COSTA MESA, California — David Daleiden wanted to show exactly what a 19-week-old aborted fetus, being held in the hands of a medical technician, looked like. The problem was he didn’t have that picture. So he went to the Internet, found something close and inserted it into his documentary.
The photo, two cupped hands holding a tiny male fetus, appeared on screen as dramatic music played. Against this backdrop, a medical technician detailed how she was present when an intact 19-week gestated fetus was aborted at a Planned Parenthood clinic and, she says, harvested for tissue samples.
Daleiden’s video failed to mention that the photo and the story do not match.
Abortion photo actually stillborn child
The photo was not an aborted fetus at a Planned Parenthood clinic. It was the stillborn child of Alexis Fretz, whose son was stillborn in 2013. Fretz took the photo and posted it on the Internet to memorialize the son she named Walter.
Without Fretz’s knowledge, Daleiden and his two-man documentary group called the Center for Medical Progress plucked that photo from her web page and dropped it into his anti-Planned Parenthood documentary.
“Was it clear?” Fretz asks herself in a CNN interview, “No it was not clear. Was it deceitful? I don’t know that.”
Daleiden told CNN the fact that the photo is not an actual photo of an aborted fetus makes no difference. He insists the fetus is the same age as the one referred to in his film, and he used it only as an illustration.
Misleading video cited in Republican debate
Daleiden also is being criticized for a second, potentially misleading use of video that has found its way into the Republican presidential campaign. GOP candidate Carly Fiorina cited a portion of the Center for Medical Progress videos in which an intact fetus kicks its left leg and moves an arm shortly after being aborted.
Fiorina described the video during CNN’s Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential library on September 16, using the horrific image in her call for an end to federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
In an interview in Southern California earlier this month, Daleiden now admits he has no information on where the video was actually taken. There is no evidence it was taken at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
Daleiden says the image came from an outside source, an anti-abortion group called the Center For Bioethical Reform and he doesn’t know its origin beyond that. A spokesman for the group tells CNN it won’t disclose the location either, only that the video in question was paid for. Despite its source, Daleiden again insists the video is only used as an illustration of what an intact aborted fetus would look like, not the actual fetus referred to in his film.
Critics call videos heavily edited, discredited
The two examples of misleading pictures and video have allowed Planned Parenthood and its supporters to label the Center for Medical Progress’s entire production a fraud.
Dawn Laguens, an executive vice president with Planned Parenthood, repeated the defense the women’s health group and its many supporters have been trying to convey since the first of the Center for Medical Progress’s nine videos began to be released online.
“All of the tapes and footage David Daleiden has released out into the world has been heavily edited,” Laguens told CNN. “And I think pretty thoroughly discredited.”
Daleiden insists the two uses of video and photos are not misleading, and says the entire controversy has been manufactured by Planned Parenthood and its “allies in the mainstream media” in order to divert attention from the main point of his documentary: that Planned Parenthood uses aborted fetal tissue as a revenue source.
Planned Parenthood ends payments
The Center for Medical Progress spent several years taping Planned Parenthood employees, medical directors and some of its affiliate partners discussing the technique, costs and reimbursement payments for the harvesting of fetal tissue samples for scientific research.
The filming was done without knowledge of those speaking. In several instances, CMP argues that Planned Parenthood representatives appear to be bargaining, negotiating and detailing the best ways to collect or “harvest” aborted fetuses for maximum financial gain.
In one episode, Dr. Mary Gatter, a medical director for Planed Parenthood, is filmed during a meal discussing her proposal that each tissue sample harvested should fetch a $75 charge.
Since selling fetal tissue samples is illegal, Planned Parenthood has been quick to label the transactions as reimbursement costs and that they were made only at a tiny fraction of the organization’s 700 clinics and affiliates. Planned Parenthood executives continue to claim the videos are heavily edited, taken out of context and deceptive.
But last week Planned Parenthood announced it would no longer accept any reimbursement costs at any of its clinics for the transfer of fetal tissue-samples. In a letter to the National Institutes of Health, Planned Parenthood’s president defended her organization and insisted all transactions in the past were legal. But says the new change in policy was being taken “…in order to take away any basis for attacking Planned Parenthood to advance an anti-abortion political agenda.”
Contacted after the announcement, Daleiden says the sudden change in policy is an admission that he and his videos were right.
“If the money Planned Parenthood has been receiving for baby body parts were truly legitimate ‘reimbursement,’ why cancel it?” Daleiden wrote in a statement to CNN. “This proves what the Center for Medical Progress has been saying all along — Planned Parenthood incurs no actual costs, and the payments for harvested fetal parts have always been an extra profit margin.”
By Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick, CNN Investigations