Uncomfotable Learning speaker Ian Tuttle critiques Planned Parenthood

Last Thursday, poltical journalist Ian Tuttle spoke about the videos related by the Center for Medical Progress in 2015 and 2016. Emory Strawn/Photo Editor.
Last Thursday, political journalist Ian Tuttle spoke about the videos related by the Center for Medical Progress in 2015 and 2016. Emory Strawn/Photo Editor.

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.

Comments (18)

  1. ” Tuttle sought to advance the arguments that . . . and that ‘under current law, members of Planned Parenthood have committed murder.'”

    Really? THIS is what we are subjecting Williams Students too? You don’t have to be pro choice or pro life or pro anything except pro-aware of what the current state of the law is to understand how moronic this claim is.

    “Should be murder” – ? Fine. I couldn’t possibly disagree with such an argument more, but at least it doesn’t suffer from the fatal infirmities of the one he “advanced.”

    I wonder how long before the “protesters” simply stop showing up to even acknowledge this nonsense.

    1. Ugh, proofread!

      Delete additional “that” from quote.
      “to” not “too.”
      delete “-” from pro-aware.

      So bad, I had to call myself out.

      1. Michael, if you had attended the event or even read the article in its entirety you would see that he argued not that all abortion was a crime, but that the videos revealed a single instance where PP employees murdered a “born-alive infant.”

        1. Thanks “student.” I don’t think your clarification alters my original comment. FWIW, I read the article. Maybe the article doesn’t include a description of how whichever jurisdiction was involved has changed its statutes regarding murder? You sound like you were there. Did he explain that part?

      1. “This is a wonderful, hearty split pea soup. Great for a fall or blustery winter day.”

        2 1/4 cups dried split peas
        2 quarts cold water
        1 1/2 pounds ham bone
        2 onions, thinly sliced
        1/2 teaspoon salt

        1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
        1 pinch dried marjoram
        3 stalks celery, chopped
        3 carrots, chopped
        1 potato, diced


        In a large stock pot, cover peas with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight. If you need a faster method, simmer the peas gently for 2 minutes, and then soak for l hour.
        Once peas are soaked, add ham bone, onion, salt, pepper and marjoram. Cover, bring to boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
        Remove bone; cut off meat, dice and return meat to soup. Add celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook slowly, uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

    2. You are a sad,angry little man.

  2. What is the percentage of Williams College students that know that the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision provided for abortion to the extent the fetus is viable outside the womb (i.e. about 20 weeks)?

    My guess it is less than 10%.

    Most pro abortion people presume an abortion can take place at any time.

    Planned Parenthood does wonderful things, but their abortion on demand polices are contrary to the law.

    1. Charles – You are correct that the Roe framework draws a line at viability. You are incorrect that Roe makes abortion criminal past viability. In fact, Roe permits the criminalization under certain circumstances post-viability. States have to act to make it so.

      Planned Parenthood acts, I think, in all 50 states, not all of which have identical laws pertaining to the criminalization of abortion post-viability.

      When you use non-sensical terms like “pro abortion” you out your own political bias on this issue.

      I’m not an expert on PP policies, but you sound like you are. Maybe you could shoot me a link to the PP policy where they agree to provide “abortion on demand” in contravention of state law? I wasn’t aware that this was their policy.

      1. Whether state or federal law has been broken by PP remains to be demonstrated in court, but the intent is hard to deny (“Care, no matter what”).

        “Despite the federal abortion ban taking effect, Planned Parenthood will continue to provide high-quality care, including second-trimester abortion services, to our clients.”

        The “federal abortion ban” in question refers to partial-birth abortion, which was revealed to be routine in the videos. Such procedures were considered murder in the Kermit Gosnell case.

        1. In which court, exactly, does that issue “remain to be demonstrated?” I’ve seen this, but nothing further. Maybe you can help?


          Also, your quote omitted this qualifying phrase about second-trimester abortions: “_medically appropriate_ abortions in the second trimester.” (my emphasis).

          I don’t read that qualification as the same as “on demand.” Maybe you do?

          1. I don’t know of any existing court action, but there are Congress hearings, for whatever that’s worth (probably not much). While nothing may come of them, I don’t think the allegations are moronic.

            As for your quote (mine was from another part of the document), here it is in full: “Unfortunately, opponents of safe and legal abortion seek to limit access through, among other means, laws imposing a fixed date for viability and bans that would outlaw safe, medically appropriate abortions in the second trimester. Their goal is to make all abortions illegal.”

            I interpret the bans as those found in state and federal law, and upheld by the Supreme Court. I’m happy to leave “on demand” up for interpretation, but PP seems to have a peculiar interpretation of “legal abortion.”

