Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Carly Fiorina and the still nonexistent abortion video

Watching Carly Fiorina handle the controversy over her clearly misleading statements about Planned Parenthood, it becomes a lot easier to understand why her tenure as CEO at Hewlett-Packard ended so disastrously, with its stock price collapsed, 30,000 jobs gone and the H-P board in an uproar over Fiorina's refusal to be honest about what was happening. The same character flaws and lack of judgment are reasserting themselves.

In this case, rather than admit and correct her mistake in the Planned Parenthood controversy, Fiorina has doubled down on it. Rather than accept reality, she has attempted through sheer denial to create her own.  Here she is last weekend being interviewed on Fox News by Chris Wallace, who notes that the footage that Fiorina repeatedly insists on describing in fact does not exist:

Wallace: Do you acknowledge what every fact-checker has found, that as horrific as that scene is, it was only described on the video by someone who claimed to have seen it? There is no actual footage of the incident that you just mentioned.

Fiorina: No, I don’t accept that at all, I’ve seen the footage. And I find it amazing, actually, that all these supposed fact-checkers in the mainstream media claim this doesn’t exist. They’re trying to attack the authenticity of the videotape.

Just to get this on the record, none of the facts below is in dispute. All of them are documented, often by the very people attempting to use the video to condemn Planned Parenthood:

1.) This is a screenshot of the image that Fiorina is claiming to describe, taken from a Fiorina campaign ad:

2.) That graphic video of a premature fetus struggling vainly for life was NOT obtained in the Planned Parenthood undercover operation, despite some attempts to imply otherwise. Even the Center for Medical Progress, which conducted the undercover video operation and which inserted the footage above into its own video, acknowledges that fact.

3.) In fact, the image above has no known association with Planned Parenthood whatsoever, as its original source, the pro-life Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, has publicly confirmed.

3.) Finally, specialists in the field of neo-natal development and obstetrics say the video segment probably has nothing to do with abortion either. Instead it documents the tragic birth of a fetus much too early for it to survive.

Greg Cunningham of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform has tried to refute that conclusion, claiming it is indeed the product of abortion. He bases his argument on the fact that medical personnel in the video make no attempt to revive the struggling 17-week-old fetus. To him, that means they want it to die.

"It’s just nonsensical that any OB-GYN would not provide any neonatal intensive care,” he told TIME.

"Nonsensical"? People who actually know what they're talking about have a very different take. According to neo-natal specialists, no OB-GYN would have attempted to save a fetus born that tragically premature because it would have no chance of life:

"... the chance of survival below that (22-week) gestation is simply so remote that application of aggressive neonatal resuscitation and intensive care would be not only futile, but cruel," according to John Kattwinkel, a professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Virginia. (See also here.)

So here's our situation: We have an emotionally powerful video segment of a dying fetus, a video that has no known association with Planned Parenthood, no known association with abortion and certainly no known association with tissue or organ harvesting. Yet through sheer stubborn insistence, Fiorina attempts to turn that video into convincing visual proof that Planned Parenthood is aborting late-term fetuses so their organs can be harvested while the fetuses are still alive. Even accepting the degraded quality of truth in modern politics, that's just amazing.

Let's review Fiorina's debate statement one more time:

“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.”

She is wrong about all of that, every little bit, including her charge that this is somehow about the character of our nation. At this point, it is about the character of a political candidate.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.