Defunding Planned Parenthood was a big applause line among the Republican candidates, who outdid themselves to explain why they would be the first to end federal funding for the health organization.
But between the blustering and the arguing among governors, the answer from one candidate stood out: Carly Fiorina.
Fiorina spoke straight into the camera. "Anyone who has watched this videotape—I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, to watch these tapes," she said referring to undercover videos first circulated in July. "Watch a fully-formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.' This is about the character of our nation, and if we do not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us."
The image she paints is chilling, and her delivery is passionate and precise. It was one of Fiorina's most memorable moments in a debate where she has been the standout candidate so far.
To be clear, Fiorina, like the other Republicans attacking Planned Parenthood, doesn't have her facts straight. None of the videos have anyone talking about "harvesting" brains. The supposedly macabre video she's talking about was highly, selectively edited by right-wing activists. Five state investigations of the issue closed without any findings of misdoing. Planned Parenthood, which provides critical medical services to tens of thousands of women across the country, doesn't profit from fetal tissue donation, as the candidates imply.
But the video clip of Fiorina's answer, coming from one of the leading women in the GOP, is going to go a long way supporting this argument in the media. Polls show that the vast majority of voters have not been paying attention to politics more than a year out from the election. That puts extra attention on these debates, as the last Fox debate racked up record viewership and all predictions suggest tonight's debate will do the same.
And if you're an independent voter who hasn't been paying much attention and who's used to hearing old men in suits talking about abortion, Fiorina is a very different messenger for this very scary message.
Get ready to watch this answer played again and again. And as Fiorina rises in the polls, Planned Parenthood supporters should start to worry.
Update: We've added quotes around the word "harvesting" to echo Fiorina's characterization of what happens in the video.
- That ‘sting’ video isn’t the reason Republicans are trying to defund Planned Parenthood
- House Republicans’ ‘show trial’ on Planned Parenthood didn’t reveal any new information
- The GOP’s plan to erode abortion rights? Pretend women don’t exist
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.