          2. Well, we are now pretty far afield from “what PP does is murder,” which was my original point, and which no one seems to have any interest in debating.

            Instead, it devolves into a rather boring discussion of whether, when, and what types of abortion should be legal.

            I’ll re-iterate: THIS is what is supposed to be “uncomfortable learning” for the student body?


      2. You are overacting. I consider myself proabortion – but to a point. At some juncture, the heart beat represents a life and it moves beyond the simplistic slogan “a women’s right to choose.” – Who speaks for the viable child? At some point these viable babies do have a say – As this video demonstrates, PP has no moral issues with late term abortion. That is my objection.


        1. Charles:

          I’m not sure how to respond to you. And, I’m not sure that a comment section is the best or most productive place to carry out this discussion, given what you’ve said your position is and how it is (I still maintain) far afield from my initial comment. But I’ll just say this:

          1. I am not “pro abortion” and I’m not sure who is, even though you claim to be. I’m vehemently anti abortion. A world in which no one (doctor or patient) ever had to choose whether or not to abort a fetus would be a better world to live in, but its not the one we live in. I don’t know as I could ever personally make the choice to abort a fetus or if I could, what the circumstances would be that might push me towards that decision, and frankly, I don’t want to contemplate the circumstances that might exist where such a choice on my part would point me in that direction, let alone make such a choice “easy.” But I also am not so arrogant or so self absorbed to realize that my circumstances in life are not the same as everyone else’s, which is why I am both pro-life and pro-choice but not “pro abortion.” The choice is not and should not be mine to make, but should be left to the woman and her doctor.

          2. Your description of “at some juncture” is a rough analog to what Justice Blackmun laid out in Roe v. Wade. At the point of viability, it does indeed move past simply a woman’s right to choose. I don’t think anyone is arguing otherwise.

          3. Your assertion that Planned Parenthood has “no moral issues with late term abortion” is an opinion you seem to hold (that I don’t share), that don’t support with evidence, and that is stated so broadly as to include all late-term abortions regardless of the circumstances, that it is most certainly no correct with respect to Planned Parenthood.

          As for the YouTube clip you included, if you are inclined to further reading on the topic:


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  4. I like how people still call it pro-life when it’s anti-choice. Can we seriously not leave people alone? Plus, the actual videos taken were proven to be doctored and edited to fit the conventions, talks and evidence presented. Even if they were, form a new organisation that does what Planned Parenthood claims to do. I’ve known several close friends who have gone to PP for abortions and honestly, they have no regrets and understand that accidents happen. Granted, PP’s funding isn’t used primarily for abortions. They offer a wide variety of services that help people.

    Using the term murder to describe an abortion may be your view, it may not, but don’t impose your views on others. Instead, think about it. Keep it in your head. Spout it out to your closest friends or family.

    In the end, it still is about the choices we all make. I personally believe in euthanasia. I also at the same time believe in saving someone. It’s not up to me to decide someone’s fate. If that bothers you, look at DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders. Do you agree or disagree with them? I have friends in the medical field that have to sit by and watch people die as they have wished or get sued for intervening with their dying. Also, I can switch topics to pets. You have a dog or cat you have loved for years, they don’t have a say in how they die. They could die peacefully in their sleep if they are lucky. They could be suffering from multiple complications brought on by old age. I personally loathe the idea of them being put down “humanely” by some person with a needle and I’ll be damned if I let someone “murder” my pet.

    So yeah, I have a lot of views on death and I see both sides of the argument, but don’t spout key words at a group of people to try and rile them up. Give them a well presented argument and have someone demagogue along with you or do it to yourself. But, I guess that was the point of this speech. to incite discussion on a touchy topic.

    Now, if uncomfortable learning were bold… they would have someone come in and give the exact opposite point of view with evidence to the contrary.

  5. Well no matter what side you are on it should be interesting to note that, the most dangerous place (deadly) for an American to be is in the womb unborn. Think about that for a minute in a country of what 400 million, that also houses the world’s largest prison population and imprisons the highest percentage of it citizens.

    Personally, Life begins at conception and ultimately a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members (which is unquestionably the unborn). True Christian believers should hold that abortion is murder, with the exception of the life of the mother at high risk. People should learn that actions have consequences and it is better to deal with them. There are plenty of alternatives like adoption that work certainly.

    In this country, we have trivialised life and atheism, which has had profound impact, has irreparably altered the moral compass of this country. It is obvious to anyone paying attention and even liberal students of philosophy recognise there are huge problems in our society. In fact, the patient is dead already and America, in general, will break apart from it as did other countries / empires in the past.

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