National Review Institute Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism Ian Tuttle came to the College on Thursday night to deliver his talk, “Fetal Parts and Fava Beans: Abortion Politics after the Planned Parenthood Videos.” This talk was sponsored by Williams for Life along with Uncomfortable Learning and the National Review Institute, an off-campus organization that aims “to discuss big ideas and have a free dialogue about them” through their collegiate program, NRI On Campus.
Speaking to a crowd consisting largely of protesters, Tuttle explained that he opted for a more provocative title for his talk “because I’m not an academic … I’m a journalist in the age of Slate and Buzzfeed” and that, in spite of “this being a glib fashion, it gets to the heart of some of the things we are going to talk about tonight.” He also conceded that he knew he was speaking to an audience that largely disagreed with his pro-life beliefs, saying, “if you want to denounce me as an instrument of the patriarchy, you are more than welcome to do that.”
Tuttle sought to frame his talk less around abortion and more around the videos released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) in 2015 and 2016 that alleged Planned Parenthood and some of its top staffers were profiting off the sale of fetal remains.Tuttle sought to advance the arguments that the videos reveal how “Planned Parenthood illegally negotiated the sale price of fetal organs to make a profit, illegally altered method of abortion, ille-gally failed to obtain consent [of fetal tissue],” and that “under current law, members of Planned Parenthood have committed murder.”
Tuttle went on to address each constituent claim individually. First, he emphasized that, when Planned Parenthood receives compensation for donations of fetal tissue, “we are not just talking about covering cost … they are actually making money on the practice.” Tuttle cited one video where a Planned Parenthood official allegedly said that, “the money has to be big enough that it is worthwhile” because she “want[ed] a Lamborghini.” Pointing to isolated quotes like these, Tuttle asserted that the CMP videos “suggest very strongly that higher-ups at Planned Parenthood are not only seeking to recover costs” but also intend to profit from the harvesting of fetal tissue.
From there, Tuttle declared that Planned Parenthood had violated federal law in altering abortion procedures for the express purpose of preserving especially valuable fetal tissue. Tuttle cited one video in which a Planned Parenthood senior staffer allegedly said the provider has to be “kinda cognizant of where you put your graspers” and that “we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, [and] liver,” aiming ultimately “to get it all intact.”
After describing how these changes in procedure were never approved by the women seeking abortions, Tuttle moved on to his final point, asserting the actions of Planned Parenthood employees are equivalent to murder. He noted, “I’m not saying that to shock.” Citing a statement in one video by an employee allegedly that, “I’m looking at this fetus and its heart is beating and I don’t know what to think.” Tuttle effectively asserted that Planned Parenthood was re-sponsible for killing “a born-alive infant.” Tuttle argued, “We have at least tentative evidence that what is happening in a whole lot of Planned Parenthood clinics … is in violation of several laws.”
Acknowledging that many in the audience would likely raise the counterclaim that the CMP videos were, at least to a degree, “doctored,” Tuttle claimed that a third-party investigation into the tapes “did not reveal widespread evidence of video manipulation.” Overall, Tuttle insisted that, “there is a very reasonable case to be made that these things were in fact said.”
As far as to what the response to the videos ought to be, Tuttle conceded that, “there has not been significant movement in any direction because of the videos and there won’t be.” Rather, according to Tuttle, “what you will see is small and important shifts.” For example, Tuttle claimed that “it’s effectively now a litmus test [for Republican office-seekers] that you are not only opposed to but in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood,” while supporters of pro-choice policies have similarly buckled down on their stance.
Tuttle proceeded to take questions from the impassioned audience. The forum largely centered around pro-choice versus pro-life argumentation, with Tuttle making an overall case that the obvious way to protect life is to acknowledge “the intrinsic dignity from the moment of fertilization.” When asked how to decrease the number of abortions in America, Tuttle responded, “I apologize for being terribly simple-minded but you can just not have sex.”
As the back-and-forth between Tuttle and audience members proceeded, three protesters attempted to disrupt Tuttle’s response to the final question of the night by standing up and raising signs while unintelligible audio at a low volume played from one of their phones. Other than this incident, no other disruptions occurred. Director of Campus Safety and Security Dave Boyer and additional security officers were present.
Tuttle, who graduated from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md. with a degree in liberal arts in 2014, has held the William F. Buckley Jr. Fellowship at the National Review Institute since 2014. He is the second speaker sponsored by Uncomfortable Learning to come to campus since President Adam Falk decided to cancel writer John Derbyshire’s planned talk in February.