- Associated Press - Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which receives about $1 million a day in taxpayer funds, should be investigated by Congress, a group of House Republicans said in a Capitol Hill event Thursday.

“We have got to shine light on this situation and get the facts out to the American people,” said Rep. Renee L. Ellmers, North Carolina Republican, adding that a 174-page report by Americans United for Life on the “scandal and abuse” in Planned Parenthood sparked interest in such an investigation.

The report is “a blueprint for action,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and a longtime pro-life leader in the House. Planned Parenthood is “ripe for investigation,” he said.

“It should not be a sacrosanct organization or a politically correct organization that evades that kind of scrutiny.”

A House hearing has not been set, the members said. However, Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said in a statement that he is considering holding a hearing on Planned Parenthood.

The ranking Democrat on that panel, Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, is co-chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus and a staunch supporter of Planned Parenthood.

The organization has dismissed the Americans United for Life report, saying it recycled “discredited charges” and drew “unfounded and inaccurate conclusions from select pieces of data often taken out of context.”

The reproductive health care organization, founded more than 90 years ago, also rejects claims that it wastes or misuses taxpayer money.

“Planned Parenthood undergoes routine audits to ensure proper use of public funds,” it said.

But Charmaine Yoest, president and chief executive of Americans United for Life, said there were even questions about the total amount of funding Planned Parenthood receives from the federal government.

The Government Accountability Office has reported that Planned Parenthood spent $657.1 million in federal funds from 2002 to 2008, but Americans United for Life researchers found that Planned Parenthood reported more than $2 billion in “government grants and contracts” during that time, she said.

“That’s a remarkable discrepancy,” Mrs. Yoest said. “Which is it? And what was the money used for?”

House Republicans said these and other claims in the report should not be ignored.

“This is absolutely the type of work the American people have sent us here to Washington to do - to ask these kinds of questions” about how their money is being spent, said Rep. Randy Hultgren, Illinois Republican.

Other concerns raised by House Republicans, including Reps. John Fleming of Louisiana, Steve Chabot of Ohio, Jean Schmidt of Ohio, Bill Huizenga of Michigan and Diane Black of Tennessee, were Medicaid fraud and violations of state laws on parental involvement in abortion and mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America receives $363 million a year in federal funding. A House bill to defund the program was dropped in April as part of negotiations to pass a budget and avert a government shutdown.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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