I Watched All Those Planned Parenthood Videos So You Don’t Have To (If You Don’t Want To)

I don’t usually get political on here, but this is too much for a Facebook post.

On Facebook, I have managed to cultivate an open dialogue that rarely sinks to name calling, finger pointing, or out and out stupidity.  From where I’m sitting, while many people wonder why I post about so many hot button issues, I find the conversation stimulating and welcome from all sides of the ideological spectrum (which despite our national crisis of two parties, is closer to how people actually feel).


*Deep breath.*

If you’ve had an abortion (and I’m *not* asking you if you have), you probably don’t want to read this post. Not because I’m judging you. I’m not. Not because I’m going to put you down, call you names, or say the whole practice is immoral. Just. . . You will probably take what I’m about to write a lot harder.

And if you are one of millions of Americans who simply doesn’t want to know anything about abortions, you should stop reading it too. I realize that the messenger gets shot more often than not, especially in a culture where it’s easier to simply let Planned Parenthood’s press releases be the last word on the subject. I get it. It’s easier to simply place your trust into a political ideology than it is to look into something this difficult yourself.

*Another deep breath.*

babyHere’s a picture of an adorable baby.


For those of you still with me – and I’m probably just preaching to the choir here, but. . . Let’s start off with a bit of a review.


The Planned Parenthood videos started with a highly editorial piece that was the result of a series of hidden camera recordings from the very Pro-Life group, The Center for Medical Progress.  Their reputation is somewhat dubious as they have a perceived agenda of simply trying to discredit Planned Parenthood, and the implied belief is that they will lie, cheat, and steal to make a point.  With that in mind, the content of the video, which screamed of inappropriate behavior to those with a Pro-Life belief system, screamed of trick editing to the Pro-Choice side.

The video’s message was clear:  Planned Parenthood is selling the organs of the fetuses they are aborting

Screenshot from video released by the Center for Medical Progress showing Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola as she describes how Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted unborn children and admitting she uses partial-birth abortions to supply intact body parts. (Courtesy of Center for Medical Progress)

And I’ve been told *my* choices of dinner conversation were inappropriate.


The second video was an almost three hour straight shot of Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, that was featured in the highly edited version.  This gives fuller context, if not over-reaching context, to that dialogue.  In that video, we learn that the procedure most commonly known as “partial birth abortions” are being practiced in order to obtain higher quality organs.  While this procedure is illegal, the woman in the video makes the claim that they can interpret the law differently.  By focusing in on four words from the law (“intent from the offset”), the doctor can simply say that they hadn’t originally planned to perform that procedure, that plans changed as the case progressed.

Now, for those of you who have stuck around and do not know, this is how a partial birth abortion is performed:

PBA-original-diagramsFull disclosure:  This image *is* from a Pro-Life group.  I would have used an actual photograph of the procedure, but while you can type virtually any kind of surgery into a Google search and come up with actual images of that, there are zero pictures of the procedure that aren’t drawings from a Pro-Life group.  Read that how you will.

And here’s another cute baby as a pallet cleanser:

baby 02I know, little man.  I’m just as shocked as you are.

The fact of the matter is that partial birth abortions, particularly late term ones, are illegal, and if you were willing to sit through the three hour unedited conversation of three people eating and talking about – well, that picture you just saw – you’d hear a representative of Planned Parenthood state that they perform both.


The group starts putting out more videos.  The promise is that they have nine videos total, and then they release sort of the extra features.  The deleted scenes, if you will, with the extended conversations left uncut.

My two primary remaining reservations were as follows:

1. Based on the data seen here, it doesn’t seem like Planned Parenthood is actually making a profit off of these organs.  It seems like they were simply recouping costs.

2. The women who were having the abortions done were certainly signing donor consent forms, right?  I mean, yes, abortions are not an ideal option for anyone, but at least they were given the opportunity to do something positive.  I mean, this is just like any other kind of tissue donation.  They were giving permission.


In the second video, the undercover actors talk to Dr. Savita Ginde, Rocky Mountains’ Vice President and Medical Director, who speaks to how to talk about the whole thing so that it sounds better in the public square.  Whether it’s just organ collecting or a business venture or whatever, if you call it research, it will be more popularly perceived.  In the conversation, Dr. Ginde says, “Because if we have someone in a really anti-state that’s going to be doing this for you [procuring and selling organs], they’re probably going to get caught.”


And then we are shown into one of Planned Parenthood’s research labs, where they demonstrate the quality of organs after a dismemberment abortion.  I won’t be showing any images of that.  Just note that the pictures are similar to the ones that you see on the Pro-Life signs that we all find so disturbing.   This is where we learn why Dr. Ginde was being so particular about how to word things, and why doctors would be willing to help out even when they could “get caught.”  It is here that we learn that the prices that are being offered for these parts are not simply to recoup costs.


