[Content note: Graphic, if factually questionable, description of purported abortion]
At the Republican presidential debate last Wednesday, Carly Fiorina made waves with an incredible and impassioned story, describing hidden-camera footage of (purportedly) a Planned Parenthood clinic (purportedly) showing “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.'” It was a very dramatic moment, recounted with great intensity, and one can only imagine how painful it must have been to watch that footage.
If it existed. Which it doesn’t.
There’s no such scene in the 12 hours of hidden-camera video shot inside two Planned Parenthood clinics by the Center for Medical Progress*, and it’s not in a video provided by her campaign the next day, a “Human Capital” video also produced by the Center. There’s stock footage of fetuses, and there’s fetus footage procured from a different anti-choice organization, and there’s an interview with a former tissue procurement tech who contracted with Planned Parenthood, and there’s a photo of a stillborn fetus used without permission of the mother, so maybe Fiorina could argue that it was all so vivid that she could imagine a situation happening like that, or that she misconstrued footage to think she heard it described, except for the part where she insisted that no, seriously, guys, I totally saw that.
To George Stephanopolous on “Good Morning America” the next day:
No, I didn’t misspeak and I don’t know who you’re speaking about in terms of watching the tapes but I have seen those images.
Well, you know, there’s a lot of commentary about these tapes being doctored. In fact, that’s what the mainstream media keeps talking about, is the tapes and their origin. Rest assured I have seen the images that I talked about last night. Rest assured that human lives are being aborted fully formed in order to harvest body parts.
And then tripling down on Fox News Sunday:
[Host Chris] WALLACE: First of all, do you acknowledge what every fact checker has found, that as horrific as that scene is, it was only described on the video by someone who claimed to have seen it? There is no actual footage of the incident that you just mentioned?
FIORINA: No, I don’t accept that at all. I’ve seen the footage. And I find it amazing, actually, that all these supposed fact-checkers in the mainstream media claim this doesn’t exist. They’re trying to attack the authenticity of the videotape.
Just in the interest of complete and utter fairness ad absurdum, I will accept that it’s possible that Carly Fiorina is holding out on us, and she actually does have that footage on her iPad and refuses to show it to anyone else because she’s testing us all to see who her true supporters are, like some gruesome Doubting Thomas kind of deal. I cannot prove that it isn’t the case or rule that out as a possibility.
However, actual logic would indicate that she’s just flat-out lying, over and over, which is shocking in no way at all, because flat-out lying is how this whole thing has rolled since the first doctored Planned Parenthood videos were released three months ago. And while I usually dig being right and saying “I told you so” (and to say otherwise would be a flat-out lie), I really hate that I was right when I posted before that the completely unsubstantiated accusations against Planned Parenthood, despite being investigated and discredited multiple times, are still going to haunt Planned Parenthood for years. Because anti-choice activists want so badly for it to be true that they’re unwilling to accept the reality that it’s not.
One of the most amazing, disturbing parts of this is that there are Fiorina supporters who watched the “Human Capital” video and insist that they saw the exact same scene that Fiorina claims to have seen — while the footage persists in not existing. A very specific scene, described in graphic detail. A conversation that she swears happened word-for-word as she recounted it. Unequivocally not in the video cited by her own campaign, and yet deluded anti-choicers watch it and swear that they also saw something that was not there to be seen. It would be a curious and intriguing psychological study if the impact that it’s having weren’t so dire.
And it is dire. While Senate Democrats did manage to block a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks (based on the medically debatable claim that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks’ gestation), federal funding of Planned Parenthood is still under attack. This time, it comes in the form of a short-term spending bill introduced by Senate Republicans to avoid a government shutdown October 1. The bill is almost certain to fail when it comes up for a procedural vote Thursday, to be replaced by a rider-free continuing resolution, but what it shows is that Republicans were essentially willing to hold the country hostage — telling us that we can have our funding, but we’re going to have to give up the functions of our government to do it.
It can’t be said enough that, under the Hyde Amendment, Planned Parenthood cannot and does not use federal money to perform abortions, except in very specific and dire circumstances. The funds Republicans are trying to withhold support contraception, STD testing, cancer screening and prevention, well-woman care, and countless other services that would otherwise be unavailable to some of the most underserved and vulnerable members of our population. But anti-choice activists, supporters, and legislators are willing to withhold medical care from low-income communities, perpetuate out-and-out blatant lies, and shut down the government itself to destroy Planned Parenthood. It’s how they show their respect for the sanctity of life.
*Not to be confused with the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, which is a legitimate and non-lying-outright organization championing the importance of medical progress.