A video of Planned Parenthood's medical director discussing the harvesting of tissue from fetuses, released Tuesday, is at the center of the latest national controversy about abortion. Not only does the video raise questions about Americans’ comfort with the practice, but it quickly morphed into a metastory, with conservatives accusing liberals of ignoring clear evidence of immoral lawbreaking at the nation’s largest provider of abortions. That has quickly become the central issue: Is this another version of the Shirley Sherrod video, a misleadingly edited video taken out of context? Or is it more akin to the Kermit Gosnell story, a horrifying case that mainstream reporters ignored until they were forced to reckon with it? In the video, Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, discusses harvesting tissue and organs from aborted fetuses over lunch in Los Angeles. While some previous “sting” videos like this have been criticized for misleading editing, the anti-abortion group behind it, the Center for Medical Progress, also posted a longer version, running nearly three hours. (The video doesn’t illuminate the conversations involved in setting up the lunch. Its makers apparently presented themselves as middlemen for medical researchers seeking fetal tissue.) The story promptly exploded within the conservative-media sphere, but mainstream reporters were slower to pick it up, probably in part because of the difficulty of sussing out the video’s provenance and the legal issues involved. The Center for Medical Progress claims it shows that “Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted fetuses,” which would be illegal. Women who have abortions can choose to donate fetal tissue for research, and providers can be reimbursed for costs involved in that process, but they can’t profit. Here’s what Nucatola says early in the video: I think every provider has had patients who want to donate their tissue, and they absolutely want to accommodate them. They just want to do it in a way that it’s not perceived as, ‘This clinic is selling tissue and making money off of this [inaudible].’ I know in the Planned Parenthood world, for example, they’re very, very sensitive to that. And before an affiliate is going to do that they need to—obviously they’re not—some might do it for free. They want to come to a number that it doesn’t look like they’re making money. They want to come to a number that looks like it is a reasonable number for the effort that is allotted on their part. I think for private providers, or private clinics, you’ll have much less of a problem with that. There’s ambiguity in that statement. Planned Parenthood says she’s just discussing donations to recoup costs, and Nucatola’s caution about the organization seems to make clear that Planned Parenthood doesn’t tolerate sales. On the other hand, the way she describes the arrangements could easily be interpreted to suggest that the numbers are rigged, so that it seems like they’re just recouping when in fact they are a revenue stream. Later in the video, she discusses possible amounts involved, ballparking figures between $30 and $100. But she also states, “This is not—nobody should be ‘selling’ tissue.” Perhaps the more damning remark isn’t about Planned Parenthood at all but about the private clinics; her comments imply unscrupulousness and possibly illegal behavior by those providers, but Planned Parenthood’s size and prominence makes it the prime target for pro-life activists. All of this makes it tougher to believe the bluntest claim that Planned Parenthood, or even one top official there, is actually selling organs for profit. That hasn’t prevented immediate demands—from Ted Cruz, for example—for the government to investigate and defund Planned Parenthood for “profiting off the bodies of the lives they have stolen.” Multiple GOP presidential candidates issued statements expressing disgust with Nucatola’s comments. But even if there’s nothing illegal, it’s easy to see how the video is a coup for the anti-abortion movement. The pro-choice and pro-life movements tend to talk about abortion in very different terms. Those who support abortion couch their argument in terms of women’s bodily autonomy, or in terms of a right to privacy. Abortion opponents sometimes use similar rights language, speaking of the rights of the unborn. Yet they also often use graphic images of aborted fetuses, for example, to highlight the visceral reality of abortion. There’s some debate about this practice among pro-life campaigners, but pro-choice activists acknowledge that abortion isn’t pretty and that there’s an easy disgust factor to it. (There’s a reason that although a majority of Americans favor legal abortion, a plurality also say it’s morally wrong.) That’s what may make the video potent. Nucatola discusses the use of tissue from aborted fetuses, including the extraction of specific organs, over a casual lunch. That may strike many viewers as callous and inhumane. The disgust factor is real and important. For example, the activists posing as buyers ask Nucatola about the condition of organs after procedures. She responds with a detailed answer about how abortions are conducted to ensure good conditions. It’s not especially appetizing: I’d say a lot of people want liver. And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps. The kind of rate-limiting step of the procedure is the calvarium, the head is basically the biggest part. Most of the other stuff can come out intact . . . So then