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Special Report

How Planned Parenthood video changes abortion discussion

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 21, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Planned Parenthood, another video coming out today showing a member of Planned Parenthood, a doctor who is a Planned Parenthood executive, talking about selling parts, fetal tissue, and also talking about the extraction of body parts to save them in, as you heard, not a crunchy technique, very graphic.

Planned Parenthood responded with a new quote just moments ago, saying "Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our patients. As a high-quality health provider, Planned Parenthood has extremely high standards. Anytime we find those standards are not being met we take swift action. What the video released today shows is a Planned Parenthood medical provider who has dedicated her career to ensuring that women have access to the best healthcare, stating over and over again that she follows all laws and medical standards. The video was heavily edited in an attempt to support false and outrageous claims. But the fact remains that there is nothing in these videos to suggest any violation of law or improper activities."

So what about that and the reaction to all of this? Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

A.B., there's been plenty of reaction, Republicans out saying this leads to the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Others saying this is horrific. Still others defending the group. What is the fallout here?

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: Well, the fallout is on the Democrats. This is not only ghastly but it's supposed to be illegal. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid came out today to say he didn't find any evidence that any laws were broken.

But the Democrats aren't saying anything. And this is why this is going to be a huge issue for Republicans. It's a way in this election cycle to -- if a pro-choice Democrat can't come out and say I'm pro-choice but this is really wrong and I'm sickened by this, then this is an opening for Republicans to use this issue in this election.

It is not, let's talk about abortion rights or Roe v. Wade. It is let's investigate whether or not they are selling body parts at Planned Parenthood. And the Democrats -- it's not just Hillary Clinton. It's everybody in the party who are silent on this, stay silent at the peril.
This is going to be a huge issue when Congress returns in the fall.

BAIER: Charles, it's not only the legal part. Let's put the legal part aside. It is the description of saving those parts that changes the dynamic of the discussion. When you hear over lunch and the sipping of the wine and eating the salad the crunchy extraction of this body, it's no longer just a blob of tissue.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: And that's why I think it's going to have a long-range effect. It will probably have the effect in the short run in this election cycle of putting the issue on the table, the abortion issue on the table, in a way that Democrats are going to be on the defensive. Do you believe in this? Do you believe that this is OK?

But in a sense it kind of redefines backroom abortion. It used to mean illegal abortions, but now that abortion is legal, we have opened the door on what really happens in the backroom in two ways. Number one was when we got ultrasound. And now we're learning about how this is the crushing of a body in a way to keep alive some of the organs.

And I think the long-range effect is going to be that it is going to continue the sort of paradoxical growth and support for the pro-life side because on most social issues, definition of marriage, drug -- legalization of drugs, you've got everything headed left. The one exception is abortion, particularly among young people, where the country's pretty evenly divided.

I think in part that's been because of ultrasound, but I think this is going to add to this so that ultimately I think it is going to have an effect on how the country looks at abortion. In the short run I think it's going to hurt Democrats. In the long run it could change public opinion which is even more important ultimately.

BAIER: The reaction from supporters of Planned Parenthood, Steve, has gone all over the place. One is to attack the group responsible for these undercover videos as pro-life and extremist. The other is to talk about the decision to donate that tissue by the families. And this is a channel with five letters that talked about it this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANNE DAVIS, PHYSICIANS REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: It's a very compassionate gesture. It's a very private moment where people volunteer to do this. And certainly so my colleagues around the country and I are, you know, the recipients of that sort of in that moment with people. And it is very genuine. So there are certainly services where people can help women to do that generous thing that they would like to do at that moment.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Yes. I think, Erin, underscoring this is in fact an act of generosity and a very like very difficult decision to make. It is really important to counter act the narrative that is being presented here, which is incredibly lurid. And that is thus far very effective for this wing of the anti-abortion movement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I mean, I find that absolutely stunning. How do you possibly make that argument? I was shocked at the quote you read from the representative of Planned Parenthood who said it didn't describe improper activity.

Let's be clear what we're talking about here. You're talking about the extraction of infants, many of whom could live outside of the womb were this not done to them, the taking of their body parts and then selling them for profit. This is not a morally ambiguous -- this isn't one of these discussions where there are two sides to the discussion. What we're talking about is wrong. It's morally reprehensible.

I mean I thought on the scale of things in the world that are morally reprehensible, infanticide is just about the worst. This is worse. It's infanticide for profit. It's absolutely unbelievable somebody would make the argument they were making on that other network. And the politics of it to me seem very small. To even talk about politics of it in the context of this discussion seems almost improper. But if you're going to talk about politics, I think pro-life candidates have an obligation to campaign on this. I wouldn't care if the politics were horrible. It wouldn't matter. You should make the argument because the argument needs to be made.

But I agree with A.B. and with Charles, the politics will not be horrible. Everybody who takes a dollar for a political campaign from Planned Parenthood should be asked about this and made to defend this practice.

BAIER: So is this the beginning of the end of this funding?

STODDARD: They're going to have to make quite a case that what they're doing is legal and proper and acceptable when they're taking taxpayer dollars.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's going to require the press to drop the double standard. What every Republican is asked to explain away to give an opinion on every idiocy, even a Todd Akin, obscure Senate candidate, he did it on legitimate rape, and Democrats are not asked about this? Every single one should be hounded day and night and say, and say, what is your answer to what you saw? Is it improper? Until they give a yes or a no.

BAIER: We'll continue to follow this story. The group is putting up the unedited version of the video, they say, on their website. We'll follow that as well.

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