WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called the trio of Planned Parenthood videos released by anti-abortion activists “disturbing,” but both she and fellow Democratic 2016 hopeful Bernie Sanders are defending the controversial women’s health organization.
Clinton told the New Hampshire Union Leader that 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, “I have seen pictures from (the videos) and obviously find them disturbing.”
But 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,” the Vermont senator said in a statement.
Sanders was referring to an effort led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote on a bill in the coming days that would restrict federal funding to Planned Parenthood. A GOP source familiar with the direction of the legislation told CNN on Tuesday that one option being considered is to redirect funds from Planned Parenthood — which spends its federal funds on a wide range of women’s health needs, but not abortion — and give them to other groups that deal with women’s health.
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.
But Republican presidential candidates have been quick to weigh in on the issue. On Tuesday, Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, along with Ben Carson, headlined an anti-abortion rally in Washington. The three politicians have all called for investigations into Planned Parenthood and have 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.