Republican presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is doubling down on calls to defund and prosecute Planned Parenthood, releasing a new video Tuesday that lands a direct hit on the organization for its practices involving fetal tissue donation.
The ad opens with footage of polio victims — an image Planned Parenthood supporters will likely find odd given the fact that fetal tissue research actually led to the polio vaccine. The Cruz campaign confirmed to msnbc that the opening shot featured polio victims, yet in a statement did not acknowledge fetal tissue or the role it played in ending the polio epidemic.
"For a century, Americans have helped heal and care for millions in need, and we did it without a grotesque baby part harvesting industry as seen in the recent expose on Planned Parenthood," Rick Tyler, national spokesperson for Cruz's presidential campaign, told msnbc in an email. "This isn't what our country was built on, and it's why as President, Ted Cruz will defund Planned Parenthood and instruct the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute any and all of its illegal activities."
Tyler's statement nearly word-for-word mirrored the 30-second spot released earlier in the day. In it, a narrator asks: "[H]ow did America become a country that harvests organs from unborn children? And who has the courage to stop it?”
Answer to that last part? Ted Cruz.
The video, entitled “Values,” comes just more than a week before a religious liberty rally that the White House hopeful will host in Iowa on Aug. 21 — yet the words “religious liberty” are only mentioned once, when the narrator asks supporters to attend the gathering. Critics view the “religious liberty” or “religious freedom” movement as an effort to enshrine LGBT discrimination in state and federal law. According to a press release from Cruz’s campaign, the video will appear on the Fox News Channel in the Des Moines area between today and next week’s rally.
Cruz has been one of the most vocal critics of Planned Parenthood following the release by an anti-abortion group of several sting videos that were edited to show the organization’s executives casually discussing the process of donating fetal tissue for medical research. Planned Parenthood maintains that it does not profit off such donations and that any money exchanged is to cover the costs involved with actually handling and transferring the material.
“What we do is legal and ethical, and we’re proud of it,” said Heather Saunders Estes, the president of Planned Parenthood’s Northern California chapter, in an interview Sunday on KPIX 5.
But Cruz believes an investigation is in order. When asked what crimes the Republican presidential candidate believed Planned Parenthood had committed, Cruz’s spokesman Rick Tyler told msnbc the organization should be prosecuted for “the destruction and sale of human body parts.”
“There’s a repeated pattern that seems to show the alleged sale and distribution of unborn dead children being negotiated,” said Tyler. “So if the Obama Justice Department weren’t a wing of the Democratic National Committee, they would have already begun an investigation, given all the evidence we have so far.”
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Though Cruz was not directly asked about Planned Parenthood at last week’s Republican primary debate in Cleveland, he did reference the group in his closing remarks. According to the campaign, Cruz raised more than $1 million in the first 100 hours following the debate and landed in second place behind Donald Trump in the latest online poll conducted by SurveyMonkey for NBC News.
“If I’m elected president, let me tell you about my first day in office. The first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama,” said Cruz in his closing statement at the debate. “The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into these videos and to prosecute Planned Parenthood for any criminal violations.”