Our first foray into the research lab and one of the few screenshots I felt comfortable sharing from there.


In the next installment, Dr. Mary Gatte, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Medical Directors’ Council President, starts off by giving a bit of information regarding her own history with dealing in organ procurement when she was working in Los Angeles.  She talks about how the doctors are compensated and clarifies that “patients don’t get anything, of course.”

This is one of my favorite videos when it comes to framing things.  When the undercover woman clumsily asks how much is fair compensation for the tissue, Dr. Gatte dryly asks, “Well, how much are you used to paying?”  Instead of taking the bait and then leading the conversation in terms of guessing at how much Planned Parenthood’s affiliates are willing to trade organs for, the undercover agent turns it back around.

“I don’t think so.  What would make you happy?”

And that’s when the haggling begins.  “I don’t want to low ball.”  “You know in negotiations, the person who throws out the figure first is at a loss, right?”  By the end of the conversation, Dr. Gatte is so excited about finding out what other doctors in California are making that she says, “I want a Lamborghini.”

This conversation could be about the value of any commodity.  These organs are now being treated as commodities, and that is expressly against the law.


I wonder who picks up the check at the end of these things?


The fifth video is particularly hard to watch.  Not only because you hear Melissa Farrell, the Director of Research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, refer to the harvested organs as “the product of conception,” but because you are shown these “products” in full, gory detail. Little legs and feet.  Little arms and hands.  Parts of head and torso.  And the organs in question.

It is important to note that the while there is one segment when Farrel basically just agrees with the undercover filmmaker, there are plenty of examples in the footage where she says exactly what she believes on her own, without being led.  What she says is that yes, they are making a profit.  No, they don’t always need to obtain consent from the patient.  And for some reason she can’t quite identify, the Texas branch of Planned Parenthood thinks all of this is illegal.


While the representatives of Planned Parenthood occasionally say they have qualms with altering the process, thus changing the way they care for their patients, they are quick to rationalize doing so in the same way they rationalize violating US law, by shrugging off the objection and saying the ends justify the means.


Planned Parenthood’s response to these videos has been weak and yet highly effective among it’s supporters.  They don’t say these women are impostors that don’t represent them.  They are, and it is too easily proven.  Instead, they simply deny that they are engaged in the type of business that they have been caught on camera engaging in.  And then they remind us all that they help out in so many other ways.

There is not honest conversation on this subject, because people don’t want to know the details of what actually happens when that difficult choice to abort is made.  It was already labored over, so why make it worse?  The so-called “product of conception” is scrubbed away, and the only people that are willing to show us the evidence are those on the completely opposite side of the ideological spectrum from those that are offering the procedure.

And then the question comes to when life begins.  Conception?  Birth?  When the heart starts beating (about 3-4 weeks)?  When the fetus is viable outside of the womb (20-35% at 23 weeks)?

I mean, I get it.  We’re talking about Schrodinger’s cat here.  While the cat is in the box, it could either be dead or alive, and until it comes out, it is both and neither.  Just like how a fetus isn’t alive, isn’t a baby, until it is on the outside.

3d ultrasoundBy-the-by, this is what it’s like inside Schrodinger’s box.

This is a difficult subject.  It’s one that most people will never talk about outside of a group of people they know will agree with them, if even then.  But like all of the difficult but important issues that our society must deal with (racism, sexism, guns, the ethical treatment of animals, global warming, etc etc etc), it’s time that we grow the @#$% up and start talking like civilized adults.


The 50+ Films of Christmas (Part 5)

The 50+ Films of Christmas

Follow me as I watch 50+ of the best (and worst) holiday films! I will blog mini-reviews as I go and then rank them when I’m done watching them all.

6.5 Black Nativity

Black Nativity

I almost didn’t watch this one. The title makes it sound like a lame Saturday Night Live sketch. But then I took a peek at the cast – Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Nas, Mary J. Blige, and Tyrese Gibson – and I realized I was probably missing something.

A contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes’s play, this story follows a streetwise Baltimore kid named after the famed poet. His single mother has had a rough time, and because of an impending eviction, Langston is sent to live with his estranged grandparents. Trapped between wanting to help his mother at any cost (even criminal) and wanting to learn about these mysterious grandparents, the reverend and his wife, Langston goes on a dark journey toward discovery.

And speaking of discovery, Jacob Latimore gave a performance here that is good enough to qualify as star-making.

