SPARTANBURG, South Carolina -- Wading headlong into the looming fight over abortion restrictions and funding for Planned Parenthood, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina on Thursday visited a pregnancy center and watched a pregnant woman receive an ultrasound while calling the congressional challenge to Planned Parenthood "a fight worth having."
“It’s good when people know what 17 weeks looks like,” Fiorina told the woman, 31-year-old Lacey Thomas, as they looked at the blurry black-and-white ultrasound. More than a dozen reporters hoisted cameras, boom mics, and iPhones over head, jostling each other to get a better view of Thomas' bare belly.
The visit took place at the Carolina Pregnancy Center, an organization that provides Christian-oriented pregnancy counseling and discourages abortion. Bible classes are offered to the small percentage who do choose to go elsewhere to receive an abortion, and women are urged to name the terminated pregnancy.
A bodyguard stood nearby, a recent addition to Fiorina’s bare-bones traveling staff as her poll numbers have surged and her crowds have grown.
Fiorina made small talk with Thomas about the names of her firstborn and the one she’s expecting, but there were undeniable political undertones. “How well developed,” Fiorina said, looking at the image.
“Now I know how the movie stars feel,” Thomas said with a laugh as she stared at the media presence.
The showdown in Congress over funding for Planned Parenthood could lead to a government shutdown at the end of September. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Fiorina rival for the GOP presidential nomination, has led the charge.
“I think this is a fight worth having,” Fiorina told the swarm of reporters outside the pregnancy center, while stopping short of advocating a government shutdown.
She insisted abortion rights advocates use “misrepresentation and lies” to defend Planned Parenthood, which as been under attack by many conservatives since the release by an anti-abortion organization of several highly-edited undercover videos, suggesting Planned Parenthood traffics in the sale of fetal body parts -- charges the group vehemently denies.
Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican 2016 field, has made opposition to abortion and the funding of Planned Parenthood a centerpiece of her campaign. In last week's nationally televised debate, she forcefully condemned the videos shot by the Center for Medical Progress, suggesting they showed "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."
In fact, none of the videos CMP have released show what Fiorina described. But the candidate hasn't backed down.
“The hypocrisy of progressive and liberals on this issue is stunning to me. Liberals and progressives will spend inordinate amounts of time and money to protect fish, frogs, and flies,” Fiorina told reporters. “But they do not think a 17-week-old, a 20-week-old, a 24-week-old is worth saving?”
She argued that the pregnancy centers like this should receive government funding (some states already fund them, despite the fact that many mislead young women).
“If this is really about giving women choices,” Fiorina added, “Then why don’t you support funding pregnancy centers, why don’t we put pregnancy centers next to every Planned Parenthood? They can’t answer that question for me.”
Inside the pregnancy center, Thomas told reporters that she opposes abortion rights, which was part of the reason she offered herself up to be a demo ultrasound.
Does she support Fiorina for president?
“I do now!” she told msnbc. "One hundred percent!"