Fact-Checking Carly Fiorina’s Debate Statements on Planned Parenthood


Carly Fiorina during Wednesday night’s Republican debate. (Photo: Getty Images)

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina made her primetime debut last night at the second Republican presidential debate, held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Fiorina was promoted from what is widely known as the “JV” or “kiddie table” debate, held prior to the main event for candidates lagging dramatically in the polls.

Many pundits declared newcomer and Washington outsider Fiorina the hands-down winner of last night’s debate — sorry, Donald. Her performance onstage against 10 of her male opponents was commanding, poised, and measured, but unfortunately it was not always rooted in fact — especially when it came to her remarks regarding Planned Parenthood and the recent undercover “sting” videos released by the antiabortion activist group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) over the past two and a half months.

Speaking straight into the camera, Fiorina told her audience why she believes it is essential to approve a budget that would eliminate all federal funding to the reproductive and sexual health care provider:

“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 do not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.”

The video of which Fiorina speaks, however, does not exist.

To date, there have been a total of 10 highly edited videos released by the Center for Medical Progress. Two of the 10 feature footage filmed undercover at a Planned Parenthood affiliate clinic. None of the 10 feature anyone — Planned Parenthood personnel or otherwise — saying, “We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

A video released by the CMP on Aug. 19 featured footage of a 19-week fetus obtained not from Planned Parenthood but from the Grantham Collection, an antiabortion resource website. At the end of the footage, the fetus is shown to be moving slightly. Medical experts have confirmed that, just as in following the death of an adult human, there can still be involuntary movements in fetuses.

Related: Undercover Antiabortion Video Showed Images of Stillborn — Not Aborted — Fetus

Fiorina’s impassioned, authoritative argument for the defunding of Planned Parenthood was one of the most notable moments of the three-hour-long debate. It’s too bad, then, that what she chose to say in that moment is false.

While it remains unclear after last night whether Fiorina has herself watched the videos that she dared President Obama and former Secretary of State Clinton to watch, Fiorina’s long-standing antiabortion stance is irrefutable.

When she last ventured into the political arena, during her failed 2010 campaign to take the seat of longtime California Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat, she garnered the endorsement not only of Sarah Palin but also of the Susan B. Anthony List, the National Right to Life Committee (whose general counsel just last week testified at the congressional hearings on Planned Parenthood), and the California ProLife Council. During her senatorial campaign, her antiabortion stance made her a surprise tea party darling.

Last month at the Iowa State Fair, a popular and essential campaign stop for any candidate, Fiorina explained her commitment to the federal defunding of Planned Parenthood by saying, “Anybody who buys the Democratic argument that this is about women’s health, you need to look at all of the other facilities that provide women’s health services.”

Fiorina’s continued insistence that there are other facilities that can absorb the family planning and preventive health care for patients being served by Planned Parenthood has been proved to be empirically false. Because the bulk of the federal funding received by Planned Parenthood is for Medicaid reimbursement, and no federal funds may be spent on any costs affiliated with abortion care, defunding Planned Parenthood would primarily harm those Americans whose income level qualifies them for Medicaid, and those low-income households who fail to meet Medicaid limits and cannot afford insurance — but can receive preventive health care services, including cancer screenings and contraception, on a sliding scale based on need.

Already, however, the majority of Medicaid programs are experiencing provider shortages, with more than two-thirds of states reporting difficulty in ensuring enough providers, especially ob-gyn care, for enrollees. Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics make up 10 percent of all publicly funded family planning centers, serving 36 percent of all clients who obtain care from the family planning health care network. Likewise, Planned Parenthood health centers make up 13 percent of all Title X-funded clinics, and yet serve 37 percent of all Title X clients.

When the Planned Parenthood health center in Scott County, Ind., was shuttered by state budget cuts in 2013, thus eliminating the region’s primary resource for HIV testing and counseling, the state found itself facing an unprecedented HIV epidemic within a mere two years.

Related: HIV in the Heartland

In 2011, Tennessee defunded Planned Parenthood in its state through restricted Title X funds made available to public agencies, resulting in a faith-based health center being the sole option for Title X clients. Within a year, the number of Title X patient visits across the state had dropped by 1,400 percent.

And after Texas — arguably the state with the most restrictive laws regarding women’s health care in the country — eliminated Planned Parenthood health centers from its family planning program for low-income women, there was a 9 percent decrease in program enrollees, a 26 percent decrease in Medicaid claims, and a 54 percent decrease in contraceptive claims — fueling a 67 percent decrease in net savings from family planning across the state.

This month, Sara Rosenbaum, the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor and founding chair of the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, and a commissioner on the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, wrote in Health Affairs:

“A claim that community health centers readily can absorb the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics amounts to a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do were Planned Parenthood to lose over 40 percent of its operating revenues overnight as the result of a ban on federal funding. … Community health centers offer women’s health services as part of comprehensive primary care programs that must meet a broad array of health care needs among community residents of all ages. They cannot simply put their other responsibilities aside.”

Fiorina has also expressed her desire to not only implement a federal 20-week abortion ban, but also overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade, thus rendering abortion itself illegal.

Toward the end of the debate, when asked what woman she believes should grace the new $10 bill, Fiorina told moderator Jake Tapper that “every woman should be able to live the life she chooses.”

A new poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, on behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America, of self-identifying independent voters in swing states shows that the positions and statements the leading Republican candidates are taking on abortion are making independent voters in those states less likely to support them.

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