Hillary Clinton cast recent videos of Planned Parenthood executives talking matter-of-factly about the organization’s participation in tissue-donation programs as part of the same “concerted attacks” the group has been under to “for so many years.”
Speaking to an audience on Thursday at a technical college in South Carolina, Clinton made her first comments on the the videos that have led many anti-abortion rights groups and Republican 2016 candidates to call for the end of federal funding for the organization.
“Planned Parenthood has apologized for the insensitivity of the employee who was taped and they will continue to answer questions for Congress and others,” Clinton said, before launching into a vocal defense of the organization.
The former secretary of state said that she was aware of the videos, but “don’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.”
Clinton added, “So I am hoping that this situation will not further undermine the very important services that planned parenthood provides across our country.”
The series of videos, posted by California-based Center for Medical Progress, show executives for the organization speaking about their tissue-donating programs in callous and blunt terms. The first video, which is almost three hours long, was released last week. A heavily edited eight-minute version was also released and has since received sizable attention online.
The group is alleging that Planned Parenthood sells fetal organs for profit, which would be a felony.
Planned Parenthood has responded by saying it donates tissue for scientific research and is only reimbursed to the expenses associated, which is legal. The videos call into question, however, the practice.
Cecile Richards, the group’s president, apologized for the videos, calling them “unacceptable.”
“I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements,” she said in a video. “As always, if there is any aspect of our work that can be strengthened, we want to know about it, and we take swift action to address it.”
While the videos have received considerable attention from Republican candidates, the Democratic side has been mum about them.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s most stout Democratic opponent, said last week that the “tone” of the first video was “terribly wrong.”
“Obviously, I think Cecile Richards apologized for the tone of that video,” Sanders said, referring to the group’s president. “I think her apology was exactly right. I think that the staffer, the tone was terribly wrong.”
Clinton has made women’s health and a women’s right to choose a cornerstone of her presidential campaign.
The candidate has called out Republicans on abortion. “They shame and blame women, rather than respect our right to make our own reproductive health decisions,” she said during her first rally in June.
A handful of congressional Democrats - Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Zoe Lofgren, Jerry Nadler and Yvette Clarke – have asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to step in and investigate whether the group that made the video violated the law, arguing that they pretended to work for a company to record the Planned Parenthoold executives without their permission.
So far, the Justice Department has not commented.