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Gordon Campbell on Carly Fiorina and the anti-abortion scam

Gordon Campbell on Carly Fiorina and the anti-abortion scam

So Carly Fiorina – hitherto best known as the CEO who drove Hewlett-Packard to the brink of ruin - was the big winner in the second Republican candidates debate yesterday. One of her big debate moments – played unedited and without comment on RNZ this morning – came when she urged listeners to view a video that allegedly shows the Planned Parenthood organization discussing how to profit from the organ harvesting of aborted fetuses.

The video that Fiorina was endorsing in prime time is actually a hoax, not a genuine expose of some nefarious Abortion Industrial Complex. You can find a rebuttal here. The Salon article has useful links to other exposés of the hoax here as well. This debunking article by Media Matters is also useful.

Basically, the heavily edited video purports to show Planned Parenthood’s Dr Deborah Nucatola engaged in a discussion of organ harvesting for profit. In fact, she is talking about the perfectly legal, non profit, and routine practice of organ donation by consent for medical research, and the re-imbursement for preparing and transporting the stem tissue involved. Here’s the press statement by Planned Parenthood:

“In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases. Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different. At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does — with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards. There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood. In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.

“A well funded group established for the purpose of damaging Planned Parenthood’s mission and services has promoted a heavily edited, secretly recorded videotape that falsely portrays Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research. Similar false accusations have been put forth by opponents of abortion services for decades. These groups have been widely discredited and their claims fall apart on closer examination, just as they do in this case.”

This site also has useful information on the legal constraints on the sale of fetal tissue, as well as a discussion of some of the grey areas – which are mainly to do with the validation of the transportation costs involved :

Much of the controversy stems from a lack of widespread public knowledge of who buys and sells fetal tissue, what it is used for, and what the law allows regarding its purchase and sale. Scientists have been using such material in medical research for decades to study (and possibly develop cures for) a number of diseases and medical ailments, but commercial fetal tissue transactions take place in something of a legal gray zone: agencies may sell fetal tissue that has been “donated” for that purpose (through abortion), but they may not profit from it. According to federal law they may only charge for the processing and shipping involved in transferring the material from donor to purchaser, but the law doesn’t regulate how much they may charge.

Give the paltry amounts that Nucotala is shown mentioning on the video – “$30 to $100 per specimen” it is clear she is talking only about the re-imbursement for the transportation costs, and not any level of profiteering from organ harvesting. Moreover, the brochure that features in the video that does purport in one line to promote a profit potential, is not a Planned Parenthood document – as the video claims - but is from Stem Express, a firm that processes and transports the stem tissue to medical researchers around the world.

OK… so the video is a fraudulent effort. Yet touting it was one of the main reasons the pundits are now saying that Fiorina’s debate performance was based on substance, not generalities or metaphors. Should we be surprised that Fiorina has peddled this anti-abortion scam in prime time – while projecting herself as the feisty pro-woman candidate? Not really. As the New York Times has reported, Fiorina has deliberately fudged and distorted her disastrous tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard as well.

Donald Trump, at least, managed to get the Hewlett-Packard flaw in her CV dead right.

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