Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards sat before the House Committee on Oversight to answer questions about funding and more specifically, respond to a widely circulated video purportedly showing an aborted fetus being prepped for organ harvesting by a Planned Parenthood sponsored medical facility.
The video has been debunked by a variety of fact-checking organizations. Nevertheless, that did not stop House Chairman Jason Chaffetz from pressing Richards on how the organization utilizes public funds.
In her statement to the committee, Richards said, “The vast majority of the federal funding Planned Parenthood receives allows doctors and clinicians at our health centers across the country to provide birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. No federal funds pay for abortion services, except in the very limited circumstances permitted by law — when the woman has been raped, has been the victim of incest, or when her life is endangered.
“Planned Parenthood operates just like all other health care providers or hospitals,” Richards said, “that provide medical care to Medicaid patients. Medicaid reimburses us for the preventive health services we provide. The Department of Health and Human Services conducts routine audits of the Medicaid program to be sure these funds are used appropriately.”
Chaffetz attempted to show, via a chart that, according to Planned Parenthood’s own data, abortions are up and life-saving measures are down. Like the video, the chart was also discredited by fact-checkers.
Despite the facts, there remains a determined group of individuals who wish to show that Planned Parenthood utilizes an elaborate scheme to illicitly obtain taxpayer money to fund abortions.
During Richards’ September 29 testimony, conservative pundit Dana Loesch tweeted, “Wow. Cecile Richards is forced to concede that 86% of Planned Parenthood’s revenue is from abortion.”
Katie Sanders of PunditFact, a division of PolitiFact, tweeted back, “Hi Dana, I’m researching this for PunditFact. At what point did Cecile Richards concede that 86% of revenue is from abortions?…”
In her October 5 report, Sanders writes, “At one point [during the committee meeting], Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., asked Richards a series of questions about the number of Planned Parenthood’s clinics, whether it conducts mammograms (Planned Parenthood typically refers women to outside clinics for those), and the claim that just 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortion-related.
“Lummis asked Roberts about Planned Parenthood’s 2013-14 annual report, which she said included statistics that abortions ‘would have been over 86 percent of your non-government revenue.’
“ ‘How do you explain this massive disparity between the amount of revenue you collect from abortion, and the fact that you only report 3 percent of your services being abortion?’ Lummis asked.
“We have to stop and make clear that Lummis asked about non-government revenue, which is not what Loesch tweeted. (Loesch could have made that distinction and kept within her 140-character limit, in case you were wondering.)
“Dropping the words ‘non-government’ make a major difference, which we will discuss in a moment. But first back to Richards’ answer.
“Richards at first responded by saying those numbers are not connected because federal money doesn’t cover abortions. (That’s correct, except in cases of Medicaid funds in instances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother). Lummis then pressed for how many Planned Parenthood affiliates receive the majority of their revenue from abortion, and Richards said she didn’t know but would talk to her team about getting the answer.
“Then Richards went back to Lummis’ original question and said, ‘But I do think it’s important to understand that abortion procedures are probably more expensive than some other procedures that we — that we provide, which might, you know, might explain what you’re trying to get at.’
“You can read the complete transcript here. But what’s clear in our reading is that Richards conceded nothing other than that abortions are relatively expensive procedures compared to Planned Parenthood’s other works.”
Sanders then goes into some detailed accounting regarding the types of funds received by Planned Parenthood which lack precise clarity into services and expenses. Richards did point out that costs for abortion procedures vary from state to state.
In summary, Sanders writes, “Loesch said Richards was ‘forced to concede that 86 percent of Planned Parenthood’s revenue is from abortion.’
“At a U.S. House hearing, Richards said abortions are expensive compared to other health services offered by Planned Parenthood. But we found no evidence of her saying, or conceding, that 86 percent of revenue is from abortion. At one point in the same meeting, she said an even lower estimate for abortion revenues was ‘too high.’
“On top of that, Loesch describes the reported statistic incorrectly by dropping ‘non-government.’ That phrase makes all the difference.
“We rate the claim False.”
Planned Parenthood has been a target well before the debunked video appeared on the horizon. Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have been working to defund Planned Parenthood for some time. However, as The Boston Globe reported (Aug. 3), “By law, federal funds are already barred from being used for abortions except for cases of incest, rape or when a woman’s life is in danger.”
To date, no legitimate evidence has surfaced that conclusively proves that Planned Parenthood has or is illegally using federal dollars. While I believe there may be legitimate questions regarding how government funds are used, the non-profit should answer those questions by providing a detailed accounting.
However, what is particularly troubling to me is the fact that the oversight committee appears so focused on “getting” Planned Parenthood that they neglect to do the necessary homework to prove their case. If fact-checkers like PolitiFact have the resources to determine the truth behind a video and a chart, why can’t the committee?
When Richards alerted Chaffetz about the partisan source behind the chart he used, the committee chair responded, “Then we will get to the bottom of the truth of that.”
When PolitiFact contacted Chaffetz’s office about that “truth,” they wrote, “We reached out to Chaffetz’s office but did not hear back.”
I strongly support oversight, however, absent the kind of fact-checking necessary before holding a public meeting, the committee gives the strong appearance of a political inquisition.