How Planned Parenthood could still cause a government shutdown (just not today)

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

GOP critics attack, Planned Parenthood chief counters.

WASHINGTON — The head of Planned Parenthood defended the women’s health organization Tuesday before a Republican-run Congress bent on slashing its federal funding, telling lawmakers that accusations against her group fed by stealthily recorded videos are “offensive and categorically untrue.” In Planned Parenthood’s first appearance before Congress since those videos emerged this summer, Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee argued that the group needs no taxpayer financing. WASHINGTON (AP) — A temporary funding measure that would keep the government open past a midnight deadline should make its way to President Barack Obama on Wednesday with time to spare.Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards delivered an aggressive defense of her embattled organization Tuesday on Capitol Hill, rejecting allegations that it illegally sells fetal tissue for profit as “offensive and categorically untrue.” Under attack in the wake of a series of undercover videos released by antiabortion activists, Richards for the first time confronted Republican members of Congress determined to revoke the group’s federal funding. They cited Planned Parenthood tax documents showing it spends millions on political activities, travel and exorbitant salaries. “That’s money that’s not going to women’s health care,” said committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). “It’s a political organization, and that’s something that needs to be ferreted out.” Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president, told the lawmakers that her group has fallen victim to a “smear campaign” based on videos in which its officials coolly describe how they sometimes harvest tissue from aborted fetuses for scientific research.

The measure has already helped topple the top House GOP leader and exacerbated painful divisions between more pragmatic Republicans and a tea party wing that is increasingly dominant, especially in the rough-and-tumble House. Conservatives and many Republicans say the videos, made by abortion foes posing as private purchasers of fetal organs, show Planned Parenthood has broken federal laws including a ban on for-profit fetal tissue sales. Tea party forces are frustrated that the bill, which would prevent a repeat of the partial shutdown of the government two years ago, fails to take away federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Richards, “You can say all you want, but a picture is worth a thousand words.” Long a target of conservatives, the issue has caught Planned Parenthood in a political whirlwind. Richards said the videos were edited by the activists to mislead, and she insisted 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,” Richards said.

The appearance by 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 Thursday if a stopgap spending bill cannot be passed. The recordings have pumped Planned Parenthood and the abortions many of its nearly 700 clinics provide into an electric political issue, with many GOP presidential candidates frequently lambasting the group. That issue, among others, led to the stunning decision last week by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has struggled with the right wing of his party, to resign at the end of October.

The figure comes from a 2011 study by Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, tracking changes in abortion rates and estimating the lifetime incidence of abortion among women of reproductive age. It has also triggered fireworks on the campaign trail, as several of the GOP’s 2016 presidential contenders have used the controversy to score political points.

Tuesday’s hearing quickly became contentious as Republican lawmakers assailed the organization as more a political advocacy organization that wastes federal money than a health care group that deserves to receive taxpayer dollars. Planned Parenthood gets around a third of its $1.3 billion yearly budget from federal payments, mostly reimbursements for treating low-income Medicaid patients. Later this week, they will begin assembling a budget-reconciliation bill that would cut off Planned Parenthood’s funding, as well as repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act. At issue are efforts to increase the operating budgets for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies still operating under automatic spending curbs that would effectively freeze their budgets at current levels. The abortion rate had declined since 1992, and researchers hypothesized that the proportion of women who will have an abortion during their lifetime also probably declined since then.

Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, questioned Planned Parenthood’s need for any federal funds when the organization has a $1.3 billion annual revenue. “As best I can tell this is an organization that doesn’t need federal subsidy,” Chaffetz said, noting that 41 percent of its revenue comes from the government. Because legislation moved through the reconciliation process cannot be filibustered, it is likely to be approved by both chambers, forcing Obama to veto the bill.

The study used abortion rates (the number of abortions per 1,000 women) for subgroups of women (including age, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity) who responded to the Guttmacher Institute’s 2008 Abortion Patient Survey of nearly 9,500 women. Richards replied that the federal funds help the group provide a variety of health services to women, including birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Researchers used survey data to find the first abortion rate for age subgroups, multiplied the rate by the number of years in each age group, and added up the number of first-time abortions that had taken place by the time women were 45 years old. She said that Medicaid, a federal-state program that helps low income people and families pay for health care, reimburses Planned Parenthood for its services. This was called the “cumulative first abortion rate,” through which they came up with the “lifetime incidence” of abortion, or the “one in three” figure.

Several states have faced legal action over efforts to end Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood because federal law does not permit states to pick and choose which organizations are reimbursed for care. She said she is “proud” of the work, which is used to research cures and treatments for diseases, but called it a “minuscule” part of the services Planned Parenthood provides. Federal law allows abortion clinics to recover the cost of providing fetal tissue from abortions to researchers but bars them from profiting from the practice. Also seated were abortion opponents who initially wore masking tape over their mouths bearing the word “Life,” which they removed when asked by police.

Gerry Connolly, D-Va., apologized for the rough treatment she had thus received from Republicans, including the “disrespect, the misogyny rampant here today.” Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said, “No wonder they’re defending this repulsive game.” He also called the organization’s fetal tissue work “barbaric.” And after Chaffetz cited tax documents he said showed that Richards — seated before him — was earning $590,000 yearly, Rep. In it, she reiterated her support for the organization’s tissue-donation program while playing down its role, saying that less than 1 percent of the group’s affiliates participate.

Richards said that she apologized because she thought it was “inappropriate” that the doctor in the video had a “clinical discussion, in a nonconfidential, nonclinical setting.” To post a comment, log into your chosen social network and then add your comment below. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) accused him of “beating up on a woman, to our witness today, for making a good salary.” Republicans repeatedly asked Richards how much money Planned Parenthood makes from the more than 300,000 abortions it performs annually. The hearing came the same day the House used a near party-line vote to let states stop reimbursing abortion providers with Medicaid, which is jointly funded with federal and state money. After last week’s vote failed, McConnell on Monday orchestrated a bipartisan 77-19 vote on a funding bill — stripped of the Planned Parenthood provision — to force a final vote. “This bill hardly represents my preferred method for funding the government, but it’s now the most viable way forward after Democrats’ extreme actions forced our country into this situation,” McConnell said Tuesday of the stopgap measure. It also came a day after state investigators in Missouri said they’d uncovered “no evidence whatsoever” that the state’s only surgical abortion facility sells fetal remains.

But again, it’s a little more complicated than that, and so I can’t make any predictions.” In 2008, about half of abortion patients had had their first abortion (more than half of women ages 25 and older had had an abortion). At least five other states — Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and South Dakota — also have cleared Planned Parenthood of breaking laws. A group of about 42 Planned Parenthood supporters dressed in pink T-shirts had turned up at the hearing in the hope of showing their support for Richards. Emily Hein, a George Washington University student and Planned Parenthood volunteer, said her group was within about 15 people from the front of the line, which wrapped around the hallway.

Staffers then permitted a row of people in suits and others in “Defund Planned Parenthood” T-shirts into the room before closing the door, she said. “They offered us an overflow room, which is upstairs,” Hein said, explaining that audio from the hearing is being pumped into that room. “Most of our volunteers went up there. Guttmacher Institute tends to include the caveat in most references, but not always — such as the graphic that UltraViolet used as a source for its video. At The Fact Checker, we have been critical of politicians and organizations citing data without doing enough due diligence to understand how old the statistics are.

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