(Daily Signal) The fight over Planned Parenthood reached a boiling point Tuesday on Capitol Hill when Cecile Richards, president of the organization, testified before Congress about how the group uses its federal taxpayer dollars.
Richards fiercely defended Planned Parenthood from partisan allegations made by House Republicans, which she called “outrageous, “offensive” and “categorically untrue.”
“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,” Richards said in her testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The hearing was called by Chairman Jason Chaffetz in light of “disturbing” videos emerged this summer detailing tissue procurement from aborted babies. Yet, during the hearing, members spent little time addressing the videos.
Instead, Republican lawmakers focused their questioning on Planned Parenthood’s finances and how it spends its $528 million taxpayer dollars.
“Does Planned Parenthood really need federal subsidies? Does it need federal dollars?” asked Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah. “As far as I can tell, this is an organization that doesn’t need federal subsidies.”
Democrats, on the other hand, defended the organization and called out Republicans for taking their fight against Planned Parenthood too far.
“You threatened to shut down the government you ousted your speaker and now you want to set off yet another select committee to investigate,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Va. said. “Do you really want to do this? Do you really want to align yourself with radical extremists?”
But Republicans didn’t back down, and spend the next five hours peppering Richards with questions over the services Planned Parenthood provides, their travel and party expenses, employee salaries and “co-mingling” of 501c(3) and 501c(4) funds.
Here is a summary of the key points addressed in today’s hearing.
Chaffetz questioned Richards about her $590,928 salary in 2013, and her combined income of more than $2.7 million from 2009 to 2013.
“Planned Parenthood is an organization with massive salaries,” Chaffetz said.
They also raised concern over reports that over 40 of Planned Parenthood’s executives earned $200,000 or more over the years 2009 to 2013.
- $459,827: employee at affiliate for Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota
- $439,107: employee at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic
- $398,779: employee at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England
- $387,269: employee at Planned Parenthood of Mar Monte
Democrats shot back, criticizing Republicans for “attacking a woman for making a good salary.”
“My colleagues like to say there’s no war on women,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.
Look at how you’ve been treated as a witness. Intimidation, talking over, interrupting, cutting off sentences, criticizing you because of your salary. How dare you? Who do you think you are? Making a professional salary as a head of a premier national organization, and daring to actually make decisions as the head of that organization? Lord almighty, what’s America coming to? The disrespect, the misogyny rampant here today tells us what’s really going on here.
Rep. John Duncan, Tenn., pushed back, telling Richards, “Surely you don’t expect us to go easy on you because you’re a woman.”
Travel and Party Expenses
Republicans also raised issue with the amount Planned Parenthood spends on travel, galas, and real estate. According to their report, the organization spent more than $5 million on travel on 2013, some of which was spent on first class or charter travel.
“For the record, I do not travel first class,” Richards said.
Republicans also pointed to “blowout parties” where reports say affiliates hosted a “Chocolate Champagne” fundraiser, for example. They also claim Planned Parenthood spent $43.8 million to purchase corporate office space two blocks from Madison Square Garden in New York City.
“The taxpayers are funding over 40 percent of Planned Parenthood—they just have a right to know how this money is being spent,” Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., told Richards (emphasis The Daily Signal’s).
Richards responded to this sentiment by downplaying the government’s role in funding Planned Parenthood, stating, “We don’t get a big check from the government.”
“We, like other Medicaid providers,” she added, “ are reimbursed for services.”
According to reports, the majority of federal funds Planned Parenthood receives come from reimbursements from specific health services provided through Medicaid. These reimbursements make up 41 percent of Planned Parenthood’s entire funding.
‘Co-mingling’ of Health Care and Advocacy Work
In addition to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which provides services to women through its nearly 700 health clinics and affiliates, the organization has a lobbying arm called Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which advocates specific legislation and politicians who support those policies.
According to the Chairman’s memorandum, “Planned Parenthood has given the Planned Parenthood Action Fund $21,576,629 in grants,” and tax returns “indicate that both Planned Parenthood and its affiliates share employees, facilities, equipment, mailing lists and other assets” with the lobbying arm.
Republicans took issue with the structure of the two organizations, alleging taxpayer dollars “subsidize” these political affiliates, which routinely backs Democrat politicians.
“This is advocacy, lobbying, it’s get out the vote,” Chaffetz said. “It’s the co-mingling of funds that bothers us. That’s what we’re concerned about.”
Richards denied any wrongdoing, but said part of her salary is derived from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and told Republicans she would provide the committee with more information on the matter.
Sending Money Overseas
Republicans also requested more information about Planned Parenthood’s overseas funding.
According to his report, Planned Parenthood sent more than $32.1 million outside the U.S. over the past five years. One of those locations was the Democratic Republic of Congo, which Chaffetz said could be a serious issue, since the U.S. has sanctions on the country.
“They’re so flush with cash they started giving money overseas,” Chaffetz said, sarcastically.
Richards responded she would follow up on this matter with more information, but said the organization is committed to investing women’s health services in developing countries.
Planned Parenthood Services
Republicans press Richards on a number of its services, including why breast cancer screenings declined by nearly 50 percent from 2009-2013 according to reports.
“How many of your affiliates have mammogram machines?” asked Rep Mia Love, R-Utah.
“We do not have mammogram machines at our health centers and we’ve never stated that we did.”
Instead, Richards said the organization provides manual breast cancer screenings and refers women who need a mammogram to other clinics.
According to Richards, Planned Parenthood performs about 300,000 abortions each year, which makes up up 3 percent of all health services at the clinics.
Republican lawmakers pressed Richards on these numbers, asking how the organization derived that statistic.
One affiliate lawmakers cited reported receiving $1.4 million from abortion services, making up 28 percent of that affiliate’s entire revenue.
“If 2.7 million women are served according to your testimony…and [Planned Parenthood] annually provided 327,000 abortions last year according to your report…I do the math…that comes up to 12 percent. So how do you get three percent?” asked Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC. (Emphasis The Daily Signal’s.)
“Some people come to us more than once for different services,” Richards responded.
When asked if stripping Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer dollars would affect its abortion services, Richards said, “I can’t think of a specific impact.”
However, she said the proposal to defund the organization, “would deny people on Medicaid the ability to go to a provider of their choice, and many of them do go to Planned Parenthood for a variety of different reasons.”
In response, Republicans cited the 13,000 federally-qualified health care clinics, arguing they can provide better, more comprehensive care to women.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published at The Daily Signal on September 29, 2015, and is reprinted here with permission.