Planned Parenthood’s Leader Pushes Back Against G.O.P. Critics

The New York Times
By Michael D. Shear

WASHINGTON — The embattled president of Planned Parenthood on Tuesday forcefully disputed what she called “outrageous accusations” by Republicans that her organization profits from the sale of fetal tissue, telling Congress that the charges were “offensive and categorically untrue.”

In testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the president, Cecile Richards, faced off against conservative lawmakers who are seeking to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood after videos released by anti-abortion activists purported to show officials from the health group trying to sell fetal tissue. It was her first appearance before Congress since the issue exploded in July.

Ms. Richards said that the videos had been edited by the activists to mislead, and that Planned Parenthood facilitated the donation of only a small amount of fetal tissue and recouped only reasonable expenses as allowed by the law. 

“The latest smear campaign is based on efforts by our opponents to entrap our doctors and clinicians into breaking the law — and once again, our opponents failed,” Ms. Richards said.

The appearance by Ms. Richards before the House committee underscored a broader fight between the parties over Planned Parenthood as the clock ticks on a government shutdown that will begin on Thursday if a stopgap spending bill cannot be passed. While the funding fight is ostensibly about abortion and fetal tissue, the subtext is politics: Republicans perceive Planned Parenthood as a well-oiled, well-funded machine promoting Democratic candidates.

Tuesday’s hearing quickly became contentious as Republican lawmakers assailed the group as more a political advocacy organization that wastes federal money than a health care group that deserves to receive taxpayer dollars.

Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, called the videos “barbaric and repulsive” and accused Planned Parenthood of what he called a “repulsive game” that included shifting government funding from Congress to Democratic politicians. He said lawmakers should shift federal money away from Planned Parenthood and to other health care priorities.

“Take the money from the guys doing the bad things, and give it to the ones who aren’t,” Mr. Jordan said.

Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah and chairman of the committee, opened the hearing with a tearful commentary about the death of his mother to breast cancer, and the death of his father to cancer as well. He said he felt strongly that federal money should be shifted away from Planned Parenthood so it could go to other health care research.

But he quickly moved to attack Planned Parenthood as a wasteful organization. He accused the group of spending millions on political activities, lavish parties, travel and health care expenses overseas, and repeatedly noted that Ms. Richards earned an annual salary of more than $500,000.

“That has absolutely nothing to do with providing health care to women,” Mr. Chaffetz said. “It’s a political activity.”

Ms. Richards and Democratic lawmakers came to the group’s defense, accusing the Republican lawmakers of using “highly edited videos” and misleading information about Planned Parenthood to advance a political agenda.

“Make no mistake: Despite what we hear, Republicans are doubling down on their war against women,” Ms. Maloney said, adding later, “We need to recognize this fight for what it is — it’s about banning a woman’s right to choose.”

Later, Ms. Maloney accused Mr. Chaffetz of “beating up on a woman, our witness, for making a good salary.” She noted that Ms. Richards oversaw a large health care provider and said that she found Mr. Chaffetz’s comments about her salary “totally inappropriate and discriminatory.”

For her part, Ms. Richards said repeatedly that no federal money was used to pay for abortion services, and she said that most of the federal funding to her organization — about $400 million per year — came through Medicaid reimbursements for health care services provided to women.

In response to questions from Mr. Chaffetz, Ms. Richards said she did not manage the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a political lobbying group that she said was managed as a separate organization. Mr. Chaffetz pointed out that Ms. Richards received $31,000 last year for services provided to the fund, but Ms. Richards said, “I don’t directly manage, no sir.”

Ms. Richards also clashed with Mr. Jordan over a video apology that she issued just days after the video about fetal tissue first emerged. Mr. Jordan insisted that she must have believed the contents of the video were true if she apologized for them.

Ms. Richards said that she had apologized because she thought it was “inappropriate” that the doctor in the video had a “clinical discussion in a nonconfidential, nonclinical setting.”

Correction: September 29, 2015
An earlier version of this article misidentified the federal program that provides most of the federal reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for health care services. It is Medicaid, not Medicare.


Planned Parenthood’s Leader Pushes Back Against G.O.P. Critics — 2 Comments

  1. Perhaps if republicans stopped pandering to the the far right wing of their party they could actually win a national election. Attacking a woman that runs an organization that provides health care to millions of women simply because they provide 3% of their patients, without federal funds, safe abortions is idiotic. This is a service that is constitutionally available to women in this country

    I was a teenager prior to Roe v Wade and know several young women who were forced to have illegal abortions. At least one was so botched my friend would never had the ability to have children.

    Women agonize over having an abortion or not. Others don’t have a second thought. Personally, I believe the second group would not make great mothers, but it does not mean they would give up their child for adoption. The vast majority will not finish school, will not marry and are most likely to have minimum wage jobs. No on can support two (one being a child) on a salary of $14.000 and less if they or their child get sick. Yet, republicans are least likely to fund food stamps, section 8 housing, etc. it is quite clear these right wingers care for the child in the womb but couldn’t care less about a child outside the womb

    Planned Parenthood is desperately needed in this country. Trying to shut down the government over its funding is not only bad politics but is plainly stupid. Planned Parenthood receives about $500,000 in funding, closing the government costs many millions of dollars.

    • I would like to correct a mistake I made in my previous reply. Planned Parenthood receives about $500,000,000 of federal funds a year, not the $500,000 I had said in my previous reply. However, it is important to understand, as a medical facility, $400,000,000 would be received by any medical organization for reimbursements from Medicaid. So my point remains the same, if congress once again shuts its doors it will be loosing many many millions of dollars as compared to the one million they would pay Planned Parenthood in non-reimberceable grant.

      During the last government shutdown my brother was working as a contractor in one of the thousands of contracts the govern has (as well as self-funded projects). He told me it took two weeks to safely shut down the nuclear site he was working. As soon as the shutdown was complete the government reopened it’s doors. It took another two weeks to get back up to speed. As I recall he told me the shutdown costed an estimated 4,000,000 and a loss of four weeks of work. This was for a single site/contract.

      As I stated in my first reply, shutting down the government for the small amount of grant money is absurd. Planned Parenthood could receive their grant funds for the next hundred years and the government would still be in the hole.