Fiorina's Video Comment Distracts From the Real Work of Planned Parenthood

Carly Fiorina speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Nashua, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Carly Fiorina speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Nashua, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

By general consensus, the winner of Wednesday's Republican primary debate on CNN was Carly Fiorina. She not only got Donald Trump to swallow his sneer at her face, which he now calls "beautiful"; she also wowed her audience with comments like this one on the video made to prove that Planned Parenthood harvests aborted fetuses for profit:

"I dare Hillary Clinton to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain."

If this were a true picture of what was actually done and said within a Planned Parenthood clinic, it would indeed be disturbing. But what Fiorina describes is a fake video--a wilfully deceptive mashup of image and word.

First of all, neither the videotape nor any other shred of evidence so far produced by David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress, which made the video, supports his claim that "Planned Parenthood routinely profits from the sale of baby parts." In the video, a doctor named Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services at Planned Parenthood, says that when a patient wishes to donate fetal tissue for medical research, its clinics charge from $30 to $100 for a specimen. But the heavily edited video excludes a crucial point: during the two-and-a-half lunch at which her comments were secretly recorded, Dr. Nucatola said ten times that PP made its charges not for profit but only to cover its expenses, which is perfectly legal. That fact alone tells you how Daleiden works: again and again and again he tried to get the doctor to say that PP harvests fetal tissue for profit, and even though he failed every time, he keeps making the accusation.

Secondly, while the video includes brief footage of a fetus lying on an examination table and slightly moving its legs, neither the video itself nor the Center for Medical Progress has revealed anything about where or how this footage was shot, whether it has anything to do with a Planned Parenthood clinic, or even if the fetus shown was the product of an abortion--as distinct from a premature birth or miscarriage.

Nevertheless, footage of this fetus is made to "illustrate" an interview with Holly O'Donnell, a former procurement technician for a biomedical company called StemExpress, which once worked with Planned Parenthood to collect tissue for medical research but no longer does anything with PP. During her time at a PP clinic in California, O'Donnell recalls, she was once asked to remove tissue from a fully formed aborted fetus whose heart was still beating, and she was understandably reluctant to do so. But no one on the video ever says of the fetus, "we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain," and the fetus described by O'Donnell has nothing to do with the fetus shown on the video.

For this reason, Politifact rightly calls Fiorina's comment "mostly false."

Yet because of the mostly false video she described, Republican legislators in Congress and the Senate have vowed to shut down the federal government unless Planned Parenthood is defunded: a move warmly endorsed by Fiorina herself.

In fixating on a mostly false video, however, Republican lawmakers blind themselves to the following FACTS about Planned Parenthood:

Just three percent of its services involve abortion, which has been legal in this country since 1973.

By federal law, not one dime of federal aid can fund abortion. So PP's abortion services have already been federally defunded.

By serving three-quarters of its clients with family planning and contraception, PP estimates that it prevents over 500,000 unintended pregnancies each year and thereby averts over 200,000 abortions.

PP spends 61 percent of its resources on women's health, such as screening and testing for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and sexually transmitted disease.

Each year, PP serves nearly three million women in this country, and almost 80 percent of them are poor.

Is there any other organization that is ready, willing and able to take over nearly half of PP's services, which is what government funding now supports?

Unless the answer is yes, a vote to defund Planned Parenthood is a vote to gut the health of American women--and increase abortion.

Is that what Republicans really want?