Carly Fiorina gave a harrowing description of the Planned Parenthood sting videos at Wednesday's Republican debate, challenging Barack Obama to 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."
Fiorina is wrong: Nobody watching the Planned Parenthood tapes would see those things. I know, because I recently watched the 12 hours of video that included all footage shot inside clinics.
The videos were produced by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group that argues Planned Parenthood has profited from procuring fetal tissue for researchers. The videos do show Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue, sometimes in ways that are callous and jarring. But there is no moment where Planned Parenthood discusses procuring fetal tissue for profit, nor is there the scene that Fiorina describes.
There are two Planned Parenthood sting videos that were shot inside Planned Parenthood clinics (other videos exist, taped at conferences and lunch meetings). One was taped in Louisiana and the other in Colorado. And in both videos, Planned Parenthood employees do work with the fetal tissue, showing the pro-life advocates posing as tissue buyers the different parts of the body.
But the things Fiorina describes — the legs kicking, the intact "fully formed fetus," the heart beating, the remarks about having to "harvest its brain" — are pure fiction.
You don't have to take my word for it; You can watch the footage right here. The part showing fetal tissue begins about an hour and 18 minutes in and runs nearly through the end of the video, shot at the Colorado clinic.
In the other video, from Texas, it begins around four hours and 56 minutes.
Either Fiorina hasn't watched the Planned Parenthood videos or she is knowingly misrepresenting the footage. Because what she says happens in the Planned Parenthood videos simply does not exist.
Update: Carly Fiorina defended her remarks about Planned Parenthood Thursday morning on Good Morning America.
"There's a lot of commentary about these tapes being doctored," Fiorina said in an interview with George Stephanolous. "In fact,that's what the mainstream media keeps talking about is the tapes and their origin. Rest assure, I have seen the images I talked about last night. Rest assure, human lives are being harvested."
I've been trying to figure out where Fiorina got these vivid images, and Mollie Hemmingway suggests one answer: there is a mini-documentary series produced by CMP, the group that conducted the Planned Parenthood sting videos, called Human Capital. This series uses some footage from the tapes shot inside Planned Parenthood, as well as stock footage, clips of cable news shows, and an interview with a former fetal tissue procurement technician who worked with a company that worked with Planned Parenthood.
The third Human Capital video has stock footage of a fetus kicking on a table — though that footage isn't from inside a Planned Parenthood. The video cites the Center for Bioethical Reform and the Grantham Collection as the sources for that footage, and never claims to have taped those images themselves.
It also has an interview with Holly O'Donnell, the former technician, who claims to have seen a fetus with a beating heart. O'Donnell says that, in her former job, she was once instructed to procure the brain tissue from the remains of an aborted fetus.
There is no video of the images that O'Donnell describes seeing, nor is there any mention of instructions to "keep it alive so we can harvest its brain," so it's still not the footage Fiorina describes having watched. I've reached out to the Fiorina camp to see if they have a better answer.
Correction: This story initially said I had watched all the Planned Parenthood sting videos. In fact, I reviewed all sting footage released by August 13th, which included all the footage shot inside Planned Parenthood clinics — which was where a scene like the one Fiorina describes would have been.
There is some more recent footage shot outside Planned Parenthood clinics that I had not seen. But that footage, according to the Fiorina campaign, is also not the source of the scene the candidate described. So far, the Fiorina campaign has not been able to point to video with the scene Fiorina spoke of in the debate.