The Marketing of Aborted Baby Parts

Posted on Wednesday, March 8, 2000 in Reports

20/20 and the Congressional Hearing

In response to information released by Life Dynamics, on March 8, 2000, the ABC News program 20/20 aired a segment about the marketing of body parts from babies killed during abortions. On the following day there was a Congressional hearing on the same issue.

The 20/20 broadcast was a classic Good News / Bad News situation. On one hand, millions of Americans learned that there are people in this world who traffic in the dead bodies of children killed by abortion. On the other hand, because 20/20 was intentionally deceptive in several aspects of this story, the viewer was given a distorted picture.

For example, the 20/20 narrator consistently portrayed the people involved in the trafficking of baby parts as “businessmen” who had “slipped in” to the abortion industry. The subtle message was that these people were outsiders despite the fact that Life Dynamics had provided them with documentation proving that every one of them had links to Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation, or both. It was clear that 20/20 wanted the viewer to perceive that this was not something being done by the abortion industry but by profit-driven infiltrators. The incredible part is that, by the time this report was over, viewers could have easily concluded that the abortion industry was a victim of the baby parts scandal instead of its perpetrator.

Another problem with the 20/20 piece was its fixation with the financial details of the baby parts business. The underlying message seemed to be that chopping up the unborn and selling their parts is not a moral issue until someone makes money off it. It was like suggesting that the problem with the Nazi Holocaust was the environmental impact created by the smoke from the ovens.

Also, whenever the issue of baby parts was being discussed, the image on the screen was of a petri dish containing tiny slivers of unidentifiable white tissue. For all the viewer knew, the parts they were seeing on the screen could have been slices of fish.

After the show, I complained about this to the ABC producer, Kim Skeen. Following some heated discussion, she reluctantly agreed that these visuals did not give an accurate account of what was actually going on. She then said that the network had made a conscious decision that it was not going to broadcast footage of dismembered babies or baggies full of tiny human body parts. I pointed out that neither ABC nor anyone else in the media applies this standard of sensitivity to other issues. The public is constantly bombarded with graphic and disturbing images related to other atrocities, and the most you’ll ever hear is a warning to send small children out of the room. Skeen never responded to this charge except to repeat that ABC was not about to show dead babies or their dismembered bodies on national television. Her attitude was that if this approach created a distorted view of reality, so be it.

Another indefensible part of the 20/20 report was the kid-glove treatment accorded Planned Parenthood president, Gloria Feldt, when she was interviewed on the broadcast. Having recognized the potential public relations nightmare this issue presents, Feldt piously feigned outrage about the baby parts trade and even included an obligatory call for anyone who violates the laws that govern such things to be prosecuted. The problem is, the baby parts trafficking documentation we provided to 20/20 came from a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. However, that fact was never even brought up during the Feldt interview.

When I asked Skeen why Feldt was not confronted with this, she said that Feldt was indeed asked about it but that her superiors at ABC had decided not to air the response. She said they did this to keep the show from looking like a “hit piece” on Planned Parenthood. I then asked her if ABC always shows this sort of sensitivity toward the targets of their investigative reports. For example, if they were exposing a scandal in the auto industry, would they pull punches and intentionally exclude the tough questions in order to keep the show from looking like a “hit piece” on General Motors.

Of course, she would not respond to that but it didn’t really matter. We both knew the answer. This was hardly the first or last time the media has ridden shotgun for Planned Parenthood. You can also be assured that Feldt knew that this is how the game is played long before she ever agreed to the interview. Even a casual observer of the American media recognizes that it reserves its “Gotcha!” journalism for those it does not like, but for its sacred cows it’s “Hear No Evil / See No Evil / Speak No Evil.” And make no mistake; within the American media there are no cows more sacred than Planned Parenthood. That is why Feldt was able to be so totally at ease while lying through her teeth on national television. She was not going to be challenged and she knew it.

The Full 20/20 Broadcast: