Some on the left are accusing Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina of lying after she said during Wednesday night's debate that undercover Planned Parenthood footage shows a "fully formed fetus" alive on a table as "someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain."
Slate flatly accused Fiorina of "lying" after she directly challenged Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama to watch the videos, while a writer at Refinery29 dismissed Fiorina's "graphic" and "upsetting" claims as "totally made-up."
The debate is noteworthy given the general consensus that Fiorina's excoriating comments were among her strongest moments during the debate.
"Anyone who has watched this video tape — I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the able, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain," Fiorina said. "This is about the character of our nation. And if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, then shame on us.”
Slate writer Amanda Marcotte correctly noted that the publicly released undercover footage released by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Ethics does not show such a scene, writing that there are no images of babies "kicking or hearts beating." Vox reporter Sarah Kliff also declared that Fiorina was "wrong," noting that she watched all 12 hours of released footage and never saw such a thing.
However, Fiorina was not concocting the story out of thin air; most of the details that she described were recounted in an accompanying mini-documentary series also produced by the Center for Medical Progress.
Holly O’Donnell, a former blood and tissue procurement technician, described in the Center for Medical Progress' "Human Capital" documentary series how she once saw the heart of a baby still beating after an abortion.
"[The] episode tells a former procurement technician’s harrowing story of harvesting an intact brain from a late-term male fetus whose heart was still beating after the abortion," a press release accompanying the video's release last month stated.
The majority of the documentary — the seventh video released overall by the Center for Medical Progress — focused on O’Donnell recounting how she was once asked to help procure brain tissue from a fetus, an experience she said shook her to her core.
“Since the fetus was so intact [my coworker] said, ‘This is a really good fetus, and it looks like we can procure a lot from it. We’re going to procure brain,’” O’Donnell says in the video. "She takes the scissors and she makes a small incision … and goes, I would say to maybe a little bit through the mouth, and she was like, ‘OK, can you go the rest of the way?’”
Watch the video below (caution — graphic):
No images from the incident O'Donnell described were shown; however, there are other photos and clips interspersed throughout the video that feature late-term and stillborn fetuses.
One of those photos caused some critics to object last month that the Center for Medical Progress was misleading viewers: it showed an image of a stillborn baby as O'Donnell described the brain procurement procedure. Kliff described it as "stock footage."
The image of the stillborn baby, Walter Fretz, who was born at 19 weeks, was originally included without any notation about where the photo came from; his mother has since said that she did not agree with the use of her son's image by the Center for Medical Progress, according to the Christian Post.
At another point in the documentary, footage of a different fetus was interspersed, seemingly for effect, as O'Donnell described in a voice-over the features of the fetus from which she procured brain tissue. As she spoke of the baby's facial features, video rolled of a late-term fetus moving its limbs, with a credit that read, "Courtesy of Grantham Collection & Center for Bio-Ethical Reform."
Mollie Hemingway speculated in the Federalist that Fiorina was speaking broadly about the 10 videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, noting that the seventh video featuring O'Donnell "does, in fact, show a fully formed fetus, heart beating and legs licking."
Other videos in the series did feature the remains of deceased fetuses inside pathology labs as well.
Fiorina appeared on "Good Morning America" on Thursday morning to discuss her debate performance, doubling down on her claims about Planned Parenthood, while pushing back against some of her critics.
"I didn't misspeak … . This kind of butchery erodes the character of our nation," Fiorina said. "Rest assured, I have seen the images I talked about last night. Rest assured that human lives are being aborted fully formed in order to harvest body parts."
David Daleiden, the project lead for the Center for Medical Progress, told TheBlaze in a statement that "the footage in question was from Grantham Collection & Center for Bio-Ethical Reform used to illustrate the first person eye witness testimony of Holly O’Donnell of the barbaric acts committed inside Planned Parenthood abortion facilities."
"Planned Parenthood and their supporters are afraid to watch and talk about this footage because it shows their illicit baby parts trade for what it really is: the industrial-scale commodification and exploitation of tiny human beings," Daleiden said.