Carly Fiorina is still baldly insisting that she saw a very specific thing in the sting videos against Planned Parenthood: “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.” That video doesn’t exist. Now, anti-abortion groups are peddling footage of what medical experts say is pretty clearly a miscarriage, in an effort to try to prove Fiorina wasn’t lying. Spoiler: She still is.

One section of one Center for Medical Progress video shows what the group insists is an aborted fetus in a specimen pan, its leg moving. There’s no sound. Moments later, Holly O’Donnell, a former procurement specialist with the company StemExpress, insists that she heard a doctor once say he would harvest a fetus’ brain because it was well-preserved. Later in the video, we see photos of a 19-week-old miscarried fetus, named “Walter Fretz” by his pro-life parents, who have circulated the images to promote their view that abortion is wrong.

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Fiorina contorted those scenes into an imaginary video where an abortionist looms over an innocent fetus and prepares to cut out its brain. Now, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, another anti-abortion group, has released what it says is the full, unedited video Fiorina was referencing. It’s the original video from which the video still of the fetus in the pan was pulled; the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform is presenting it under the title “Carly Fiorina was right.”

The video, which is extremely graphic, shows a woman delivering a very small fetus, which is held for a moment by a gloved hand and then placed in a specimen pan. A man sitting next to the woman appears to get up periodically and stand beside her. Gregg Cunningham, an anti-abortion activist, insisted to Time that the footage was taken in an abortion clinic, which he refused to identify. (We have no indication that the woman consented to have her medical procedure filmed or that it was taken under legal circumstances, which is why I have chosen not to embed it.)

Time went along with it, taking Cunningham more or less at his word and letting him sort of imply it was maybe taken in a Planned Parenthood:

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.

But the presence of the man by the woman’s side, according to Dr. Jen Gunter, is one of the key pieces of evidence that what we’re seeing is a miscarriage.

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Gunter, an OB-GYN and pain medicine physician who keeps an excellent personal blog, wrote about the many things that indicate this wasn’t a “born alive aborted baby,” as LifeNews puts it. The key clues, Gunter writes, are both the man in the room and the type of equipment surrounding the woman:

Today I viewed it again on a very large screen and noticed the width of the bed. It is clearly a labor and delivery bed, procedure/operating tables (used for clinic abortions and in the operating room) are much narrower. Also the part of the stirrup that is visible in the upper left is typical of a labor and delivery bed. As I was going through it frame by frame I noticed movement on the right side close to the minute mark. There is an African-American man who is sitting and moving back and forth as if he is wiping the brow of the woman on the table and comforting her. His face is clearly visible in the right upper corner at the 54 second mark. And of course that is what happens at premature deliveries, support persons come in. Partners don’t get to come back for abortions, that’s not how it works. I took a screen shot to be sure, but I feel wrong about posting it. Anyone who doesn’t believe me can look for themselves.

Gunter says the fetus was probably inspected for any “grossly visible defects,” which the anti-abortion crowd has interpreted as an abortion doctor roughly jostling it for the purposes of evil. At that point, she says, the fetus would’ve been sent to the morgue or for an autopsy, depending on the circumstances of the miscarriage:

Why wasn’t a blanket given to the baby? If the mother declined to hold her baby after delivery then typically nothing additional would be done and the body would go to the morgue or pathology for autopsy depending on the plans/circumstance.

In a later story, Time interviewed several medical experts, including Gunter, who unanimously said the video clearly showed a non-viable fetus, too small to be saved through any medical intervention (viability begins around 23 weeks). One doctor, Jeffrey Perlman, a neonatologist at Weill Cornell Medical College, did say the video could possibly depict an abortion: “It’s possible it could be an abortion and it could be a miscarriage.”

The Guardian, too, showed the footage to medical experts, one of whom called it “totally irresponsible” to present it as an abortion or to conflate it, as Fiorina did, with an imaginary scene of brain-harvesting:

“There has been talk that the image must be of an abortion not a miscarriage because they did not provide medical care,” [Dr Paul] Holtrop [a neonatologist] said. “That’s just not true. It would not change what you did for the infant – at that stage it’s too premature.”

