SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Lacey Thomas, just shy of 18 weeks pregnant with her second child, lay on her back, her belly exposed and covered in gel.
“Every time I laugh the baby bounces,” she said.
Carly Fiorina, the surging GOP presidential candidate standing beside her, laughed.
The half dozen photographers documenting the whole thing laughed too. When they stopped laughing, Fiorina stood motionless and smiled for them. The photographers left to make room for the network cameras.
“You and your baby are extra famous,” Fiorina said.
“Fifteen minutes of fame and glory,” Thomas said.
The Carolina Pregnancy Center, which counsels pregnant women and encourages them not to seek abortions, is a typical stop for Republican presidential candidates in this early primary state. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) have already been here, as was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker when he was still a candidate.
But Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican field, is the only candidate who got to watch an ultrasound.
The visit comes as Fiorina is under fire for claims she made about Planned Parenthood during the last Republican debate, when she described watching a graphic video of fetal organ harvesting that, according to numerous fact checkers, does not exist.
Fiorina has held firm, accusing the press and abortion rights supporters of focusing on the wrong issue.
“The character of this nation cannot be about the butchery of babies for their body parts,” Fiorina said here, and renewed her call along with other Republicans to end all federal funding of Planned Parenthood.
“This pregnancy center is completely privately funded, and a Planned Parenthood is funded by taxpayers,” she said.
The Carolina Pregnancy Center, which relies on donations from a consortium of churches and other members of the public, does not shy away from the fact that it is an anti-abortion organization. Visitors are greeted by a room of pamphlets: “Do you really want an abortion?” one of them asks before letting women know that “Mental health providers are treating an increasing number of women who are suffering mental and emotional difficulties as a result of induced abortion.”
Alexia Newman — who has worked at the center for 26 years and currently runs the operation — said that while she considers abortion a sin, the decision ultimately lies with the pregnant woman.
“I can give that girl all the information that I can then I can pray that God will put obstacles in her way and stop her from doing that,” she said.
Groups on the left, however, believe that crisis centers such as this one are not just praying for obstacles but actively erecting them.
“Given the flat-out lies that Carly Fiorina keeps telling, it’s not a surprise that she feels right at home at an organization that lies to women about abortion and tries to scare and shame them out of making their own decisions,” Eric Ferrero, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of communications, said in a statement.
Thomas, the ultrasound patient, said she came to the crisis center for help three years ago when she was pregnant with her first child. The center helped her in getting diapers, baby clothes and other items; she said getting an ultrasound in front of a media gaggle was the least she could do for the organization.
“We need a woman president,” Thomas said as Fiorina walked into an adjacent room.