Amid calls from anti-abortion lawmakers to defund Planned Parenthood, the organizations’s president Cecile Richards testified today in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The initial purpose of the hearing was to “investigate” Planned Parenthood’s use of federal funds in light of unscrupulous and thoroughly debunked claims that the organization profits from fetal tissue donation.
In her testimony, Richards outlined how Planned Parenthood’s work—providing healthcare to some 2.7 million people each year—is being distorted by the anti-abortion group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), who “acted fraudulently and unethically—and perhaps illegally” to smear the organization’s reputation. Seven states have already investigated the CMP allegations and found no wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood. Patients at only one percent of Planned Parenthood clinics (in only two states) are able to chose to participate in legal fetal tissue donation programs that support critically important medical research.
Despite no evidence that Planned Parenthood misuses federal funds or has engaged in any illegal activity, Congress, in just the past few months, has already taken 14 votes to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood serves many regions where there are no other providers. Defunding Planned Parenthood therefore threatens to cut off vital health care for women, many of whom are low-income.
“The federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives allows doctors and clinicians at our health centers to provide birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections,” explained Richards who noted that because of the Hyde Amendment, a discriminatory federal law, Planned Parenthood is unable to provide many low-income women with abortion services except in the limited circumstances allowed by law.
The hearing, which lasted around five hours, was often tense, with some members curtly interrupting Richards’s testimony or preventing her from providing information. At one point, in response to Committee Chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) who presented information prepared by the anti-abortion Americans United for Life, Richards attempted to explain that the information was inaccurate. After repeatedly trying to respond, Richards finally stated, “It doesn’t feel like we’re trying to get to the truth here.”
Planned Parenthood organized a “Pink Out Day” to coincide with the hearing, delivering two million petitions to the Capitol this afternoon. Thousands of people also participated in over 300 events across the country.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 9/1/15; Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Testimony 9/29/15; Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Letter 9/21/15; Planned Parenthood 9/29/15