Who Harvested the Conservative Brain?

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.’”

-Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina seems intent on proving the adage that “a lie told often enough becomes the truth.” During the September 16, Republican debate, she gave a detailed description of a scene from the “highly edited”  videos from the Center for Medical Progress, an organization that sounds like it could be lifted straight out of an Orwellian 1984. Problematically, “the exact scene, exactly as Ms. Fiorina describes it, is not on the videos.” Politifact rated the statement as “Mostly False,” saying that while “Fiorina makes it sound as if the footage shows what Planned Parenthood is alleged to have done...stock footage was added to the video to dramatize its content.” The anti-abortion group that produced the video admits that one of those images was “of a stillborn baby that was made to look like an aborted fetus.” At best, the actual quote cited is poorly paraphrased as the transcript states “this is a really good fetus. It looks like we can procure a lot from it. We’re going to procure a brain.”

Ignoring the high probability that Fiorina’s comment was pre-scripted and meant to play to the Conservative base, one could argue that her assertion was an “off-the-cuff account” and that she “probably had in mind” a part of the video that used “the sort of dramatic device used in documentaries all the time.”   However, that does not explain why when confronted with her “mistake” in the days following the debate she did not issue a correction. Instead, she doubled down by stating “Well, yes, ladies and gentlemen, they are real and I will issue my charge again.” Her campaign then released a video that they said proved her case. However, since “no one in the [original] videos has even alleged that a fetus was kept alive to harvest a brain, nor is there footage of it,” Fiorina’s video comes up short in proving her case. Instead, she must rely on the “ick” factor using images that have not even been proven to be relevant to the subject being discussed.

Unfortunately, Fiorina is not the only candidate conducting her campaign from inside a bubble devoid of facts. The purpose of the Center for Medical Progress videos was to attempt to prove that Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization, was selling tissue for medical research in order to increase their profits. However, as one expert on the subject states, “In reality, $30-100 [the amount referenced in the videos] probably constitutes a loss for [Planned Parenthood]” and that hospitals that “provide tissue blocks from surgical procedures” charge “in the range of $100-500” to recover their costs, which is specifically allowed by the law. Still, Ben Carson called the actions portrayed in the video a “clear violation of Federal law” in “urging Congress to eliminate every last dime of funding for Planned Parenthood.” Bobby Jindal announced that he would investigate Louisiana’s Planned Parenthood to see if they were engaging in similar conduct even though “Planned Parenthood doesn’t perform abortions in Louisiana.” Jindal cut their funding them anyway. Rand Paul described “a video showing [Planned Parenthood’s] top doctor describing how she performs late-term abortions to sell body parts for profit!

Senator Paul has taken the lead on the federal effort to defund Planned Parenthood, a move that threatens to once again shut down the government, but the Senator’s campaign staff seems to know little about existing law. His chief political strategist issued a statement that “Planned Parenthood and their supporters in the media are willing to say anything to defend their taxpayer funded abortions.” This statement blatantly ignores the fact that, with the exception of cases of rape and insest,  “the Hyde Amendment excludes abortion from the comprehensive health care services provided to low-income people by the federal government through Medicaid.” This ban has been in place since 1976.

The risk of injury to the American people is real as these Republican candidates engage in one upmanship in an attempt to secure the Presidency. A government shutdown will result in furloughed employees, IOU’s given instead of paychecks, damage to the economy and lack of access to needed services. As an example, Standard & Poor’s reported that the shutdown in 2013 “delivered a massive $24 billion hit to the U.S. economy” and “shaved at least 0.6% off annualized fourth quarter 2013 GDP growth.” The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that a “permanent defunding [of Planned Parenthood] would cost the government tens of millions of dollars and...deprive as many of 650,000 women at least partially of access to healthcare,” including access to “contraceptive education and counseling.” While the Conservatives claim that they are taking this step to reduce the number of abortions, it will actually result in “several thousand unwanted pregnancies.” In fact, “most of the increase [in costs] would be the result of thousands of unwanted births needing to be covered by Medicaid, as well as coverage of the children's healthcare.” If our leaders are going to engage in this dangerous brinkmanship, shouldn’t we insist that they do so on something that resembles the truth? This is not reality TV, it is actual reality.