Opinion

Abortion supporters lie about lying, prove pro-lifers have the high ground

If you have friends open to the pro-life movement but still sitting on the fence, this may help. Ask them to, just for a moment, set aside whatever philosophical or religious qualms they might have about personhood, or whatever fears they may have about prohibiting abortion, and just ask them one question: if one side of the issue cannot make its case without lying about the other, isn’t that an indication that it’s the wrong side?

A perfect example of that comes to us today from University of California Professor Carole Joffe at RH Reality Check, who has authored an inexcusably hypocritical article on a “case study of just how many blatant falsehoods voters are willing to overlook.” The alleged liar she has in mind? Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina…

Carly Fiorina tells lies. We have witnessed this during both of the prime-time Republican presidential debates in which she has appeared. In her zeal to demonize Planned Parenthood during the first debate, she described a gory scene purportedly included in one of the infamous doctored videos released by anti-abortionists—a scene that simply does not exist, as numerous journalists, conservatives among them, have pointed out […] her false statements are instantly disprovable in ways that people can readily understand: Either the video showed the disputed scene or it didn’t.

Just one problem, Prof: the video did.

Fiorina’s exact words:

Anyone who has watched this video tape, I dare, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, to watch these tapes. 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.

The facts are that the footage in the video was for illustrative purposes and not the same baby StemExpress whistleblower Holly O’Donnell witnessed, but was from an intact-delivery abortion and accurately depicted the alleged event, as did Fiorina’s description of the horrifying practice. A super PAC ad juxtaposing her words with the scene helpfully makes this clear:

It’s one thing to say Fiorina wasn’t totally precise in speaking from memory, but quite another to claim the scene “simply does not exist.” It does. You can watch it right there. Now, abortion defenders could dispute the validity of O’Donnell’s claims—although even if they succeeded, it wouldn’t reflect on Fiorina’s accurate, good-faith description of what she saw.

Funny, though, they don’t seem interested in that… which further illustrates the original point that if you can’t defend your position honestly, then maybe your position isn’t worth defending.

Mitt Romney, during his presidential campaign, also used the 92 percent statistic cited above. Eventually, though, he ceased to do so when shown the evidence that it was incorrect. Yet Fiorina, when offered the same opportunity to retract, angrily denounced the CNN reporter who was interviewing her, as seen in this testy exchange. The candidate also took the opportunity in that interview to once again restate the “truth” of her claim about the Planned Parenthood video.

For the record, Fiorina actually admitted she was wrong about the 92% number two days before Joffe’s piece was published, precisely the sort of detail she would call Live Action dishonest for omitting. And as far as the video is concerned, what really angers Joffe is not that Fiorina doubled down on her “lie,” but that she refused to be intimidated by her foes’ lies.

As the saying goes, you know you’re over the target when you start taking flak, so the persistence with which platforms like RHRC are trying to demonize Fiorina over this means they know how devastating the truth is.

With respect to her initial rise in the polls after the debate in which she made false claims about the Planned Parenthood video, one could argue that lying, rather than being a problem for her, proved rather to be an advantage in the short term, given that the Republican base has been whipped into a frenzy of hatred of that organization.

Yes, because really, what’s the big deal about people admitting “it’s violence, it’s a person, it’s killing” but doing it anyway, laughing about the eyeball of a kid someone just killed falling into their lap, joking about shipping babies’ severed heads in the mail, the sight of piles of torn-off body parts, casual talk of human organs’ monetary value, or clear indications of multiple federal crimes?

It’s not just anti-abortion Republicans who are “whipped into a frenzy of hatred” over such obvious evil; if anything, the real scandal is how could anyone who thinks of themselves as compassionate and humane not be. The day basic human decency can no longer cross party lines or trump partisan affiliation is the day it’ll be time to pack it in as a society.

The surreal degree to which lying about reproductive matters became routine is embodied by former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl’s concession that his claim that 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortion (the correct figure is 3 percent) was “not intended to be a factually based statement.”

Kyl’s response was inexcusable, but him being guilty doesn’t make Joffe or Planned Parenthood innocent. As researcher Michael New pointed out at the time, 98% of Planned Parenthood’s services to pregnant women, if not to women overall, were indeed abortion services.

And Joffe’s repetition of the thoroughly-discredited 3% figure—which relies on unbundling items that are part of a service and counting them as entirely separate services, obscures the fact that abortion brings in a third of PP’s revenue, and has suspiciously remained at 3% since 1995—undermines her posturing as an earnest truth-teller sincerely offended by the dishonesty around her.

Yet I believe that nationally, most people do not respect those who habitually lie and do not want them as their leaders[.]

Finally, we agree on something. But a real overview of honesty in the abortion debate is a can Professor Joffe should regret opening:

I could go on, but at this point it would kind of seem like overkill. The point is, if she and RH Reality Check really want people to judge this debate by truthfulness, then they’ve got some explaining to do—and well-meaning undecideds have their answer as to where they should land.

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