parenthood, and several Republican governors have directed state agencies to investigate the organization.

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