Planned Parenthood leader Cecile Richards admitted in testimony before Congress on September 29 that 86% of the organization’s revenue is derived from abortions. In response to questions from Rep. Cynthia Lummins (R-Wyo), Richards admitted that while abortions account for while abortions only account for 3% of Planned Parenthood’s total procedures, they account for 86% of Planned Parenthood’s revenues.
Other Republicans brought Richards to task in the hearing for her organization’s expenditure of $40 million on "lavish" priorities. They depicted Planned Parenthood and Richards has having hosted expensive parties and gatherings, flying first class, and spending more time in their fundraising activities than on health issues. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) asked “The question before us is: Does this organization -- does Planned Parenthood really need a federal subsidy?" He added, "Does it need federal dollars? Every time we spend a federal dollar, what we're doing is pulling money out of somebody's pocket and we're giving it to somebody else. What I don't like, what I don't want to tolerate, what I don't want to become numb to is wasting those taxpayer dollars."
Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood has been under fire after a series of edited videos surfaced earlier this year. The videos depicted various Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale and availability of human fetuses for ostensibly scientific purposes. Some members of Congress have seen this as a reason to de-fund the organization, causing a major backlash on the part of Democrats in Congress. Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton has even called for an investigation into the organization that covertly videotaped the Planned Parenthood officials in a series of stings. Defunding Planned Parenthood has even threatened to derail passage of a budget and has been blamed for a possible government shutdown later this year.
Currently, Planned Parenthood receives approximately $450 million a year in funding from the Federal government. Of this, about $400 million is reimbursement for services covered by Medicaid. Federal funds are prohibited by law from being used for abortion, and Planned Parenthood's federal funding covers services such as cancer screenings and birth control.
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz
Democrats have accused Republicans of misogyny for their opposition to any funding for Planned Parenthood.
Richards told the committee, "The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood based on heavily doctored videos are offensive and categorically untrue. I realize, though, that the facts have never gotten in the way of these campaigns to block women from health care they need and deserve."
In a written statement, Richards said that the videos in question are "a deliberate and systematic effort by (CMP Director) David Daleiden and other opponents of safe and legal abortion to infiltrate our health centers, try to entrap our staff into potentially illegal conduct, and create discredited, doctored videos designed to smear Planned Parenthood."
Rep. Chaffetz opened the hearing with an emotional story of his parents’ death from cancer. He also spoke about his wife, who has worked with a plastic surgeon who does reconstructive breast surgery. He then argued that the Federal government should spend more on cancer screening and research, but defund Planned Parenthood. "This has absolutely nothing to do with providing health care to young women who need a breast exam," Chaffetz said.
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), a leading Democrat and a member of the Black Caucus, claimed that most of the federal funding goes to services for poor women. He then offered that his own mother-in-law died from cancer recently. Speaking to Chaffetz, Cummings said "I understand what you're talking about. I get it."
Rep. Chaffetz was unrelenting in his line of questioning, while characterizing Planned Parenthood as an organization dedicated to political work and abortions, not health care. "My guess is you run the mothership here. When you show up and want to have something done, it's probably done," he said.
Richards struggled to answer as Chaffetz repeatedly said he had many questions. She said that Planned Parenthood’s political work and health care operations are were clearly and legally separated."It doesn't feel like we're trying to get to the truth here," she said.
Chaffetz questioned Richards about her $600,000 salary, as part of his argument that Planned Parenthood does need federal dollars.
The House Oversight Committee released a report on September 29 that showed, for example, that Planned Parenthood spent lavishly on parties, and $35 million for an office near Madison Square Garden in New York City. "Affiliates routinely host lavish parties. The funding used for one affiliate's 'Gathering of Goddesses and Gods' event or another's 'Chocolate Champagne' and 'Murder Mystery' fundraisers could have been used on health services," the report said.
Democrats insisted that Republicans’ criticisms were based in hatred of women. “My colleagues like to say this isn't a war on women. Look at how you've been treated as a witness," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). "The disrespect, the misogyny rampant here today, tells us what is really going on."
Democratic presidential candidates showed their support for Planned Parenthood, which is also a significant donor to Democrats’ campaigns. On Twitter, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley – responding to a “pink out” campaign organized by Planned Parenthood supporters - was among those to "pink out" his Twitter profile photo. He tweeted that Planned Parenthood provides "necessary medical care for millions each year."
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted: "I #StandWithPP. These attacks come from those who simply don't believe women have a right to control their own bodies. I disagree. #PinkOut."
Republicans were severe. For example, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tweeted: "#PlannedParenthood performs 327,000 abortions per year. Sorry, @CecileRichards this is NOT healthcare," adding, "Harvesting human organs to be sold like brake pads for a Buick is beyond barbaric, it's immoral, grotesque, & evil. #PlannedParenthood."