Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton weighed in Tuesday on recent videos showing a Planned Parenthood employee discussing the donation of aborted fetal tissue to biomedical research, saying the videos are "disturbing" - but people shouldn't rush to condemn Planned Parenthood because of them.
"I have seen pictures from them and obviously find them disturbing," Clinton told the New Hampshire Union Leader in an interview.
"Planned Parenthood is answering questions and will continue to answer questions. I think there are two points to make," she continued. "One, Planned Parenthood for more than a century has done a lot of really good work for women: cancer screenings, family planning, all kinds of health services. And this raises not questions about Planned Parenthood so much as it raises questions about the whole process, that is, not just involving Planned Parenthood, but many institutions in our country."
"And if there's going to be any kind of congressional inquiry, it should look at everything and not just one (organization)," she added.
The videos, surreptitiously shot by a group called the Center for Medical Progress, lit a firestorm in part because of the employee's use of indelicate language in describing abortion procedures. Planned Parenthood's critics said the video revealed the organization's cavalier attitude regarding human life.
Democrats have defended Planned Parenthood, pointing out the breadth of important medical work it does beyond abortion and accusing the people who shot the videos of selective editing. The organization has stressed that it derives no financial benefit from its donation of fetal tissue to research.
Republicans, though, have used the incident to wage fresh attacks on a group that has long been in their crosshairs. Many of the GOP's presidential candidates have vowed to strip the organization's federal funding if they take the White House.
"I'm well aware that passions are very high," Clinton told the Union Leader. "I have said for more than 22 years that abortion should be legal, safe and rare. As First Lady, I led an effort to try to lower the number of teenage pregnancies and we succeeded, and as President I will continue to work toward that so that women are fully empowered, they can afford to make responsible decisions, and I hope we will be successful at that."
The Republican National Committee, in a statement, suggested Clinton's response was not satisfactory.
" It should not have taken a third video showcasing Planned Parenthood's barbaric side business of selling fetal body parts for Hillary Clinton to change her tune," the statement explained. "Instead of condemning these horrific revelations, Hillary Clinton has stood by Planned Parenthood despite weeks of unsettling headlines. Rather than lead, Hillary Clinton has once again shown herself to be someone who will do or say anything to get elected. Perhaps that's also why she has yet to spell out what limits, if any, she supports on abortion."
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of Clinton's rivals for the Democratic nomination, also weighed in Wednesday on the videos, seizing the opportunity to defend Planned Parenthood from GOP attacks.
"The current attempt to discredit Planned Parenthood is part of a long-term smear campaign by people who want to deny women in this country the right to control their own bodies," Sanders declared in a statement. "Let's be clear: Federal funding for Planned Parenthood does not pay for abortions. The vast majority of government funding that Planned Parenthood receives is through Medicaid reimbursements. Cutting that funding will be devastating to the health needs of millions of women who desperately need the quality services Planned Parenthood provides."