The XX Factor

What Is the Center for Medical Progress, the Group Behind the Latest Viral Abortion Video?

Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, Deborah Nucatola, was secretly recorded discussing the use and transport of fetal tissue for research.

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Live Action burned up the Internet with a video making misleading accusations that Planned Parenthood sells fetal body parts on the black market. Run by anti-choice activist Lila Rose, Live Action is already notorious for its attempted “stings” on Planned Parenthood. So why is Live Action giving credit for making the video to a group called the Center for Medical Progresswhich the New York Times calls “a little-known activist group”?

A better phrase would be “completely unknown.” The group’s head is former Live Action worker David Daleiden, an associate not just of Lila Rose but apparently of James O’Keefe, who’s himself a machine for churning out sting videos attacking various liberal organizations and politicians. CMP has a strong whiff of the fly-by-night organization. Its blog started on July 6. Its Twitter page started sending tweets on Tuesday. Its Facebook page is only a couple of months old. Its URL does go back at least a couple of years, but as Gawker notes, the history appears to be wiped. On the Wayback Machine, you can see a cached version of some of what was going on there. The old “about us” page reads:

The Center for Medical Progress is a non-profit organization dedicated to informing and educating both the lay public and the scientific community about the latest advances in regenerative medicine, cell-based therapies, and related disciplines. We take a special interest in the lab-to-clinic translational dynamic and tracking its implications for academics, advocacy, private sector players, and the individual patient.

The videos on the site consist mostly of a bunch of dry interviews with researchers at an International Society for Stem Cell Research meeting, and they go to the same YouTube channel used to distribute this Planned Parenthood video. (Those interview videos have been removed from the front page of CMP’s website and are only available if you click through the Wayback Machine links.)

The ruse CMP used get the meeting with Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, Deborah Nucatola, was to present themselves as agents working for a biotech firm. In its statement, Planned Parenthood noted that CMP “created a fake medical website as well as a fake human tissue website that purports to provide services to stem cell researchers.”

The amount of effort put into this elaborate kabuki is stunning—and confusing. Why not publish these videos under the Live Action name and let the Center for Medical Progress exist as nothing more than the phony organization created to trick Planned Parenthood? Live Action is a real organization with a real staff, and Live Action did all the promotion. It doesn’t seem to add up. 

But consider this: Making the video a CMP production instead of a Live Action joint means that Live Action’s name is dropped from much of the coverage. The New York Times doesn’t mention Live Action at all. The Washington Post only mentions it once, way down in the story, and only to note that Daleien used to (?) work for it. Despite years of effort, Lila Rose and her crew have never been able to prove any of their accusations of illegal behavior. The organization has a credibility problem, one that might have interfered with getting mainstream media traction for a video with its name on it. But the Center for Medical Progress didn’t have the same name recognition problem—or it didn’t until now.