Analysis Politics

Debunking Five Absurd Comments About Planned Parenthood From the GOP Debate

Emily Crockett

Planned Parenthood confessed to felonies? Hillary Clinton believes in systematic murder? Welcome to the 2016 GOP presidential contest.

See more of our coverage on recent attacks against Planned Parenthood here.

The second GOP presidential debate took place on the eve of a new round of debate in the House over Planned Parenthood funding, and a potential government shutdown fight looms over the issue.

Most Republican 2016 hopefuls are falling all over themselves to appeal to the party’s anti-choice base and talk about how badly they want to defund Planned Parenthood. In the process, they’re making some blatantly untrue statements.

Here are five of the most absurd comments about Planned Parenthood from the people who want to be the Republican nominee for president.

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5. John Kasich: “Well, I agree that we should defund Planned Parenthood. I don’t know many people in America who don’t think that we should.”

Polling clearly shows that most Americans don’t want to defund Planned Parenthood. In one poll, 64 percent of voters disagreed with Republican defunding attempts; in another, seven in ten respondents said they didn’t want the government to be shut down over the issue.

Kasich said he doesn’t agree with the right-wing Republican efforts to shut down the government. But his moderate-sounding stances on issues like these belie the huge amount of work he has done in Ohio to devastate abortion access. Since entering office, he has signed 16 anti-choice laws and overseen the closure of half of his state’s clinics.

4. Jeb Bush: “There are 13,000 community-based organizations that provide health services to women, 13,000 in this country. I don’t believe that Planned Parenthood should get a penny from the federal government.”

Bush was repeating a popular talking point among Republicans. Since Democrats keep defending the role of Planned Parenthood as a major women’s health-care provider, Republicans have tried to say that defunding Planned Parenthood won’t impact women’s health (if you pretend that abortion isn’t also health care). Republicans say they will divert the funding to other federally qualified health centers that can provide the same services, and they point to how many more community health centers than Planned Parenthoods there are in the country.

The problem with this argument is that it ignores just how many more patients Planned Parenthood sees than other clinics. Community health centers are frequently stretched to capacity already; Planned Parenthood often has the capability to provide more efficient and higher-quality reproductive health care, and it’s the only low-cost family planning provider around in one-fifth of the counties it serves.

Medical authorities say that other public clinics simply couldn’t fill the gap if the GOP got its wish and Planned Parenthood went away.

3. Chris Christie: “Let’s ask Hillary Clinton. She believes in the systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts … in a way that maximizes their value for sale for profit.”

Christie is mostly rehashing misleading claims made by the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress (CMP) in a series of highly edited videos attacking Planned Parenthood. CMP claims that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue for profit, although their videos prove nothing of the kind. 

Talking about “systematic murder,” though, and accusing a major presidential candidate of supporting it, is a radical rhetorical move. It’s also consistent with the way GOP lawmakers are trying to confuse the Planned Parenthood issue with gross-out rhetoric about infanticide that has nothing to do with the case at hand. 

2. Ted Cruz: “On these videos, Planned Parenthood also essentially confesses to multiple felonies. It is a felony with ten years’ jail term to sell the body parts of unborn children for profit. That’s what these videos show Planned Parenthood doing.”

There is absolutely nothing in the CMP videos, even as highly edited as they are, that amounts to a “confession” to a felony.

CNN’s fact-checker put it this way after the debate:

“There’s no evidence that anyone is confessing to anything on these tapes. In fact, if you watch them carefully, what you hear is these representatives saying many times: this is for the handling, this is for the processing, it’s less than $100 per sample, this is not a matter of profit. So for him to suggest this is a clear confession of some sort, that is simply not true. False statement.”

To date, no federal or state investigations have found any evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood with regard to its fetal tissue donation programs.

1. Carly Fiorina: “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 also simply not true. The only thing that comes close to what Fiorina describes is in this video, but it’s not at all what she says it is.

There is talk about heart-beating and brain-harvesting in a first-person recollection by a disgruntled former tissue procurement technician—but there is no video and no other witness confirming her story. The technician also acknowledges that the “heartbeat” was just a response to a technician’s instrument, and nobody ever says anything about keeping a fetus alive in order to harvest the brain.

The “fully formed fetus” that illustrates the technician’s story is just a couple of edited-in stock images, not anything from the Planned Parenthood undercover footage. One video clip is labeled as coming from a group specializing in anti-choice shock imagery, and the other was a photo of a stillbirth taken from the Internet that the family did not consent to be shown in the video.

It seems that either Fiorina didn’t watch the tapes and had somebody describe them to her, she has false memories of what she saw, or she is lying.

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