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Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence

Representing the 14th District of Michigan

House GOP, Democrats spar on Planned Parenthood

September 29, 2015
In The News

Washington — House Republicans and the head of Planned Parenthood faced off at a hearing Tuesday where the group’s staff was criticized for “exorbitant” spending on travel, lavish “blowout” parties and celebrity guests, and its federal funding was questioned.

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform panel, said Planned Parenthood spent more than $5 million on travel in 2013, or $14,000 a day, including first-class flights and chartered aircraft.

Planned Parenthood supports 59 affiliates operating 667 clinics across the country. For 2013, it reported $1.3 billion in revenue, of which 41 percent or $574 million came from government health services grants and reimbursements.

“That’s a lot. That’s money that isn’t going to women’s health care,” Chaffetz said. “What I don’t want to become numb to is wasting taxpayer dollars.”

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, defended the legality her organization’s work and denounced the “great deal of misinformation” about Planned Parenthood that prompted recent Republican calls to eliminate funding for the group.

“This is just the most recent in a long line of discredited attacks. ... The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood, based on heavily doctored videos, are offensive and categorically untrue,” Richards said.

“These acts against women and health care providers don’t reflect American values or the rule of law, and I hope this committee will condemn them,” she added.

It was Richards’ first appearance on Capitol Hill since the release of undercover videos about Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue program by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress in California.

Some congressional Republicans wanted to shut down the government this week if more funds were approved for the group.

At the hearing, Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, addressed the accuracy of the videos, highlighting an independent report commissioned by Planned Parenthood in which he said the analysis “did not reveal widespread evidence of ‘substantive video manipulation’ and it ‘shows no evidence of audio manipulation.’”

“I just want that stated for the record, Mr. Chairman, because we have a lot of controversy over the videos,” Walberg said.

Richards responded by noting the Center for Medical Progress hasn’t released all the original source footage, although Planned Parenthood has requested it.

“That has still not happened. We want it all out there,” she said.

During the hearing, Democrats pushed back against Republican references to the federal “subsidy” for Planned Parenthood, saying the bulk of funding for Planned Parenthood ($390 million) comes in the form of Medicaid reimbursements for preventive health services to the poor such as breast exams and cancer screenings.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, also slammed references to the use of federal funds for abortion – which is not permitted – “as if, if you keep saying it, in some way it will become factual.”

“Do your research before you ask your exhausting, sometimes insulting questions. We cannot use federal dollars for abortion,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence also said the services offered by Planned Parenthood clinics could not be easily replaced by federally funded community health centers, citing research by Sara Rosenbaum, founding chair of the Department of Health Policy at the George Washington University School of Public Health & Health Services.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that 650,000 women could face reduced access to preventative care and 390,000 would lose access to that care if Congress cut off Medicaid patients from Planned Parenthood clinics. Planned Parenthood sees 71,000 patients a year in Michigan.

Richards said 78 percent of its patients live at 150 percent of the poverty level or below.

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