Healthy Choices

Placerville company accused of involvement in Planned Parenthood controversy

StemExpress, a Placerville biotech firm specializing in stem cell procurement for scientific research, is under fire after being mentioned in a viral YouTube video created by abortion opponents.

The video, posted Tuesday, shows footage of Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, discussing over lunch the harvesting of fetal organs for research. She’s talking with two actors from the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, who were posing as representatives from a biotech firm.

The eight-minute undercover clip, which has garnered over 1 million views and inspired the popular anti-abortion Twitter hashtag “#PPSellsBabyParts,” is edited in a way to suggest Planned Parenthood and its affiliates profit from fetal tissue and organs procured during abortions, which is against federal law.

Nucatola mentions working with StemExpress, a company that “provides qualified research laboratories with human cells, fluids, blood and tissue products for the pursuit of disease detection and cure,” according to its literature. In the video, a supposed image of the StemExpress website shows an order form, where users can designate type of order, number of specimens, tissue type and shipping options.

In a statement released by Planned Parenthood, spokesman Eric Ferrero said that while many women who undergo abortions choose to donate fetal tissue to scientific research, there is no financial benefit for either the patient or Planned Parenthood. Sometimes, Planned Parenthood is reimbursed for the cost of transporting the tissue to labs, he said.

“We do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does – with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards,” Ferrero said.

StemExpress did not respond to calls seeking comment Wednesday. Its website was down for maintenance Wednesday evening, and its Facebook profile had been removed. The company – founded in 2010 by California State University, Sacramento, graduate Cate Dyer – ranked 363rd on Inc. magazine’s list of the fastest-growing private companies in America last year.

The company has been attacked on several social media platforms in the past two days.

RELATED: House Republicans to investigate Planned Parenthood over fetal tissue

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola