March 3, 2024

Planned Parenthood still caught in headlights

Carly Fiorina places the group at the centre of the GOP candidates’ debate

Once again Planned Parenthood entered the US political debate. On Friday, the House of Representatives passed the Defund Planned Parenthood Act by a vote of 241-187 which imposes a one-year moratorium on federal funding in order to make a thorough investigation of its practices. 

A spokesman for Planned Parenthood described the bill as “a callous attempt to insert politics into women’s health”. There is no danger of the bill passing in the Senate or of receiving President Obama’s signature. However, the vote shows once again how divided the US is on the question of abortion.

In the Republican candidates’ debate earlier this week, Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and failed candidate for governor of California, strode ahead of the pack with a passionate denunciation of the sale of foetal tissue.

In a skilful bit of footwork, Ms Fiorina linked her policy on Iran and Israel with grisly videos made by undercover journalists with officials of Planned Parenthood.  

“As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama 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. This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.”

Fact-checker alarms began ringing furiously across the internet. Slate’s Amanda Marcotte said that Ms Fiorina was lying: “There is nothing in the videos made by CMP, either in the edited or full-length versions, that has anything approaching images of legs kicking or hearts beating.”

Strictly speaking, she is correct. There are no foetuses on tables with beating hearts and kicking legs on camera. However, a procurement technician describes how she dissected the skull of a foetus for its brain. And another scene in a Planned Parenthood clinic shows a technician sifting through a pie dish of foetal body parts, including kidneys and brains. Ms Fiorina’s words are a synthesis of some of the most distressing moments in the videos. The charge of “lying” is unlikely to stick, although she might have to plea bargain for the lesser charge of rhetorical embellishment.

Some of the other 10 candidates were eager to burnish their pro-life credentials at the expense of Planned Parenthood, as well. The former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, said: “I’m the most pro-life governor on this stage. I got to act on my core beliefs. It’s part of who I am. Life is a gift from God. And from beginning end we need to respect it and err on the side of life.”

After Ms Fiorina’s performance, including her stern remarks about Planned Parenthood, most commentators felt that she had won the debate
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