WASHINGTON (AP) — In Planned Parenthood’s first congressional appearance since the release of undercover videos, the group’s president is defending its provision of fetal tissue for researchers and castigating Republicans for not investigating the anti-abortion activists who furtively made the recordings.
In testimony prepared for a hearing Tuesday, Cecile Richards said the organization’s donation of tissue from aborted fetuses is a “minuscule” part of its work proving health services for women. She said the group has nearly 700 clinics but obtains fetal tissue in less than 1 percent of them.
“Planned Parenthood is proud of its limited role in supporting fetal tissue research,” she said, arguing that the donations have helped scientists search for cures.
Abortion opponent David Daleiden obtained the videos by posing as an executive of a fake company seeking to supply fetal tissue to researchers. Richards said Daleiden, despite three years of doing that, didn’t entrap any Planned Parenthood officials into doing anything illegal.
“It is clear they acted fraudulently and unethically – and perhaps illegally,” Richards said. “Yet it is Planned Parenthood, not Mr. Daleiden, that is currently subject to four congressional investigations” by the GOP-run Congress.
Congressional Democrats have demanded that Daleiden be called to testify, but Republicans have ignored those pleas.
The videos ignited a political uproar among conservatives and Republicans that has revived abortion as a potent issue for the 2016 presidential and congressional campaigns, with many GOP presidential candidates condemning the group.
Conservatives’ demands that Congress cut Planned Parenthood’s federal payments – for which Republicans lack the votes to succeed – indirectly contributed to the GOP unrest that prompted House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to announce his resignation last week. The organization receives about a third of its $1.3 billion annual budget, around $450 million, from federal coffers, chiefly reimbursements for treating Medicaid patients.
Richards’ testimony was provided by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where she was set to appear. Her prepared remarks contained little her organization has not already said since the abortion foes began releasing the videos in July.
Conservatives and some Republicans say Planned Parenthood has broken federal laws forbidding sales of fetal tissue for profit. The group has denied breaking any laws.