Experts: New Anti-Planned Parenthood Footage Still Doesn't Support Fiorina's Claims

"Kicking Fetus" Footage Likely Shows A Miscarriage, Not An Abortion


After GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina misrepresented the content of a secretly-filmed anti-Planned Parenthood video -- falsely claiming it shows an aborted fetus on a table, still moving, as a voice urges prolonging its life for organ harvesting -- an anti-choice group released extended footage of the clip they say vindicates Fiorina's claim. But experts say the new footage is likely of a miscarriage, not an abortion, and there is no evidence the footage was filmed inside a Planned Parenthood clinic, or even a U.S. hospital.

After Media Criticized Fiorina For Falsely Describing Scene In Anti-Planned Parenthood Video, Anti-Choice Group Released Video It Says Vindicates Her

During GOP Debate, Carly Fiorina Falsely Claimed Anti-Planned Parenthood Video Shows "A Fully Formed Fetus On The Table ... While Someone Says We Have To Keep It Alive To Harvest Its Brain." Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina claimed during a September 16 debate that video taken inside a Planned Parenthood clinic shows 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." [USA Today, 9/16/15]

Multiple Media Outlets: Fiorina Is "Wrong" And The Scene She Described "Does Not Exist." Multiple media outlets reported that Fiorina's claim was "wrong," "mostly false," and "does not exist in any of the videos" released by the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Vox reporter Sarah Kliff explained that one of the CMP videos "has stock footage of a fetus kicking on a table -- though that footage isn't from inside a Planned Parenthood." PolitiFact also noted (emphasis added):

[T]he video cuts to a fetus outside the womb, placed on what appears to be some sort of examination surface, and the fetus' legs are moving. The Center for Medical Progress says the source of the footage is the Grantham Collection, an organization that hopes to stem abortion by promoting graphic images of the procedure. We don't know the circumstances behind this video: where it came from, under what conditions it was obtained, or even if this fetus was actually aborted (as opposed to a premature birth or miscarriage). [Media Matters, 9/17/15]

In Response To Media Debunking Fiorina's Claim, Anti-Choice Organization Released New Video. A September 29 article by reporter Cody Derespina touted a newly-released, 13-minute video from the anti-choice Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. The video is a longer version of the stock footage clip the Center for Medical Progress inserted into the video Fiorina based her claim on. From (emphasis added):

A baby kicks and squirms moments after it slides from the birth canal in an extremely graphic video released by a pro-life group Tuesday that reportedly shows the abortion of an intact fetus. It's titled "Carly Fiorina was right."

The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform posted the 13-minute video to YouTube, a full version of a clip which Fiorina spoke about during the second Republican presidential debate. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO has been pressed in subsequent interviews about her description of the anti-abortion video, with some members of the media questioning the veracity of the clip and others questioning whether the clip even existed.

"The video speaks for itself and that's what's so powerful about it," CBR executive director Gregg Cunningham told "I don't have to defend it. No one has to take our characterization for granted. Even a lay person can take a look at it and tell what's going on."


The scene Fiorina talks about is from CMP's "Human Capital" documentary web series. It does not feature the widely circulated undercover footage, but rather a first-person interview with a former procurement technician, Holly O'Donnell, who worked for a tissue harvesting company that worked with Planned Parenthood. At one point, a short clip of a baby in a metal pan is shown while O'Donnell continues talking. That clip came from CBR's library, and, following Fiorina's debate statement, Cunningham began a search to track down the full video of the procedure.

"We had an obligation to get all the information out there so people could judge for themselves whether her characterization was defensible," he said. "We were confident that a reasonable person looking at the evidence would say it was." [, 9/29/15]

Experts: No Evidence That The New Footage Has Any Connection To Abortion Or Planned Parenthood

Time: Anti-Choice Activist Touting Longer Video Won't Confirm Its Origins, Insists It's Of An Abortion Simply Because No One Attempted To Resuscitate The Fetus. According to an article in Time, Gregg Cunningham "founded the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform with the aim of spreading images of abortions and fetal remains" to garner support for banning abortion. Cunningham, whose short video is featured momentarily in a Center for Medical Progress' video, told Time reporter Michael Scherer that he is confident the procedure shown is an abortion. But he didn't offer any proof of where the footage was filmed or who filmed it, and his only "evidence" that it depicts an abortion is that no medical treatment seems to be given to the newborn. Scherer reported that Cunningham "made no claim that images shown in the video had anything to do with Planned Parenthood." From Time (emphasis added):

The video that Carly Fiorina graphically described at the last Republican presidential debate, depicting a moving fetus on a table following an apparent abortion, was released online in its entirety Tuesday morning, according to Gregg Cunningham, the founder of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, who collected the footage.

