The undercover videos of Planned Parenthood personnel (such as medical director Deborah Nucatola and other employees) casually and coldly discussing the dismemberment of aborted babies have shocked and appalled millions of people. However, a question has arisen over the legality of what Planned Parenthood is doing. The organization’s president, Cecile Richards, claims that Planned Parenthood is operating “with full, appropriate consent from patients, under the highest ethical and legal standards.”
Several federal statutes apply to this issue. First of all, 42 U.S.C. §274e bans any person from knowingly acquiring, receiving, or otherwise transferring “any human organ for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation if the transfer affects interstate commerce.” Note that this ban on commercial sales is limited to “human transplantation.” Additionally, the statute says that “valuable consideration” does not include:
The reasonable payments associated with the removal, transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, and storage of a human organ or the expenses of travel, housing, and lost wages incurred by the donor of a human organ in connection with the donation of the organ.
Violators are subject to a fine of up to $50,000, imprisonment for up to five years or both. Planned Parenthood claims that it sells organs strictly for medical research and that it receives reimbursement only for expenses in return. If either of those facts is true, then there is no violation of the statute.