Doctors Say Abortion Video Referenced by Carly Fiorina Probably Doesn't Show an Abortion

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

On Tuesday, anti-abortion activist and Center for Bio-Ethical Reform founder Gregg Cunningham released a 13-minute video he says is an extended version of the video of an abortion Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina referred to in the second GOP primary debate.

The exceptionally graphic footage is available on YouTube and was previously released in part in a video released by another anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress.

Fiorina referred to the clip that used parts of the full 13-minute video during the Republican primary debate on Sept. 16, telling the audience it corroborated additional footage the CMP says implicates Planned Parenthood in illegal fetal organ harvesting.

"As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes," Fiorina said during the debate. "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.'"

Source: Mic/YouTube

Fiorina deputy campaign manager Sarah Flores has previously directed reporters to the CMP video, which contains sections of Cunningham's footage spliced with narration from a former laboratory technician relaying the brain-harvesting story, as evidence that Fiorina's remarks were well-sourced.

But there's a big problem here: Two doctors consulted by Mic said the extended footage likely does not depict an abortion procedure at all, let alone provide any evidence the fetus was being preserved for its organs at a Planned Parenthood facility. Instead, they say, it is likely footage of a premature delivery.

Dr. Jen Gunter, a San Francisco Bay Area OB-GYN who wrote a blog post pointing out numerous flaws with the footage, told Mic in a phone interview, "No one can be absolutely sure of anything unless they are there, but [...] if you were just to show me this video and say what is this, I would say this is a premature delivery."

"There are a whole bunch of things in the video that we just don't do except for a premature delivery," Gunter said. "Unless the center can produce the name of the physician who did it and say this is an abortion, I think it's not."

Here's the section of Gunter's blog post arguing the footage does not depict an abortion:

Here are all the issues with the video from start to finish:

1. It is illegally and clandestinely shot. I feel very badly for the poor woman in question and wonder why Fiorina and our elected officials are not as outraged as I am about her violation and exploitation. I had second thoughts about watching it myself given the lack of consent from the woman; however, I felt if I could end the conversation about it faster by weighing in. Time magazine or Slate have links.
2. The prep of the patient. The physician (I'm assuming) pours surgical prep/cleaner on the woman's perineum. We don't do that anymore for spontaneous deliveries or for abortions that involve induction of labor. This tells me this video is at least 15 years old or from another country.
3. The delivery. It is a spontaneous delivery as the operator waits for the fetus to be expelled. This is what we do with a previable premature delivery. If this were shot midway through a second-trimester abortion (meaning the laminaria in the cervix, which are osmotic sticks that help the cervix dilate, had just been removed), it is highly unlikely the operator would have waited for a spontaneous expulsion.
4. The cord is clamped on the fetal side. If this were an abortion, it would just be cut. Really. No one ever does this with an abortion as it serves no purpose.
5. Waiting for the placenta. The clamp is left on the placental end and at the end of the video the placenta still hasn't delivered. If this were an abortion, the placenta would be removed with suction immediately. No one would wait 11 minutes. Ever. Every abortion clinic has a suction machine.
6. There is no proof this video is in a Planned Parenthood clinic never mind in the United States. This could easily be an operating room.

Another doctor consulted by Mic, who posts on Twitter under the handle @DrJaneChi, was more even emphatic. (She provided credentials identifying her as a doctor who provides abortion care at an independent clinic in the Midwest, but preferred to stay anonymous due to previous harassment by anti-abortion activists.)

Gunter agreed the video could depict an abortion performed in another country. But since the video lacks audio, it is impossible to ascertain which language any rolling commentary from doctors or the patient is in.

Cunningham told Time the lack of medical attention given to the fetus in the video demonstrates it was an abortion. But Doe told Mic that doctors are not legally or ethically obligated to provide futile care, and "the resuscitation of an 18-week fetus would certainly qualify as that."

The footage has become a major election issue for the Fiorina campaign: The former Hewlett-Packard CEO's remarks on the footage were among her most-highlighted comments of the second presidential primary debate. Her performance on the stage sent her skyrocketing from 11th place in a CNN poll conducted before the debate to a tie for third place in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

More generally, Fiorina amplified the Republican push in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, which House of Representatives leadership including Speaker John Boehner is trying to defuse before it leads to another government shutdown. On Tuesday, a separate Missouri state investigation found no evidence Planned Parenthood acted improperly.

In a statement to Time, Cunningham commended the impact of the video, saying the CMP managed to "shift the terms of the debate away from choice to a visualization of what is being chosen." But if the footage does not actually depict an abortion, that choice of visual is misleading.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Venezuela's Supreme Court targeted in helicopter attack amid ongoing crisis

The apparent helicopter attack is the latest escalation of an ongoing political crisis.

Iran calls Supreme Court's travel ban decision "racist" and "unfair"

Iranian officials criticized Trump's de-facto Muslim ban this week.

Kshama Sawant on why Seattle needs an independent investigation into the Charleena Lyles shooting

Seattle City Councilperson Kshama Sawant, member of Socialist Alternative party, discusses the Charleena Lyles investigation, tenant voter registration, why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 and more.

The EPA seeks to undo clean water rule, putting 117 million Americans' water at risk

The new rule could have "long-reaching consequences for everyone living in the United States.”

This small Ohio town might stop treating heroin overdoses to save the city money

"People will die. It's plain and simple."

Design for New York's first official LGBTQ monument is unveiled

Here's our first look at New York's new monument to LGBT communities.

Venezuela's Supreme Court targeted in helicopter attack amid ongoing crisis

The apparent helicopter attack is the latest escalation of an ongoing political crisis.

Iran calls Supreme Court's travel ban decision "racist" and "unfair"

Iranian officials criticized Trump's de-facto Muslim ban this week.

Kshama Sawant on why Seattle needs an independent investigation into the Charleena Lyles shooting

Seattle City Councilperson Kshama Sawant, member of Socialist Alternative party, discusses the Charleena Lyles investigation, tenant voter registration, why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 and more.

The EPA seeks to undo clean water rule, putting 117 million Americans' water at risk

The new rule could have "long-reaching consequences for everyone living in the United States.”

This small Ohio town might stop treating heroin overdoses to save the city money

"People will die. It's plain and simple."

Design for New York's first official LGBTQ monument is unveiled

Here's our first look at New York's new monument to LGBT communities.