Cunningham, an anti-abortion activist, declined to identify the date, location or authors of the video in an interview with TIME Monday night, saying his group makes agreements of confidentiality in an effort to acquire images of abortions. He also made no claim that the images shown in the video had anything to do with Planned Parenthood, the organization that Fiorina and others have targeted for federal defunding. "I am neither confirming or denying the affiliation of the clinic who did this abortion," Cunningham said.


No video released by the Center for Medical Progress showed the image Fiorina described, but one of the CMP videos does include a brief edited clip from the video Cunningham released on Tuesday, showing a fetus on a stainless steel background with its leg moving.


Cunningham says he is confident the procedure was an abortion, and not a miscarriage, owing to the lack of medical treatment offered to the fetus. He said he estimated the age of the fetus at about 17 and a half weeks. "It is unimaginably more horrifying than the clip that we licensed for CMP to use and that Carly Fiorina made reference to in the debate," Cunningham said. [Time, 9/29/15]

Medical Experts Challenge Anti-Choice Activist's Claim That Video Can Only Show An Abortion: "Nobody Would Resuscitate A Baby At 17 And A Half Weeks." A follow-up article by Time's Michael Scherer quoted several neonatal medical experts who said they largely doubted the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform's assertions that the video shows a 17-to-18-week-old aborted fetus. The medical experts also said that medical guidelines do not recomment resuscitation measures in a miscarriage at that stage. From Time (emphasis added):

"We have incontestably laid to rest the question of whether this is an authentic abortion because we show the abortion," Cunningham, the founder of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, told Fox News Tuesday.

But medical experts who reviewed the video are not so sure. "It's possible it could be an abortion and it could be a miscarriage," said Jeffrey Perlman, a neonatologist at Weill Cornell Medical College, after watching the extremely graphic footage on YouTube.


In an interview with TIME on Monday night, Cunningham said the fact that the fetus was not offered any medical treatment following the birth was evidence that the procedure was an abortion. But three leading neonatal doctors and an obstetrician who has studied premature births interviewed by TIME on Tuesday said that medical guidelines do not indicate a need for resuscitating a fetus born so young.

Paul Holtrop, a neonatologist at Beaumont Health System in Michigan, who has published research on the survival rates for infants who have been resuscitated as early as 22 weeks, agreed that doctors would not attempt to intubate or ventilate a baby born at such an early gestational stage. "Nobody would resuscitate a baby at 17 and a half weeks," he said."The future is a certain death."

Perlman, who co-chaired a report for the American Academy of Pediatrics on the guidelines for resuscitating infants after birth, also said there would be no expectation of medical care. "The lower edge of viability is approximately 23 weeks," Perlman explained. "Fetal heart rate is present from very early on. If you deliver and you have a heartbeat that is not inconsistent with a miscarriage." [Time, 9/29/15]

Vox: "New Video That Claims 'Carly Fiorina Was Right' Shows The Opposite." Vox senior editor and health care reporter Sarah Kliff quoted an obstetrician who "argued that the video more likely shows a premature delivery." From Vox (emphasis added):

Cunningham told Scherer that he is certain it is an abortion process, but at least one obstetrician, Jen Gunter, has argued that the video more likely shows a premature delivery.

"It is a spontaneous delivery as the operator waits for the fetus to be expelled," she wrote Tuesday. "This is what we do with a previable premature delivery. If this were shot mid way through a 2nd 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." [Vox, 9/29/15]

Obstetrician Dr. Jen Gutner: "A Neonatologist Who Attempt[ed] To Resuscitate A 17 Week Delivery Would Be Considered Unethical." Dr. Jen Gunter, an ob-gyn, pain medicine physician, and author of "The Preemie Primer," reviewed the Center's video in a blog post cited by Vox and wrote that she thinks the video depicts a "premature delivery." From her blog (emphasis added):

Greg Cunningham, the curator of the illegally obtained video and the founder of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, told Time magazine that it had to be an abortion "owing to the lack of medical treatment offered to the fetus." The statement underscores the fact that Cunningham has no idea what he is talking about as the fetus is 17-18 weeks and hence pre viable so no one would render care. It is highly atypical to offer neonatal care before 23 weeks. A neonatologist who attempt[ed] to resuscitate a 17 week delivery would be considered unethical.

It is easy to see how someone who has no obstetrical training might think this could be something other than a previable premature delivery. Cunningham's statements clearly show he is no medical expert and isn't in the position to explain it. However, I am.

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


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 mid way through a 2nd 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. [Dr. Jen Gunter's blog, 9/29/15]

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Planned Parenthood, Center For Medical Progress
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.