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Planned Parenthood affiliate tied to fetal organ harvesting took $7.5 million stimulus loan

Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties' possible participation in illegal fetal harvesting schemes was thrown into sharp relief when prosecutors found that DaVinci Biosciences had engaged in 'illegally selling fetal tissues for valuable consideration.' 

Published: July 16, 2020 3:16pm

Updated: July 17, 2020 5:56pm

A Planned Parenthood affiliate in southern California that received a major coronavirus bailout earlier this year has a history of association with fetal harvesting scandals, as well as an incident in which an infant survived an abortion only to quickly die within the institution's medical facilities. 

Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties was the recipient of a $7.5 million loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, a feature of the federal economic stimulus package passed earlier this year. That was the largest loan among $80 million received by Planned Parenthood outlets across the country. 

The Small Business Administration, which was tasked with distributing the PPP loans, said in May that those funds had been improperly awarded to Planned Parenthood and that the organization would have to return the money. 

PPOSBC, meanwhile, has a history of involvement with several scandals involving the sale of aborted fetal remains, while one of the nonprofit organization's officials has admitted under oath that at least one baby survived an abortion in their facilities only to die shortly thereafter.

'They kept it warm and comfortable' 

Video of a sworn deposition of Jon Dunn, the president and CEO of PPOSBC, was released late last month by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group known for its explosive series of undercover videos that revealed Planned Parenthood officials appearing to admit participating in the trafficking of aborted baby body parts, a federal crime. 

In the footage of Dunn's deposition, the executive is asked if he has "ever had born alive cases" at his affiliate. 

Though Dunn initially responded that "to the best of [his] knowledge, no," he subsequently admits: "One time maybe 20 years ago, I don't honestly remember, there was such a situation, and I was made aware of it."

"The fetus wasn't viable and expired very quickly," Dunn said. "Staff were upset about it, but there was nothing that could be done. The fetus was not anywhere near viable."

"I have only a vague recollection of it," he continued. "I know they kept it warm and comfortable for the very brief period that it was alive. I don't think there was even time to call 911. It was a matter of seconds."

Dunn's testimony, given in May of 2019, occurred several months after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam defended the act of potentially allowing babies who survive third-trimester abortions to die. 

"The infant would be delivered," Northam said in January of that year. "The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother."

Possible violations of federal law to obtain 'intact specimens'

Allowing a baby to die after it had survived an abortion would not have violated federal law at the time it occurred, according to Dunn's recollection. Yet more recent events have implicated that Planned Parenthood affiliate in possible violations of federal law. 

An undercover video recorded by the Center for Medical Progress and released in 2016 showed a conversation between undercover CMP activists and Jennifer Russo, the medical director at PPOSBC. In that video, Russo confirmed that her abortion clinic had a professional relationship with local biotechnology company DaVinci Biosciences to supply the latter with fetal tissues. 

In the video, Russo appears to admit that PPOSBC may perform abortions specifically to obtain "intact specimens," i.e. undamaged fetal bodies. "It happens sometimes, but it's pretty rare," Russo says in the video, adding: "But we try."

Altering the timing or method of an abortion in order to obtain fetal tissue is a violation of federal law. An earlier video recorded by the Center for Medical Progress caught Planned Parenthood Senior Director of Medical Services Dr. Deborah Nucatola appearing to admit to the same violation of federal statute. 

A federal jury found last year that CMP’s secret recording of workers at Planned Parenthood clinics violated privacy laws. The jury ordered the Center for Medical Progress and other parties to pay nearly $2.3 million in damages. Planned Parenthood says, according the Associated Press, that "it doesn’t sell fetal material for profit and charged only modest expenses to cover costs of donating it for medical research."

DaVinci Biosciences busted, founders deported

Planned Parenthood's possible participation in illegal fetal harvesting schemes was thrown into sharp relief a little over a year after Russo's remarks, when DaVinci Biosciences was found to have engaged in "illegally selling fetal tissues for valuable consideration," according to prosecutors. 

The 2017 crackdown came following a 2015 complaint filed by the Center for Medical Progress. Law enforcement said the bioscience business, along with its sister company DV Biologics, sold fetal tissues for a period of six years at considerable profit. DaVinci was identified in PPOSBC documents as a significant donor to the nonprofit. DaVinci Biosciences and its sister company, DV Biologics were sued in 2016 by the Orange County District Attorney's Office, resulting in a $7.7-million settlement and a permanent ban from operating in California.

Planned Parenthood has denied that it committed any crimes in its dealings with DaVinci. Prosecutors never indicted anyone involved with the affiliate, and there were reportedly never any investigations undertaken against it. 

Yet in a 2016 interview with the Orange County District Attorney's Office, a former regulatory manager at DaVinci said that he had "thought [DaVinci] should have said something about 'commercialization'" on Planned Parenthood's informed consent forms, a suggestion that the manager was aware that the fetal remains were being sold for commercial profit. 

Yet Planned Parenthood "would not allow the informed consent forms to be amended," the district attorney's office wrote,"so his suggested changes on that were not deemed necessary or accepted." 

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