This is an inspirational musical that isn’t afraid to give a faith-based name to redemption. It celebrates the Harlem roots of the original production. But it is powerful enough to transcend religion and ethnicity.


8.5 Disney's A Christmas Carol

Disney’s A Christmas Carol

I love this story. It is the most repeated Christmas tale, rivaling even the nativity, and there’s good reason for it. It is a ghost story, it is a tale of redemption where the before and after are clear and where the transformation is believable, and it makes you feel good in the end, even if you’re a Scrooge yourself.

This version is at once extremely faithful to the material and also inventively visual in the telling. The key here is Robert Zemeckis and his cast. Zemeckis, of course, is the genius behind “Back to the Future” (along with Bob Gale), “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” “Castaway,” and a bunch of other classics. And despite all the credit James Cameron and “Avatar” got, Zemeckis is also responsible for the modernization of 3D with the help of two other animated films, “Monster House” and his other holiday classic, “Polar Express.” Zemeckis adapted the script, pulling dialogue and narration directly from the Charles Dickens story, and he decided that all of his invention would not stray from the original story. On the contrary, every marvel in this film is merely taking the beats of Scrooge’s incredible journey to the absolute hilt.

The cast is led by Jim Carrey, who plays Ebenezer and all three ghosts. This performance goes beyond merely recording dialogue. Carrey is fully motion-captured and no matter how much the animators have changed his appearance for the various roles, what is on the screen is pure Jim Carrey. It’s in his mouth, his eyes, his mannerisms. Carrey absolutely shows how great of an actor he is capable of being. This without taking away the aspects of Jim that we’ve grown to love. He gets silly (especially as the Spirit of Christmas Past but also in some slapstick moments with Scrooge), and he does an enormous amount of character work, drawing fully three-dimensional beings that will stick with you long after the movie is over.

There have been a lot of versions of “A Christmas Carol.” It’s been Mickey Moused and Fred Flintstoned and Muppeted. Scrooge has been portrayed by Patrick Stewart, George C. Scott, Alastair Sim, and countless others. I truly appreciate any good telling of the story, but as far as faithful versions go, this is my favorite.


7 Nativity 2 - Danger in the Manger

Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger!

Dr. Who fans know David Tennant as The Tenth Doctor (or the eleventh, depending on the what theory you prescribe to evidently). In this movie, he plays identical twins Donald and Roderick Patterson. The former is a primary school teacher, and the latter is a world renowned composer. They don’t really get on these days.

Donald has been given the task of taking over a class that has been handled/mishandled by a classroom aid that only has the job because his aunt is head teacher. Mr. Poppy (Marc Wooton, “Frequently Asked Questions about Time Travel,” “Arthur Christmas”) is a man-child that runs the class the way Ralf Wiggum might. Instead of Maths or Literacy, Poppy has the kids auditioning “American Idol” style for a chance to sing in the Song for Christmas competition.

Patterson is a reluctant aid in preparations for the performance and has to be kidnapped for the wacky trip to Wales, where he faces off against his brother, another stuffy teacher (Gordon Shakespeare, played by Jason Watkins, “Tomorrow Never Dies,” “The Golden Compass”), and his own lack of faith.

As the children come across a donkey, follow a star, and find the manger, you will either shrug your shoulders and say it’s all madness or go along for the mad-cap ride. For me, the children are the film, and the adults are merely there to move the plot along and give us an entry point. This is a film where the grown up actors play off of the children, and if that doesn’t sound like something you’d be into, skip it. But if you love kids, you’ll probably be able to get into things, just like Mr. Patterson.

The only real quibble I have with this movie is the music. The vocals are tinny and hiss and don’t sound like they were recorded professionally, and while the music is very good, the lyrics are a bit lacking. If they had gotten a better songwriter and a better engineering staff, this Christmas musical would have been something we could sing along to.

Overall, this is a surprisingly good movie with enough laughs and adorable moments to be well worth your time. Unless you hate children.


7.5 Fanny and Alexander

Fanny and Alexander

Perhaps this is all a dream? Perhaps it is theater? Maybe we’re all just puppets? When Christmas is childhood, what does it mean to those who are approaching the end?

This is Christmas film is by far the most decorated by The Academy Awards (1984; Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and was also nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay). It is also considered Ingmar Bergman’s last film, although he did work for television and did some writing theatrically after this. It is clear that the master filmmaker is looking back on his own life and has created some strange poetry from his reflections.

