- Sharona Coutts
vice president of Investigations and Research at RH Reality Check. Her new piece is called “Exclusive: The Faces and Fake Names of People Behind Planned Parenthood Attack Videos.”
- Dr. Willie Parker
physician, abortion provider and a board member of Physicians for Reproductive Health. He previously worked for Planned Parenthood.
As the Senate prepares to vote to defund Planned Parenthood, we look at the Center for Medical Progress, the anti-choice group behind the attacks on Planned Parenthood. The group was founded by David Daleiden who is seen in the undercover sting videos using a fictional name. We speak to RH Reality Check’s Sharona Coutts, who wrote the piece, “Exclusive: The Faces and Fake Names of People Behind Planned Parenthood Attack Videos.”
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to who David Daleiden is, of the Center for Medical Progress, the group responsible for attacking Planned Parenthood. This is Daleiden speaking on Fox News.
DAVID DALEIDEN: For the past two-and-a-half years, the Center for Medical Progress conducted a long-term, in-depth, comprehensive, investigative journalism study of how exactly Planned Parenthood harvests and sells the body parts from the babies that they abort. And this is something that Planned Parenthood has been doing for decades at this point. It’s something that, by their own admission in their press statements, that for the past week, that their top-level leadership supports and knows is going on. They’ve admitted that they harvest the specimens, and they’ve admitted that they receive payment for it in exchange for those specimens. Really, the only bone of contention that’s left is whether or not they receive a financial benefit from those payments and exactly how much the profit is. There needs to be an immediate moratorium on all of Planned Parenthood’s public funding.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s David Daleiden of the anti-choice group, the Center for Medical Progress. Sharona Coutts is also with us, vice president of Investigations and Research at RH Reality Check. Her new piece is headlined “The Faces and Fake Names of People Behind Planned Parenthood Attack Videos.” Who is David Daleiden, Sharona?
SHARONA COUTTS: Hi, Amy. Well, David Daleiden goes by at least one other name, and that is Robert Daoud Sarkis. That’s an alias that he used, according to multiple sources, when he was presenting himself as one of the officials at this sham company called BioMax Procurement Services. You know, the company was a sham, and, it turns out, a lot of the identities used by the people who claimed to be officials for the company were also shams.
Daleiden himself is a longtime, extreme anti-choice activist. He has ties with some of the most notorious names in that movement, including Troy Newman, who is the head of Operation Rescue. And that’s a group that has a long history of associating with known terrorists—and I use that word advisedly. I’m talking about people who have committed violence against doctors who are assisting women in accessing their constitutional right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you find out? How did you do this research into who was involved with this?
SHARONA COUTTS: Well, you know, it’s shoe-leather journalism. It was through talking to as many sources as I could to find out, you know, hey, this group is boasting that they had infiltrated a lot of events, met with and gained the trust of a lot of people in the abortion care community, so I reached out to contacts in that community and asked whether anyone knew them. I very quickly started to hear back from people who were saying, “Yes, I did see this company,” “I saw them at a particular event,” “They tried to visit this clinic,” things like that. And information began coming through, and we started to get names. And then, as we got names, we started to get photographs and business cards. And so, through that process, we were able to come down to at least three names that we’ve published so far. We actually have another two or three that we are still looking to verify.
So, I mentioned Robert Daoud Sarkis. There’s also Susan Tennenbaum, was another alias. And another one appears to be Brianna Allen. That one’s particularly interesting because most of the activities of these two sham groups, run by the same people—so, you mentioned the Center for Medical Progress, which is a nonprofit, and then they had the sham company, BioMax—they’re all based in California. And a lot of the videos that we’ve seen so far were also filmed in California. We tried to find a Brianna Allen in California who was associated with BioMax. We also, of course, emailed every company email address that she had—the woman calling herself Brianna Allen had provided to multiple sources. We did find one Brianna Allen, and that story is, in her words, very, very weird.
