In the GOP debate on CNN last night, Carly Fiorina gave an impassioned speech about why she would risk shutting down the government in order to strip funding from Planned Parenthood. "This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, then shame on us!" she said, going on to describe footage that she claims she watched 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." This horrific imagery allegedly appeared in one of the 10 recent Planned Parenthood sting videos released by the anti-abortion advocacy group Center for Medical Progress (CMP).
But "no video has surfaced showing the scene Fiorina describes taking place inside a Planned Parenthood facility," The Washington Post "Fact Check" columnists say. A video produced by the Center for Medical Progress does feature an interview with Holly O'Donnell, a former technician at StemExpress, a biotechnology company that Planned Parenthood affiliates in California sometimes donated fetal tissue and organs to. O'Donnell says she saw a StemExpress supervisor tap on an aborted fetus' heart to make it beat again.
"And I'm sitting here and I'm looking at this fetus, and its heart is beating, and I don't know what to think," says O'Donnell in the interview. "She gave me the scissors and told me that I had to cut down the middle of the face [to get to the brain]. I can't even describe what that feels like."
Gruesome? Incredibly. But so is a lot of surgery, and so is organ and tissue harvesting in general. Why the supervisor would want to make the heart beat again is unclear, but it is not part of the procedure—there is no mention of anyone saying to "keep it alive so we can harvest its brain." Maybe he or she wanted to show the new employee how hearts can keep beating after death. This doesn't mean, however, that the fetus was alive in any meaningful way; a heart will beat after a brain has died and any consciousness or pain has ceased.
In any event, the events in question neither take place in a Planned Parenthood clinic, nor are they actually depicted in any of the CMP footage. They may have taken place at StemExpress, but Fiorina did not see them, as the only evidence we have of them is the interview with O'Donnell, a young woman choosing to appear in an anti-abortion video and talk about her experiences working at the biotechnology company.
Even Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist, in a piece purporting to defend Fiorina's remarks ("Watch The Video Planned Parenthood And Its Media Allies Deny Exists"), only offers this:
As for Fiorina's quote, she is likely referring to the entirety of the 10 videos, including the seventh video released by the Center for Medical Progress. Watch the full video for yourself. It does, in fact, show a fully formed fetus, heart beating and legs kicking. And it shows this while Holly O'Donnell, a former organ harvester who worked for StemExpress at a Planned Parenthood affiliate, graphically discuss the harvesting of a brain from a baby whose heart was beating.
Just to clarify: No one is denying the existance of this video that anyone can very clearly view on the Internet right now (including below). It exists, and it shows fetuses, and it shows an interview with O'Donnell. It just doesn't show the things Fiorina claimed in front of more than 20 million viewers last night.
Fiorina defended her remarks on Good Morning America Thursday morning. "Rest assured, I have seen the images I talked about last night," Fiorina told George Stephanolous.