you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact. There’s a small cottage industry devoted to producing videos that showcase the emotionally wrenching side of abortion. The Center for Medical Progress, which produced the video, is headed by David Daleiden. Daleiden is a veteran anti-abortion activist who previously worked with Live Action. Live Action is the group led by Lila Rose, most famous for the video she made with conservative provocateur and filmmaker James O’Keefe, in which they posed as a pimp and an underage prostitute seeking an abortion at Los Angeles Planned Parenthood clinics. The latest sting appears to have been in the works for quite some time—a timestamp on the video released Tuesday says it was shot on July 25, 2014, nearly a year ago. Planned Parenthood is a major target for the pro-life movement because of its size and national reach. The organization provides a range of family-planning and reproductive-health services in addition to abortion, and it receives a large chunk of its funding from the federal government, for the other services that it provides. It’s banned from using any federal money to provide abortions, but critics say the ban is functionally pointless, since funding is fungible. Republicans in Congress regularly attempt to keep federal money from going to Planned Parenthood. In 2012, amidst a GOP congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a leading breast-cancer non-profit, announced it was cutting ties. But the move backfired—Komen was harshly criticized, donations to Planned Parenthood actually increased, and Komen reversed course within days, leading to the departure of a top official who is strongly pro-life. On Tuesday, Komen found itself back in the crosshairs. Citing the video, House Republicans pulled a bill authorizing commemorative coins that might have raised up to $4.75 million for Komen, because of its donations to Planned Parenthood. Abortion is an unusual issue in American politics. Despite arousing some of the strongest emotions by advocates on both sides, and despite massive amounts of money spent, opinions about abortion have barely changed since Roe v. Wade in 1973. (Pro-life advocates have had better luck enacting abortion restrictions at the state level.) Whether this video is able to do what so many other past stories failed to do and move the dial will be the issue to watch in the coming days and weeks.
The Black Lives Matter movement strikes again. A Jeb Bush campaign rally in North Las Vegas was cut short Wednesday after Mr. Bush faced a series of questions about race and inequality in the criminal justice system from members of the anti-racist group, the Los Angeles Times reported. After giving his response – that leaders need to engage with disenfranchised communities, and that he himself has a record of doing so – the Republican candidate ended the town hall without delivering his usual closing statement. As he left, "a few dozen protesters raised their fists and began chanting, 'Black Lives Matter!' " according to the Times. In the face of rising racial tensions following a church shooting, church burnings, and fatal police encounters, candidates for the nation’s top office struggle to respond to issues of race in their campaigns. On Saturday, Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted a Seattle rally for Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders, and on Wednesday, five members of the group met with Hillary Clinton in Keene, N.H. The group also disrupted the Netroots Nation convention on July 20 in Phoenix, Ariz., where Mr. Sanders and another Democratic candidate, Martin O’Malley, had planned to “impress some of the party’s most influential liberal activists,” The Christian Science Monitor reported. These disruptions are part of a deliberate campaign. Presidential hopefuls must address racial disparities and community tensions, say the movement’s organizers. "In the year leading up to the elections, we are committed to holding all candidates for Office accountable to the needs and dreams of Black people,"according to a recent statement on the movement’s political affiliations. "We will continue to hold politicians and political parties accountable for their policies and platforms." The subject of race and racial disparity has led to challenging, even awkward moments for some of the candidates. Mr. O’Malley earned some boos and heckles from protesters at the Netroots convention when he replied to their chants by saying, “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.” The former Maryland governor later apologized, insisting he meant no disrespect. But, as Slate’s Jamelle Bouie explained, " 'Black lives matter' is a statement of specific concern; police violence is most acute against black Americans, and so activists stress the importance of their lives. To reply with 'all lives matter' is to suggest there’s no specific problem of police abuse targeted at black Americans.... It sounds like a dismissal, and that’s how it was received." Following the Netroots fiasco, Sanders tried to quiet the crowd by emphasizing the need to address wealth and income inequality, noting that minorities – particularly blacks and Hispanics – face high rates of poverty and unemployment. It was an approach that critics said showed Sanders' lack of understanding about the black lives movement. "Portrayals of racial injustice as merely an offshoot of economic injustice or the implication that solutions to economic inequality will take care of racism represent