Leslie Peacock yesterday and Linda Satter in today’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette demonstrated amply that Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge are trying to take Medicaid payments away from Planned Parenthood medical clinics in Arkansas over unproven and wildly misleading allegations made against related organizations in other states.
Arkansas clinics don’t do surgical abortions. They don’t participate in fetal tissue donation programs. The state has not a shred of evidence that Planned Parenthood operates in any manner but responsibly in Arkansas. Only about 2 percent of its business is legal abortion — by drugs in the first nine weeks of pregnancy. It provides a range of health and contraceptive services at one stop, which the state’s new solicitor general, Lee Rudofsky, agreed were available at state clinics only cumulatively, by driving who knows how many miles to who knows how many locations.
But I note this from Rudofsky in John Lyon’s account of the hearing at the Arkansas New Bureau:
Arkansas Solicitor General Lee Rudofsky argued that the videos raise concerns about the possibility that Planned Parenthood may be selling human tissue for a profit and altering abortion procedures to ensure it obtains tissue it can sell. One video suggests that tissue was taken from an aborted fetus while its heart was still beating, he said.
Great lawyer. Punish an Arkansas agency on suspicion, not proof, that somebody somewhere else maybe has done something wrong (which they deny, too).
But this beating heart thing. Carly Fiorina made the same claim in the Republican debate Wednesday night. It has been thoroughly debunked. Rudofsky asked the judge to watch the videos. I’d suggest he watch them. All of them, not just the highly manipulated clips presented for the anti-abortion cause.
Sarah Kliff at Vox has watched them all. Here’s the headline on her response to Fiorina and, by extension, Rudofsky.
Carly Fiorina [Lee Rudofsky] is wrong about the Planned Parenthood tapes. I know because I watched them.
She watched all 12 hours of videos made available (though even these also have been edited according to analysis done for Planned Parenthood).
But the things Fiorina describes — the legs kicking, the intact “fully formed fetus,” the heart beating, the remarks about having to “harvest its brain” — are pure fiction.
She posts the actual video to make the point.
Either Fiorina hasn’t watched the Planned Parenthood videos or she is knowingly misrepresenting the footage. Because what she says happens in the Planned Parenthood videos simply does not exist.
Fiorina won’t back off. Kliff speculates on why (apart from sheer demagoguery):
I’ve been trying to figure out where Fiorina got these vivid images, and Mollie Hemmingway suggests one answer: there is a mini-documentary series produced by CMP, the group that conducted the Planned Parenthood sting videos, called Human Capital. This series uses some footage from the tapes shot inside Planned Parenthood, as well as stock footage, clips of cable news shows, and an interview with a former fetal tissue procurement technician who worked with a company that worked with Planned Parenthood.
The third Human Capital video has stock footage of a fetus kicking on a table — though that footage isn’t from inside a Planned Parenthood. The video cites the Center for Bioethical Reform and the Grantham Collection as the sources for that footage, and never claims to have taped those images themselves.
It also has an interview with Holly O’Donnell, the former technician, who claims to have seen a fetus with a beating heart. O’Donnell says that, in her former job, she was once instructed to procure the brain tissue from the remains of an aborted fetus.
There is no video of the images that O’Donnell describes seeing, nor is there any mention of instructions to “keep it alive so we can harvest its brain,” so it’s still not the footage Fiorina describes having watched. I’ve reached out to the Fiorina camp to see if they have a better answer.
All this is really irrelevant in Judge Kristine Baker’s courtroom. It’s a red herring raised by the attorney general’s office for political effect. The judge has already indicated skepticism about its relevance. I’m hopeful the rest of Rudofsky’s sophistry will also be viewed skeptically. Particularly this:
Questioned by Baker whether the state had evidence that Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had engaged in unethical conduct, Rudofsky said, “I don’t have anything that says PPH never engaged in that conduct.”
If you can’t prove a negative, the new solicitor general of Arkansas thinks the state can wreck your business. Guilty until proven innocence and absence of proof of guilt is NOT proof of innocence. Cue Twilight Zone sound track.
By the way: don’t hold your breath for sweeping Arkansas government reviews of the ethics of doctors in unrelated matters on whether they can participate in Medicaid. I think you could find an unethical doctor or two if you looked. Maybe one who cheated on a spouse, for example. Because, really, if Planned Parenthood is to be punished for running counter to “Arkansas values,” as the governor has insisted, there are a few other values to consider.
ALSO: Another good analysis of how wrong Fiorina and Rudofsky were in their characterizations of the videos.