Three Republican presidential candidates came out swinging against Planned Parenthood in the debate Wednesday night, using inflammatory language to attack the family planning provider and the Democrats who support it.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Carly Fiorina and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pointed to a series of heavily edited undercover videos released by an anti-abortion group that show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the donation of fetal tissue after abortions. Christie accused Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of supporting the "the systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts in a way that maximizes their value for sale for profit."
Fiorina piled on. "I dare Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to watch these tapes," she said. "Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, 'We have to keep this alive to harvest its brain.'"
The scene Fiorina describes does not actually exist anywhere in the videos, as Vox points out, so it's unclear to what she is referring.
A number of state investigations and a federal investigation into Planned Parenthood have so far come up with no evidence to suggest that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal parts for profit or engaged in any illegal activity. A recent forensic examination of the undercover videos revealed that chunks of footage are missing, conversations are cut and spliced together, and the subtitles don't match what is actually being said. The Center for Medical Progress, which produced the videos, has so far refused to release the full, unedited versions to Congress or the courts.
But Republicans are using the videos as fuel for their ongoing attacks against the family planning provider, with some GOP members of Congress threatening to shut down the federal government this fall if the must-pass budget bill includes any funding for Planned Parenthood.
The presidential candidates are divided on the shutdown. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) said he opposes a shutdown fight over Planned Parenthood, because Republicans would fail and likely lose public support in the process. But Cruz, who is leading the shutdown fight in the Senate, said Republicans should not back down on the effort to defund Planned Parenthood just because President Obama will veto it. "We need to stop surrendering and start standing for our principles," Cruz said.
Read the latest updates on the GOP debate here.
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