a fundamental misunderstanding of how race operates in our country," Anna Galland, the executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, told the Monitor. Since then, however, both Democratic candidates have taken concrete steps to directly address racial issues: A week ago, O’Malley issued a call for a constitutional amendment that would guarantee equal voting rights as part of a platform intended to address structural racism, while Sanders on Monday released a concrete racial justice platform – one that goes beyond economic reform – and pointed out that he had already hired a racial justice activist as his press secretary. That is the response that members of the Black Lives Matter movement want to see, Black Lives co-founder Alicia Garza said in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. And until every presidential candidate – Democratic and Republican – has presented a clear position on racial issues, the disruptive protests and all the rest will continue, Ms. Garza added. "Every single candidate in this election cycle is going to be pushed, and the tactics are not all going to look the same," she said. "But we are going to make sure that every single candidate addresses what their plan is to make sure that we can breathe, to make sure that our lives do actually matter." Indeed, race is likely to continue to be a crucial issue for all the candidates as the presidential primaries, and then the elections, draw closer. As Mike Muse, a political engagement strategist and co-founder of Muse Recordings, wrote in an op-ed for CNBC: If the candidates are forced to state their positions on race in America, then voters will understand what will inform their policy decisions in addressing issues affecting African Americans, including higher rates of incarceration than whites, longer sentences for the same crimes as whites and far higher rates of unemployment compared to whites.... This is the time for all the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates to speak to the issues of race. This is courage in leadership.
Graphic artist and professor Phoebe Gloeckner had an unconventional upbringing. When she was 15, she lost her virginity to an older man — who also happened to be her mother's boyfriend. Gloeckner chronicled the experience in her teenage diaries, which she put aside and then revisited when she found them decades later. "I remember I opened the box with the diaries and I was just stunned to start reading," Gloeckner tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "To hear this child's voice, kind of, talking to me as an adult, it felt like it was crying out to be heard." In 2002, Gloeckner detailed the turmoil of her teenage years in the semi-autobiographical graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Eight years later, actress Marielle Heller adapted the book and starred in a New York theatrical production. More recently, she directed a movie version of the work, with Bel Powley as a teenage girl named Minnie, and Kristen Wiig as her mother. Heller tells Gross that she felt an immediate connection to Gloeckner's novel: "Even though this isn't my story — I wasn't a teenage girl who slept with my mother's boyfriend — I was a sexual teenage girl and I was into boys from a really young age. ... Reading Phoebe's book ... made me feel less alone and like, oh, maybe this is normal, maybe this isn't such a crazy thing to have been having all these thoughts and feelings." Interview Highlights On having a sexual relationship with her mother's boyfriend as a teenager Phoebe Gloeckner: It was my first experience of any sort, the first person I ever kissed. ... It is upsetting, and the book, to me, has a lot of sadness, and it doesn't condone that relationship in the least. I think I was such a lonely kid and the adults in my life were busy with their lives in various ways and he kind of just stepped in and was paying a lot of attention to me, and it turned into this other sort of attention. And I think in my head I thought, "Gosh, he's such a great guy. If he's doing this, maybe it's OK and maybe I just don't know." On telling the story from Minnie's point of view, without judgment Gloeckner: I was very, kind of, hyper-sexual and it felt very pleasant and it did feel like love, it did feel like wonderful attention. So in that sense, I look at the story and I'm trying to express the voice of that girl with no judgment, just to express what she felt. Marielle Heller: It felt like the way to honor Minnie's experience with the film was to tell the story purely from her point of view. So while she's experiencing that conflating of lust and love and that confusion whether these first sexual experiences are consensual or not, I wanted the audience to experience it the way she's experiencing it, and if she's not feeling like a victim in those moments we shouldn't be feeling like she's a victim. If she's finding empowerment in moments of it, then we wanted that to be the experience of the film. Although I do think it's ... an abusive situation and she's being taken advantage of, but it's being told so much from her perspective, because I think a lot of situations, especially where young women are being taken advantage of. What I thought was so beautiful about what Phoebe had written is she kind of explained how you could fall into this type of situation, and how that could've been almost any of us in many ways. On telling a therapist about her relationship when she was a teenager Gloeckner: I went to a therapist, I guess I was sent there when I was 15. I think the school wanted me to go, maybe my mother wanted me to go, because I had been kicked out of several schools already and it wasn't clear why. I told the therapist [about the sexual experience] and she was totally freaked out, she was actually a therapist who dealt with childhood trauma ... so I thought she was going to help me, but she just said, "I've met with your mother, I cannot talk to you anymore. I'm going to have to find someone else for you to go to." She didn't report back to my mother, she didn't tell my mother what was going on, she just kind of flipped out. I remember feeling like, "This is too much for adults, they're not going to want to hear it." I was kind of silenced just by the therapist telling me she couldn't deal with it and not really explaining why. On her mother's reaction when she found out Gloeckner: I think she took it very personally that it was a personal blow, we were hurting her. I think that was her initial reaction, which I think a lot of people would have, there's a combination of shock and you don't really realize or full integrate what's happened. ... She still maintains that she was very betrayed by this. Heller: She blamed you. Gloeckner: She blamed me. ... I don't think she was really capable of understanding how it affected me. She had been a teenage mother, she was still very young, very beautiful, very involved in her social life, and having a teenage girl in her life who was about the same age as she was when she got pregnant and got married, I can only imagine that she looked at me as something that was — she didn't know if I was adult or a child. She didn't know how my life compared to hers. People constantly mistook us as sisters. So no matter what she was feeling, there was reinforcement from those around us, like "Big Phoebe and Little Phoebe, they're just two peas in a pod, they're almost the same age." But it wasn't true. I was a child. On casting Bel Powley as Minnie Heller: In my mind, I kind of quantified the type of beauty I was looking for as being something different than the sort of traditional "hottie" ... young actress. I wanted somebody who was strikingly beautiful in a weird way, in a way that she might not know how beautiful she was, but that it was the type of beauty an older man would see and be drawn to, and that maybe even boys her own age don't yet know how special she is, but there is something there that is really amazing, and that you want to look at. But I also wanted to cast somebody who felt like a real human being, that never felt like they were this airbrushed Disney version of what a teenage girl looks like. I wanted to feel like she was me — so she needed to be little normal. She had to have a normal-ish body; she had to have normal-ish features; she couldn't look like a model had stepped off a page. And Bel had all of those qualities. She has these strikingly beautiful eyes that draw you in, that tell you everything you need to know, which are really similar to Phoebe's eyes — which are really similar to my eyes. In some ways, we all have big, intense eyes, and Bel had this face that I just wanted to look at.
Brent Stapelkamp is looking for Jericho. He raises a blue VHF receiver and twirls it above his head. All we hear is static. "I am not getting anything," he says. We are standing together on a railway line on the edge of Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe. On one side of the tracks, the animals are protected. On the other, they can be shot. Jericho has moved to the other side. "When we look at our satellite images or listen to the signals and see that the lions have moved across, there is definitely a knot in our stomach," says Stapelkamp. For nine years Stapelkamp, a field researcher with an Oxford University-funded project, has been tracking the lions of Hwange. He knows more than 200 by sight and by name. But one lion was always his favorite: a black-maned male called Cecil who, in death, has perhaps become the world's most famous lion. In early July, the 13-year-old lion was lured out of the park with food, shot with a crossbow, tracked for 40 more hours, then finished off with a gun, authorities say. Cecil was skinned, his head reportedly cut off as a trophy. It was a tragic end for the much-loved lion, if not an altogether surprising one for those who knew him best. "A big lion like Cecil, if you ask us, we probably knew that is how he was going to die," Stapelkamp says. After years of working in near anonymity, Stapelkamp has been at the center of a story that has touched a nerve around the world. The killing of Cecil, a protected animal, sparked international outrage that quickly reached the doorstep of hunter Walter Palmer, who has gone into hiding. Palmer, an American dentist, allegedly paid around $50,000 to kill Cecil. Park officials claim the hunt was illegal, but Palmer says he did nothing wrong. Stapelkamp isn't so sure. "I am quite sure that he knew what he was doing," he tells CNN. "He came for the biggest lion he could find and that had been organized for him. Cecil was delivered to him like a pizza." Journalists have descended into this corner of Zimbabwe, searching for the cubs that Cecil left behind. Experts feared the cubs would be killed as part of a power struggle over the pride but Jericho, who ran the pride with Cecil, appears to have taken them in. Last week several of the cubs were reportedly spotted, alive and well, with the lionesses of the pride by a safari tour in the park.