Brianna M. Allen grew up in Davis, California, which is where David Daleiden grew up. She went to elementary and high school with David Daleiden. They were not associates, but she does remember him as an outspoken, conservative, anti-choice, self-identified fundamentalist Catholic. She was the president of the feminist club at high school. And when I finally spoke to her, she said, “I saw my name printed in one of your stories. I wanted to let you know I have nothing to do with this, and I don’t support what David is doing. He’s entitled to his views, but he has to find an honest way to go about expressing them. And lying and manipulating videos and people to express a point just undermines his own credibility.”
AMY GOODMAN: And you saw—you saw her name on a credit card within the video?
SHARONA COUTTS: Yeah. So, we had actually come across the name Brianna Allen before that, through various sources, and also, when you watch the videos really carefully, the operatives do refer to a Brianna. What we did, though, was we slowed down the end of the second video that they released, the full version. And in it, one of the operatives, who’s wearing a camera, like here, she pulls out her wallet, like this. So, on screen you can see the wallet, and then she slips out a credit card. And it goes in the blink of an eye when you’re watching it live, but when you slow it down, just on YouTube, just by hitting pause, you can see the name on the credit card is Brianna Allen.
Here’s the problem: This woman was calling herself Susan Tennenbaum. So a woman who was purporting to be called Susan Tennenbaum, who was talking about a Brianna Allen in the third person, pulls out a credit card that says Brianna Allen, and pays for the meal on that credit card. When we contacted Brianna M. Allen, she was kind of freaked out, because we let her know about the credit card that we’d seen, and she immediately tried to access her credit reports online. Can’t get in. She used to be able to get in. And you know how you do it. You answer all the questions: Do you have a mortgage? Which one of these five streets did you ever live on? All those sorts of things. She said, “They’re the right answers. I just can’t get in.” So, at this stage, she’s having to follow up by paper to try and see whether she’s had some kind of credit card fraud perpetrated on her.
I have to be very clear: We don’t know that that’s what happened. She really is an incredibly fair-minded and reasonable person. She says she has absolutely no ill will against David Daleiden. She did say, you know, if it’s a coincidence, it’s a really, really weird coincidence. And she’s just trying to get to the bottom of it to find out whether there was some kind of fraud perpetrated against her.
AMY GOODMAN: Texas Republican senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz said he’s calling on the Department of Justice to investigate if Planned Parenthood has violated federal law. This is Senator Cruz speaking to Fox News.
SEN. TED CRUZ: These tapings of Planned Parenthood selling body parts are grotesque. It highlights the evil of what they’re doing.
AMY GOODMAN: So these tapes, Sharona Coutts, David Daleiden is an associate of the discredited right-wing activist James O’Keefe, who targeted ACORN and was famously arrested for trying to wiretap Senator Mary Landrieu’s office when she was senator at the time, the senator from Louisiana. And this is from, I think, The Hill: “James O’Keefe was sentenced to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service [and a] $1,500 fine after he pleaded guilty … to misdemeanor charges stemming from his involvement in [the break-in of Landrieu’s office. In January, O’Keefe and three others were arrested by federal authorities at Landrieu’s office on allegations of phone-tampering.” Can you talk about these links? Is it guilt by association?
SHARONA COUTTS: You know, I don’t think you even need to go into the guilt by association, to be honest with you.
Can I just say, on that Ted Cruz clip? He’s a really smart guy, I mean, in a bookish sense, you know? He has to know that what he’s saying is just factually incorrect. As you know—you played those clips—when you watch those four videos, the Planned Parenthood officials are literally saying the opposite of wanting to profit from fetal body parts. And I really mean that. They are literally saying, time and again, “No one wants to profit from this. We are not trying to.”
And I think it’s really important for people to understand, on the question of appearing to haggle over prices, what is going on there. Well, I can tell you, because I’ve studied the videos and the transcripts at length. What they’re trying to do is figure out what it will cost them to facilitate the donation of tissues. And as Dr. Willie Parker said to you earlier, this is because women are asking if they can do something good for society by donating fetal tissue to research for terrible diseases that are affecting the lives of people around the world. And it’s difficult, actually, to figure out how to reimburse yourself for a cost. You know, anyone who’s watching this could think about it this way. Say you’re at work, and you agree to take a phone call as a research call for another company. They are a startup. They’re trying to research your industry; they don’t know about it. So you agree, and you say, “Would you cover my costs?” They say, “Sure. How much?” Well, how do you charge for your time? Do you figure out your salary and then break it down by increments of six minutes, like a lawyer? Do you figure out what the rent your company is paying per square foot, and decide how much space you’re taking up? Are you thinking about risk? Are you thinking about opportunity cost? That’s what’s going on here. No one is trying to haggle to make money.
And Senator Cruz knows that full well. He is being unbelievably deceptive here. And, you know, when I say you don’t need to go into guilt by association, you have that kind of deliberate, manipulative deception by a senator, who—you know, he’s a clever guy. He has all sorts of fancy credentials from fancy colleges. He knows what he’s doing. He knows how to, you know, look at evidence and determine what those facts say and what they don’t. The other layers—I’m sorry, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Katie Lyon, who recently wrote an article for Time.com called “Why I Donated Fetal Tissue After My Later Abortion.” She’s a mother and a supporter of Planned Parenthood. In the article, she explains her painful decision to have an abortion at 22 weeks when an ultrasound revealed her fetus had spina bifida and a tethered spinal cord.
She writes, quote, “It was horrible for us to have to end a much-wanted pregnancy, but we made the best of it by donating the fetal tissue for research. We contacted our genetics counselor, who coordinated the donation with a spina bifida research project funded by the National Institutes of Health. We figured that donating the tissue could perhaps spare other families the painful situation we found ourselves in. It was clear to me and my husband that the question of what caused the spina bifida needed to be studied. I feel fortunate that I had the chance to donate the tissue—I was able to turn my pain into something that could benefit someone else.” That written by a woman named Katie Lyon.
Now, I wanted to go back to Dr. Willie Parker and ask you about the significance of the Senate effort, led by Rand Paul, Ted Cruz—both presidential candidates—to defund Planned Parenthood, what this would actually mean.
DR. WILLIE PARKER: Well, the effort to defund Planned Parenthood is under the notion that if you stop Planned Parenthood, you’ll stop abortion. But that’s far from the truth. Planned Parenthood has been around for a hundred years. And most of what they do, well over 90 percent, is provide well woman care, basic healthcare for men, women and families, and 90 percent of what they do has nothing to do with abortion.
When you talk about federal funding for Planned Parenthood, what you’re really talking about is the fact that Planned Parenthood, as a part of the safety net, is a Medicaid provider. They access—the majority of the revenues that Planned Parenthood would see from the federal government comes as a result of billing for Medicaid, because they’re allowed to participate in the Medicaid system. With regard to grant funding, Title X funding, which actually covers basic healthcare and contraception, is the only other federal funding. Less than 10 percent of Planned Parenthood’s work is related to abortion.
So, the notion is, by defunding Planned Parenthood, you’ll stop abortion, but what you’ll actually—what will actually happen is there will be a bigger rent in the safety net for people who have nowhere else to go. Most of the patients and women who go to Planned Parenthood, they not only choose Planned Parenthood because it’s a high-quality provider, they choose it because, in most of the places, nobody else in that community will take Medicaid. So, defunding Planned Parenthood just tears a bigger hole in the safety net.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think are the prospects for Planned Parenthood as this charge is led? It could happen, the vote, as early as Monday.
DR. WILLIE PARKER: Well, you know, I hope that reason and truth will prevail. I have to have confidence in the process, that as we make known what’s really at stake, through responsible venues like your own, Amy, that people will get it and that they will contact their legislators to say that we cannot make such a major decision based on agenda-driven, uncredible evidence.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us, Dr. Willie Parker, physician, abortion provider, board member of Physicians for Reproductive Health. He previously worked for Planned Parenthood and recently wrote an article for Cosmopolitan headlined “Why I Stand with Dr. Deborah Nucatola.” Sharona Coutts is the vice president of Investigations and Research at RH Reality Check. And we’ll link to your piece, as well, “Exclusive: The Faces and Fake Names of People Behind Planned Parenthood Attack Videos.” When we come back, we go to Cincinnati. Stay with us.