Fiorina takes fire for citing abortion video
By Evan Lips | September 23, 2015, 18:53 EDT
Out of all the presidential hopefuls showcased at last week’s Republican debate, former Hewlett-Packard leader Carly Fiorina delivered the most visceral takedown of Planned Parenthood and its fetal organ-harvesting practices, as depicted in a hidden-camera video.
“Anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes,” Fiorina said. “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.”
Planned Parenthood and its supporters responded by putting Fiorina in their collective crosshairs.
Feminist Gloria Steinem, in particular, took dead aim with a full-bore blast:
“What she said about Planned Parenthood was a 100% lie — as fact-checkers have pointed out — and she accused Hillary Clinton of lying when she was in fact telling the truth,” Steinem said in a Facebook post.
Fiorina referred to videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress, or CMP, and made public Aug. 19, which show a former organ-procurement technician describing a specific incident in which she was ordered to “cut down through the middle” of an aborted fetus’s face to obtain the brain.
The video received little attention from major media outlets prior to Fiorina’s comments. After the debate, reporters scrutinized the images and some rushed to point out that the fetus shown was not the same one mentioned by the former technician.
Planned Parenthood pounced on Fiorina immediately. The day after the debate, the nonprofit group drafted a formal letter urging Fiorina to refrain from making “patently false” comments.
“Your statements last night, while vivid and attention-getting, were completely untrue,” wrote Dawn Laguens, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Fiorina has refused to retract a single word.
Questioned by Chris Wallace of Fox News, who stressed that the videos contained no images from the events described by the former technician, Fiorina did not back down. She instead ripped the “supposed fact-checkers in the mainstream media” who still haven’t seen the videos.
Critics of the “fact-checker” interpretation include columnists like Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, who opined that while the exact scene Fiorina references does not appear in the video, her account is accurate. It’s not meant to be a news report, he suggested.
“It’s akin to a documentary maker interviewing a witness to Cecil the Lion getting shot, and using footage of another lion getting shot as an illustration,” Goldberg writes.
One of the fetuses shown was actually a baby born prematurely at 19 weeks of gestation. CMP acknowledged that the images were of Walter Fretz and first appeared in a January 2014 story on London’s Daily Mail news site.
Walter’s mother, Alexis Fretz, posted photos and an account of unexpectedly giving birth to her son, who lived for only a few minutes in the hospital, to her personal blog. She stressed her surprise at seeing how “fully formed” the baby was, with a beating heart, when he emerged into the world.
Images of Walter appear at around the 8:50-minute mark of the CMP video.
Earlier this week, Senate Democrats blocked a bill that would have banned most abortions from being performed after 20 weeks of gestation.
A fetus shown at around the 5:50-minute mark in the CMP video appears to be the one Fiorina referred to as “fully formed” with its legs “kicking,” although her campaign has not specified the particular scene that she described. The fetus appears lying in a metal bowl, its legs moving.
The images were provided to CMP by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, a pro-life group in California.
The center confirmed the segment was shot inside an abortion clinic, in an email. But Gregg Cunningham, executive director of the organization, said access agreements prevent him from disclosing where the images were made or identifying the people involved.
“Preserving confidentiality is vital to future clinic access,” Cunningham said in the email.
Cunningham, answering a followup question, said the fetus had been in gestation for 17.5 weeks.
As for Holly O’Donnell, the technician interviewed in the CMP videos, she too became a target after Fiorina’s nationally televised comments. The pro-choice news site RHRealityCheck.org posted a story delving into the whistleblowing O’Donnell’s private life after discovering her profile on Internet dating and social media sites.
Details of O’Donnell’s private info first appeared on the site in a comment posted by a user last month. RHRealityCheck.org eventually removed the story about O’Donnell’s private life after it backfired and was roundly condemned.