One medical expert, who asked not to be named so as not to further conflagrate politics and women’s reproductive health, said that Fiorina had “totally mischaracterized” the facts of how such procedures really work.

“This is beyond politics. It’s totally irresponsible,” the expert said.

In a CNN interview with Chris Cuomo, David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress was also forced to admit that Fiorina was wrong, although, as is his wont, he did it in the slimiest and most evasive of ways. Via RawStory:

Via Media Matters, here’s a full transcript of their conversation, in which Daleiden insists the fetus shown is a “born alive infant from a late-term abortion,” and admits he conflated that image and Walter Fretz to make a point, even though in neither video is anyone’s brain harvested.

CUOMO: Here’s what really created a flash point I want you do speak to. Carly Fiorina, very passionately in the debate, very cogently brings across this image of an aborted baby on the table, the heart beating, the legs moving. Look at that video and then tell me what you think. Let me ask you about that image. Is that an aborted fetus that is on that — in that image?

DALEIDEN: You know, I’m actually in the studio, I don’t have a visual of what you’re showing me.

CUOMO: You know what I’m talking about David. It’s a miscarriage. You know the mother was interviewed. You know you didn’t ask her for permission for it but that is beside the point.

DALEIDEN: That’s not what Carly Fiorina was referencing. Carly Fiorina was referencing the sequence in our video that shows footage of a born alive infant from a late term abortion actually moving in a specimen pan while Holly O’Donnell — who used to work at stem express — is talking about the harvesting of a brain of an infant of the exactly same gestational age —

CUOMO: So you think it’s a different image than the one that was pointed out —

DALEIDEN: Yeah, if you’re showing the image of the Walter Fretz right now that is not the image.

CUOMO: I don’t know now the names. I don’t own the material the way you do. I just know what I’ve seen. I know it comported with what Carly Fiorina was describing and that it seems like something that was certainly taken out of context by whoever put the video together. Because the mother says — the mother says — you know what I’m talking right? There was a mother who had a miscarriage, a stillborn, and you used that in the video right? —

DALEIDEN: Yeah I’ve spoken with Lexi Fretz, the mother. And absolutely images where used to illustrate

CUOMO: And what do you use it to show? To show what?

DALEIDEN: Used to illustrate exactly — exactly the kind of late second trimester baby, fetus, that we’re talking about in these cases of organ harvesting.

CUOMO: But if you’re talking about organ harvesting and the abortions and how terrible they are, why would you use a stillborn fetus, which is not a function of an abortion?

DALEIDEN: Do you think the fetuses are different somehow?

CUOMO: I think it’s —

[CROSSTALK]

DALEIDEN: It is the same gestational age. It’s the same baby whether it’s born dead or alive. It’s the same kind of infant.

CUOMO: Absolutely. It is also completely irrelevant to the point you are trying to make, which is look what they do to these babies. It was born stillborn. It was not aborted. Doesn’t that matter to you if you are talking about abortion?

DALEIDEN: What — What I think what matters is the fact that this — that’s an example of an 18 to 19 week fetus, which is the exact same gestational age that Planned Parenthood routinely aborts and harvests the organs from.

CUOMO: Right but you used it as an example of look at the babies that they abort. Look how its a real person, look how it is, look what they do. But it wasn’t aborted. Isn’t that misleading?

DALEIDEN: No. Because the subject, the creature that is being aborted is the same — the same kind of thing. It is the same kind of fetus. That is not misrepresenting at all.

In other words, both Daleiden and Fiorina are still shamelessly lying, with lots of help from the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform and anti-abortion news outlets. And now, for good measure, they’ve thrown in footage of some poor woman’s medical procedure, a woman totally dehumanized for the sake of scoring a cheap political point. Ironic, ain’t it.


Contact the author at anna.merlan@jezebel.com.
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Fiorina speaks in Davenport, Iowa, September 25, 2015. Photo via AP Images