Senate Republicans are rushing to vote on the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill by September 30 and, if it passes, it will be disastrous for women's health care. The repeal and replace bill would, among other things, defund Planned Parenthood.
So it's no surprise that Planned Parenthood was a topic of discussion during Monday evening's health care debate between senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Certainly no one expected Graham or Cassidy to suddenly voice their support for Planned Parenthood, but one of the most disturbing moments of the debate came when Graham perpetuated a damaging lie about the organization and wasn't held accountable by anyone in the room.
The senator invoked the myth that Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted babies, which has been swirling since 2015 when altered videos were released by anti-abortion activists.
"All I can say about this debate, about Planned Parenthood [is] a lot of Americans were pretty upset when they saw the videos of selling body parts of aborted children," Graham told a former Planned Parenthood patient after she shared that doctors at the clinic discovered cysts and benign tumors on her ovaries.
Despite the fact that analysts determined the supposedly incriminating videos had been altered, anti-choice politicians and activists have used it as a talking point ever since.
The nonpartisan fact-checking site PolitiFact has rated false claims from politicians including John O'Bannon and activists like John Stemberger, but the lie continues to make the rounds. It was a major talking point for GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, even when the anti-abortion activists who made the videos were charged with 15 felonies and a grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.
Opponents of Planned Parenthood seem to think that repeating the lie will make it true, and the response (or lack thereof) to Graham's assertion this evening is a disturbing sign that politicians and pundits are allowing this false rhetoric to become normalized.
But viewers weren't having it, and they rightfully called out moderator Jake Tapper and the liberals on stage for not batting an eyelash (let alone taking him to task) when Graham repeated the debunked claim.
There was a lot of ground to cover during the 90-minute debate, but it's deeply disappointing and disturbing that Graham made such a damaging, dishonest statement and no one thought it was worth taking even 30 seconds to point out that his claim has been debunked.