Planned Parenthood President Rips GOP For Political Grandstanding During …

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Blistering GOP attack on Planned Parenthood prez.

This video has been circulating since the Sept. 9 House Judiciary Committee hearing on Planned Parenthood’s practices. 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.WASHINGTON — The besieged boss of Planned Parenthood defended her $590,000 salary and videos calling out the harvesting of fetal tissue while under withering attack yesterday as Republicans vowed to keep trying to strip the nonprofit’s federal funding. She said her organization provides critical services for low-income women, such as cancer screenings and HIV testing, and rebuked lawmakers for spotlighting videos she called “deceptively edited.” “For many American women, Planned Parenthood is the only health-care provider they will see this year,” Richards told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “It is impossible for our patients to understand why Congress is once again threatening their ability to go to the health-care provider of their choice.” The hearing came as congressional leaders were nearing agreement on a plan to keep federal agencies funded past an Oct. 1 deadline. Congress is set to pass a stopgap spending bill today to keep the government funded through December, despite earlier threats from some conservatives to use the bill to force a vote to defund Planned Parenthood.

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. 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.

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. 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. 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 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. 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.

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. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) grilled Richards on the group’s funding practices — including the $590,000 salary she receives and the financing of its political advocacy arm, Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “It’s the commingling that bothers us,” Chaffetz said. “Every dollar you get from federal funds means you don’t necessarily have to allocate for these particular assets.” The nearly four-hour hearing divided the House panel, with Republicans questioning Richards about the group’s funding for abortion services and Medicare reimbursements, and Democrats defending the group and its president. 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.

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. Planned Parenthood gets around a third of its $1.3 billion yearly budget from federal payments, mostly reimbursements for treating low-income Medicaid patients. 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. 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.

The wrangling could keep the congressional debate over Planned Parenthood alive into next year, keeping the organization — and the abortion issue — in the spotlight through the Republican presidential primaries. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) added: “I would like to register my opposition and my objection to the chairman beating up on a woman, on our witness today, for making a good salary.” 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.

Several Republicans on the panel said they would prefer to see the federal money aiding Planned Parenthood be distributed among the 13,000 federally approved health centers. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that cutting off federal aid to Planned Parenthood would increase federal Medicaid spending by $650 million until 2025 and could reduce access to health care for 25 percent of Planned Parenthood’s 2.7 million yearly patients. “In my opinion it was inappropriate to have a clinical discussion in a non-clinical setting, non-confidential area,” Richards said of a scene in the video. “It did not reflect the compassionate care that we provide.” “We need to recognize this fight for what it is,” said Rep. And he alleged that it spent heavily on six-figure executive salaries, travel expenses, “blowout” parties with celebrities and political activities. 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.

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. Richards has apologized for the “tone” of one of the videos, which shows a top official graphically discussing abortion techniques over wine and salad. Also seated were abortion opponents who initially wore masking tape over their mouths bearing the word “Life,” which they removed when asked by police.

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. Demonstrators from the Christian Defense Coalition and other groups wore pink tape that read “Life” across their mouths and carried signs that said, “We don’t need to speak … 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).

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. At least five other states — Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and South Dakota — also have cleared Planned Parenthood of breaking laws.

On Tuesday, volunteers and supporters scheduled events in nearly 90 cities and planned to give lawmakers more than 2 million signatures on “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” petitions. 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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