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At Crisis Pregnancy Center, Carly Fiorina Renews Opposition To Abortion

Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and reporters watch as 31-year-old Lacey Thomas gets an ultrasound.
Sarah McCammon
Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and reporters watch as 31-year-old Lacey Thomas gets an ultrasound.

Carly Fiorina's presidential campaign took her to an exam room at a crisis pregnancy center in South Carolina Thursday. She crammed in, along with a pregnant woman, an OB-GYN and a crowd of reporters.

The visit came as the former Hewlett-Packard CEO has doubled down on her opposition to Planned Parenthood. Fiorina visited the Carolina Pregnancy Center in Spartanburg, a Christian-run organization that's becoming a popular campaign stop for presidential candidates opposed to abortion — at least the fifth GOP candidate to visit the center this year.

One client, Lacey Thomas, 31, is expecting a baby boy in February. She agreed to let Dr. Mary Haddad demonstrate a procedure for Fiorina.

I do think a man should be a leader ... [but] if she's gonna be the one that's gonna stand up ... and stick to her morals ... and not back down, then by far I will give her my vote.

"Her baby looks great, would anyone like to hear the heartbeat?" Haddad asked, bringing up the steady sound of a fetal heart.

Speaking in the center's front room, Fiorina praised the group's work. She told the crowd it's hypocritical for liberals to support environmental protections for wildlife while also supporting abortion rights.

"They are perfectly prepared to destroy other people's jobs and livelihoods and communities in order to protect fish and frogs and flies. But they do not think a 17-week-old, a 20-week-old, a 24-week-old, is worth saving," she said.

For Thomas, the campaign is mostly a lot of noise right now. She said she doesn't pay much attention to politics until an election is near.

"I don't know much about [Fiorina], except that she is a Republican candidate — I looked that up," Thomas said.

Thomas first came to the Carolina Pregnancy Center asking for maternity clothes after losing her job while she was five months pregnant with her daughter, now age 3.

"Nobody will really hire you, showing that much, so I was in a bind," she said.

Thomas says her husband builds houses, but the work is sometimes slow. She now waits tables — but can't always work because of health issues. So she comes to the center for formula, diapers and other needs.

She also meets monthly with her mentor from the center, volunteer Linda Earnhardt. A stay-at-home mother of five, Earnhardt is following the campaign and said she was impressed by Fiorina's recent debate performance, where she had harsh words for Planned Parenthood.

But Earnhardt has one misgiving. Fiorina has been working hard to earn the support of female voters, and she stands out as the only woman in the Republican field.

"I do think a man should be a leader," Earnhardt said. "That's me. But I see the men not standing up, and I see the woman coming stronger. And if she's gonna be the one that's gonna stand up ... and stick to her morals ... and not back down, then by far I will give her my vote."

Gender is also a consideration for Carlotta Jackson, who came to see Fiorina. She said she would think about voting for a woman like Fiorina.

"As long as it's not someone who's trying to emasculate men and that it's not just a power trip for them," she said. Jackson said she likes the fact that Fiorina "doesn't have small children at home" and added that she'd have trouble supporting a woman who did.

Others, like Pam Dean, are eager to see a woman front and center in the Republican Party.

"I like it that she's a strong woman, and that she held her own with all those men, and that women can lead," Dean said.

The pregnancy center is a place to showcase a message that could play well in the Republican primaries — though in a general election, that message would be a harder sell with female voters.

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Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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