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June 28th, 2017

Insight

The casualness of it

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published July 28, 2015

   The casualness of it

There she is, the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood having lunch at a nice restaurant and, between sips of wine, setting the going rate for various fetal body parts. She's a real pro, this Deborah Nucatola, so competent, so relaxed, so chatty. She betrays about as much emotion as someone putting together the next Neiman Marcus catalogue.

"A lot of people want intact hearts these days," she notes, "because they are looking for specific nodes." Then she adds: "Yesterday was the first time she said people wanted lungs. And then, like I said, always as many intact livers as possible." Oh, yes, and "some people want lower extremities, too. I mean that's easy. I don't know what they're doing with it, I guess they want muscle."

It's all there on a videotape without the doctor's knowledge by a pro-life outfit. Dr. Nucatola is caught on the tape as she explains her working relationship with a company called StemExpress, which acts as her go-between when it comes to buying and selling various fetal tissues. ("We assist the medical research community by providing researchers with maternal blood, umbilical cord blood and human gestation tissue for research....")

You can examine an online order form from StemExpress, complete with a pull-down menu for "brain, heart, heart (veins and arteries attached), lungs, liver, liver and thymus, spleen, large intestine" and so on. The form also specifies the "gestational range" from 4 weeks upwards. How convenient. Like ordering take-out. Literally.

So how much is Planned Parenthood asking for the various items on this remarkable menu? "You know, I would throw a number out," Dr. Nucatola replies, "and I would say it's probably anywhere from $30 to $100 (per specimen) depending on the facility and what's involved."

There can be quite a lot involved. Abortionists, she explains, have to make sure all those body parts aren't damaged during the operation, so they use "ultrasound guidance, so they'll know where they're putting their forceps." The abortionist has to be "kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, 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, and I'm gonna crush above, and I'm gonna see if I can get it all intact."

Planned Parenthood does indeed require planning, as Dr. Nucatola seems only too happy, indeed proud, to explain. Because the order she's filling will determine the way the abortion is done. "For example, so I had eight cases yesterday. And I knew exactly what we needed, and I kinda looked at the list and said OK, (these are the cases) that were more probably likely to yield what we needed, and I made my decisions according to that, too, so it's worth having a huddle at the beginning of the day and that's what I do."

You have to admire the doc's cool even while shuddering at her detachment. You might as well be watching a scene from some sci-fi movie like "Soylent Green" (1973), or maybe a Weimaresque classic like Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" (1927). Which would be fitting, since the phrase Lebensunwertes Leben, or life not worth living, was invented to cover all those inferior specimens the regime proposed to abort or euthanize or otherwise get rid of. Now it's become a standard part of American medical practice, too. Welcome to the brave new America, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the old Germany.

As each old ethical line is crossed, as each Thou Shalt Not becomes another Thou Mayest, each such "advance" becomes easier to understand, then accept. Can you believe there was a time when abortion on demand was considered unacceptable, a barbaric assault on the most innocent of us, even a crime? Now we're selling its by-products. At whatever prices the market will bear. Hippocates' ancient dictum -- First Do No Harm -- gave way long ago to the law of supply and demand.

There was a time when we looked down this slippery slope and shuddered. Now we find ourselves looking up. And fewer and fewer of us may shudder.

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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