- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Planned Parenthood insisted it didn’t break any laws and was the subject of an effort to “entrap” it, but the organization’s president, Cecile Richards, struggled Tuesday to defend the need for hundreds of millions of dollars in new federal funding every year.

Ms. Richards fiercely defended Planned Parenthood against accusations from Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and accused the Center for Medical Progress, which caught Planned Parenthood officials on camera appearing to be negotiating the sale of aborted fetal tissue for research, of misleading editing and falsehoods.

She also seemed to withdraw her apology issued after the first video was released this summer, saying she’s now had a chance to review the whole context and did not see anything wrong with the “statements” made by Dr. Deborah Nucatola — though she stood by her reprimand of the doctor for having the caught-on-tape conversation with the undercover CMP cameraman in a restaurant, which was a nonconfidential, nonclinical setting.

And Ms. Richards said “harassment” of women seeking abortions “has only gotten worse” since the videos, but said her organization’s services provide critical health services — going well beyond abortion — for women across the country.

“The federal funding that Planned Parenthood [receives] allows our doctors and clinicians at health centers to prove birth control, cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted infections,” Ms. Richards said, adding that stripping federal money from the group would leave women without those kinds of services.

But she faced tough questions over what services Planned Parenthood does actually offer, at one point acknowledging that while her clinics refer women to other facilities, they don’t perform mammograms themselves.

“There aren’t any Planned Parenthood clinics — I believe, to the best of my knowledge, that any have mammogram machines,” she said.

That left some Republicans wondering what the federal money going to Planned Parenthood is paying for.

“Why would it be offensive if we took funding and put it into clinics that actually provide — where those numbers are actually increasing providing health care exams, providing mammograms?” said Rep. Mia B. Love, Utah Republican.

Ms. Richards said the Congressional Budget Office’s own calculations show that if federal funding were redirected away from Planned Parenthood, hundreds of thousands of women would likely not get care they would otherwise get.

Planned Parenthood and its local affiliates get about $500 million in government funding every year, though it is generally not allowed to go to abortions.

Republicans, however, said the money is fungible, and paying for some of Planned Parenthood’s services allows the organization to perform abortions — and could be contributing to the fetal tissue sales that have proved so controversial since the videos’ release.

“It’s the co-mingling that bothers us,” said Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican.

Ms. Richards said using fetal tissue for research is legal under a 1993 law, and said few Planned Parenthood health centers do engage in transactions for such tissue anyway.

“The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood based on heavily doctored videos are offensive and categorically untrue,” she said. “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 statement after the hearing, David Daleiden, founder of CMP, which produced the videos, said Ms. Richards “frequently hid” behind the structure of Planned Parenthood, pushing questions off onto the national organization’s local affiliates.

“Her testimony clearly demonstrates that Planned Parenthood, at least on Cecile Richards‘ watch, has no intention of ending these atrocities against humanity and is not worthy of taxpayer funding,” Mr. Daleiden said.

Ms. Richards has been cooperating with the Oversight Committee’s probe, providing extensive documents about her organization’s activities, including salaries.

When Republicans chided Ms. Richards for her own compensation, which neared $600,000 in 2013, Democrats objected.

“In my entire time in Congress, I’ve never seen a woman beaten up and questioned about their salary,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat.

The effort to withdraw federal funding from Planned Parenthood has ensnared Congress in a bruising debate. Some Republicans say it should be part of the annual spending bill process, and say the GOP should insist that any bill to keep the government open into the next fiscal year should specifically withhold money from the organization.

Senate Democrats, however, have rallied behind the organization and staged a filibuster — joined by some Republicans — to defeat the defunding effort.

Hours after the hearing with Ms. Richards ended Tuesday, the House approved a bill to let states refuse to send Medicaid money to clinics that provide abortions — yet another shot at Planned Parenthood.

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