Clinton: Planned Parenthood videos 'disturbing'

2016 Democrats target Hillary Clinton
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Story highlights

  • Clinton said Tuesday that the videos raise questions about abortion and the industry in general, not just Planned Parenthood
  • The organization's executives have apologized for the tone of the videos, but have also vociferously defended their organization

Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called the trio of Planned Parenthood videos recently released by anti-abortion activists "disturbing," but both she and fellow Democratic 2016 hopeful Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are defending the controversial women's health organization.

Clinton told the New Hampshire Union Leader the videos raise questions about abortion and the industry in general, not just Planned Parenthood.
"This raises not questions about Planned Parenthood so much as it raises questions about the whole process; that is, not just involving Planned Parenthood, but many institutions in our country," Clinton said. "And if there's going to be any kind of congressional inquiry, it should look at everything and not just one (organization)."
    She added that she's seen pictures of the videos and found them disturbing.
    GOP lawmakers, however, are seeking to use the controversy to restrict federal funding to Planned Parenthood. Senators held a press conference on Wednesday promoting such legislation and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to schedule a vote on the bill in the coming days, before Congress leaves for August recess.
    "Planned Parenthood is harvesting the body parts on unborn babies," said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who called the actions "morally reprehensible and vial. "
    Ernst said the legislation she authored with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and others, would redirect funds taken from Planned Parenthood to community health centers and hospitals.
    "There will be no reduction in overall federal funding available to support women's health," she said.
    Paul, who is vying for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, also threw his support for the proposal.
    "We should end all funding of Planned Parenthood," he said.
    Senate Democratic leaders dismissed the Republicans proposal arguing Planned Parenthood plays too important a role in providing health care to women and that the cutoff of federal funds would cripple the organization.
    "It's an important program for wellness checks, cervical checks, breast cancer," said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
    Democrats expect to block the bill from getting the 60 votes it would need to make it onto the floor.
    On Wednesday, Sanders -- Clinton's most prominent liberal opponent in the Democratic field -- labeled attempts by Senate Republicans to cut federal funding to the group "an attack on women's health."
    "The current attempt to discredit Planned Parenthood is part of a long-term smear campaign by people who want to deny women in this country the right to control their own bodies," he said in a statement.
    The recent controversy stems from a series of videos posted this month by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. The heavily-edited clips show executives and doctors from Planned Parenthood casually discussing fetal tissue-donating programs.
    The group is alleging that Planned Parenthood sells fetal organs for profit, which would be a felony, but Planned Parenthood has said it donates tissue for scientific research and is only reimbursed for the associated expenses, which is legal.
    The organization's executives have apologized for the tone of the videos, but have also vociferously defended their organization.
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    Republican presidential candidates have been quick to weigh in on the issue. On Tuesday, Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and neurosurgeon Ben Carson headlined an anti-abortion rally in Washington and all have called for investigations into Planned Parenthood and urged Congress to defund the group.
    Paul also used the videos to attack Clinton on Tuesday by asking for her to return any money she raised from Planned Parenthood employees.
    "Hillary Clinton's hands are stained by accepting this money, and she needs to immediately return every red cent she has received from Planned Parenthood employees," he said in a statement.
    The former secretary of state was first asked about the videos during a town hall in South Carolina earlier this month. She staunchly defended the organization, though conceded that she didn't "have all the facts" about them.
    "For more than a century, Planned Parenthood has provided essential services for women," Clinton said. "And I think it is unfortunate that Planned Parenthood had been the object of such a concerted attacks for so many years. It's really is an attack against a women's right to choose to make the most personal, difficult decisions that any woman would face based on her faith and the medical advice that she is given."
    Campaign aides did not immediately respond to questions on Wednesday about whether the former first lady has actually watched the videos.