We get a glimpse into the lives of The Ekdahls as they celebrate a Victorian Christmas and are haunted by the Ghosts of Hamlet. This is not your average holiday film, as we leave Christmas behind and are met with death, the devil, and God himself (or was that just a puppet?). We see a former beauty of the stage muse over childhood and old age and those short years in between that seemed to mean so much at the time. There is the current beauty, who has put her family in danger as she seeks out love and happiness. And then there is the beauty to be, who is forced to grow up alongside her brother, Alexander.

This film evokes a deep sense of nostalgia while creating haunting imagery that will stick with you long after the three hour journey has drawn to conclusion, and the major themes of Bergman’s works are all here aglow, like the candles on an evergreen, like the flames of an upturned lamp.


8 White Christmas

White Christmas

It’s the 60th anniversary of “White Christmas,” but even when it was new, it was calling toward yesteryear. You see, nostalgia is built right into this film.

While Silent Night may have been the song for the Great World War, no holiday song meant more to the men who fought WW II than White Christmas. Almost a full decade after our boys came home from those historic battles, almost ten years of trying to assimilate to home life later, Bing Crosby was back to pay tribute to their struggles.

The story is quite simple. Two old army buddies, played by Crosby and Danny Kaye, are a star club act. Kaye wants more time for himself and has gotten it into his head that the way to get it is to make sure Crosby gets hitched. The crooner thinks there’s some sense in the comic’s logic, but he doesn’t know if he’s quite ready yet.

Enter Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, struggling, singing sisters that we the audience see as the perfect fit for BOTH men. They’re Vermont bound, to do a show in the snow. Only, there isn’t snow, and the ski lodge that as it turns out happens to be run by the boys’ beloved general, seems doomed for financial destitute. That is, of course, unless the boys can put on a sensational show, and to do that, they’ll have to find love in the process.

It’s an upbeat Christmas tale chock-full of Irving Berlin’s masterworks, and even the music reaches back for days long past. There’s the number where they long for Minstrel shows, the one that decries modern “choreography” for ruining the good old days of dance, and the show stopper that has Crosby and Kaye wishing they were back in the Army. There’s even a line thrown in when a young boy sings in his prepubescent voice and Bing wistfully says, “Oh, those were the days.”

If you’re looking for a classic Christmas from days far-flung, you can’t go wrong with “White Christmas.”



10 friggin’ years!

I want to wish a happy anniversary to two of my best friends in the whole world, Ann and Jeff Murdock. Their love is the center of the universe for a huge part of my own life, and their wedding is a giant personal milestone as well.

It wasn’t long after the Murdocks made things legal that I ventured off on my own to California, so in a way, this marks almost a decade in my adopted home.

Another major reason why it was such a big deal was that The Murdock Wedding was a shift in all of our lives.  It was the last time when so many of my high school friends were all in one place.  Shawn Page got married this summer, and a lot were there too.  But that larger group has scattered to the winds, and we all lead very separate lives.

I was honored to be asked to document their wedding by Ann’s father, the late Phil Gentile.  He was a good man that trusted I would honor the occassion with something nice.  I did one better, and the result was a two hour and five minute long film that encapsulated for me those feelings I mentioned above.

“The Murdock Wedding Story: Forever Together” was a rarified opportunity.  Not only did I get to celebrate my friends, that moment in time, and the love story that was central to all of that, but I also got to learn a lot about the Murdock, Gentile, and Gordon families.  And what a wonderful group of people they are.

Phil and Lisa Gentile wear their hearts on their sleeves, and such big hearts they have.  Ron and Debbie Murdock hide their light under an exterior that doesn’t seem particularly sentimental, but that light burns bright and with surprising romance.  Steve and Julie Murdock, David Gentile, the grandparents, and of course my friends, what they say is simple and universal, but there is a whole world of love in their words.  If we could all be so lucky to have these people in our lives.

And I guess that brings us to today.  Ten years later, on the rare instances that I get back to Ohio, I experience such an odd sensation.  I’m home again, but it’s different.  In many ways, I have sacrificed this life, this love – and the love of so many others – in pursuit of a dream I am still struggling to realize.

My good friend Jamie Mank, who was one of Ann’s two matrons-of-honor and who was my first high school friend to get married, once asked me explicitly to move back.  To get old with them, let our kids (her’s real, mine imagined) to grow up together.  A very tempting offer, but my very core tells me the season for that has not yet come.

These themes are ever present in the novel I’m working on, Home Street.  I’ve been churning and burning the stories that make up this universe of constant change in my mind and on paper since I was seven.  I was writing a draft ten years ago.  But I really feel like this is it for these characters.

Wish me luck.

And join me in wishing Ann and Jeff and those that they love a very happy anniversary.  I miss you, and I pray the best is yet in store.


All the Feels

I don’t usually direct traffic toward other pages, but the blog I wrote at deserves a look: