Planned Parenthood Leader Says Fetal Tissue Claims Are False

  • Richards says health-care group follows legal requirments
  • Donation of fetal tissue for research is legal, Richards says

What Planned Parenthood's President Told Congress Today

Planned Parenthood’s leader defended the group against accusations that it sells tissue from aborted fetuses for profit, telling U.S. lawmakers that claims based on undercover videos made by anti-abortion groups are “offensive and categorically untrue.”

“Planned Parenthood policies not only comply with, but indeed go beyond the requirements of the law,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Tuesday in Washington. Using fetal tissue in medical research is legal, she said.

Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, said Planned Parenthood doesn’t need taxpayer dollars.

“As far as I can tell, this is an organization that doesn’t need federal subsidies,” Chaffetz said at a hearing on the reproductive health-care provider’s use of taxpayer funding. “They’re pretty good at fundraising; they don’t really need taxpayer dollars.”

Conservative House Republicans have threatened a government shutdown if lawmakers don’t cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood over the videos. The Republican-controlled Senate and House plan to pass a short-term spending bill this week that includes money for Planned Parenthood, though that sets up another showdown when the measure expires Dec. 11.

Undercover Videos

Conservatives have said they are outraged by undercover videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing reimbursement for providing tissue from aborted fetuses to researchers. The organization has said it doesn’t sell fetal tissue for profit, and instead receives reimbursement for the cost of collecting and delivering it. Bloomberg Philanthropies provides financial support for Planned Parenthood.

Richards said the videos were “deceptively edited” and that threats against doctors who provide abortion and their families have gotten worse since the films surfaced this summer.

She said she apologized after the release of the first video because she believed it "was inappropriate" to discuss clinical issues in a "non-clinical setting."

Richards said fewer than 1 percent of her organization’s health centers provide fetal tissue that patients donate for research.

Chaffetz began the hearing by questioning Richards’s compensation and criticizing Planned Parenthood’s spending on political campaigns.

"That has absolutely nothing to do with providing health care to young women that need care, that need a breast exam," Chaffetz said. "It’s a political organization."

Republicans suggested the group overpays its employees. Chaffetz said that Richards is paid "nearly $600,000 a year," and John Mica of Florida said, "there are dozens of employees in the quarter million dollar range."

Democrats, including Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly, said that attacking Richards’s salary was sexist.

"I hope every American woman is watching today’s hearing," Connolly said. 

“There is one simple reason we are at this point -- Republicans want to outlaw a woman’s right to choose,” Representative Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, said at the start of the hearing. “We need to recognize this fight for what it is; it is about banning a woman’s right to choose, and it is being driven by politicians -- most of whom are men -- who think they have a right to dictate to women about their most personal and private decisions.”

House Inquiry

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican whose decision last week to resign was partly driven by the dispute over Planned Parenthood, said Sunday the House will set up a select committee to investigate the videos. Republicans have proposed transferring Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood to other women’s health services.

Planned Parenthood operates through a national office and 59 affiliates, which provide disease screenings and other medical services through approximately 700 local health centers.

The group receives about one-third of its annual revenue, or about $450 million, from federal programs, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Of that amount, about $390 million is provided by Medicaid. Planned Parenthood affiliates reported spending $64.4 million in Title X funding, a federal family planning program, in fiscal 2012, according to the Congressional Research Service.

A ban on federally funded abortions has been in place for decades. Recent laws have made exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest or if the mother’s life is endangered.

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