Pro-life leaders are concerned that lawmakers aren’t serious about eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood.
The worries come as a “panel” has been created to study Planned Parenthood’s activities, this one headed by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, also considered to be a potential candidate for House Speaker. According to The Hill, Blackburn said, “Our investigation has raised many more questions than we’ve been able to find answers. We need to have a national conversation about these practices. This is a discussion we cannot shy away from.”
But one prominent Republican seems to be shying away from criticizing, and is in some ways exonerating, Planned Parenthood.
Salon magazine is referring to House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s comment that he found no “wrongdoing” regarding Planned Parenthood finances as a “stunning admission.”
The leftwing media outlet states, “Even though Chaffetz was one of the chief fire-eaters on the Judiciary Committee panel’s inquisition against the healthcare organization, he confessed the other day that he was unable to find any proof of nefarious activity by Planned Parenthood.”
The Huffington Post has also announced, “Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Thursday that the GOP’s investigation into Planned Parenthood’s use of federal funds hasn’t turned up anything.”
Chaffetz’s comments – shared far and wide – have not been taken lightly by some national pro-life leaders.
The pro-life base of the Republican Party was told by House Speaker John Boehner’s office and other GOP leadership that having committee hearings about Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the trafficking of aborted baby body parts would allow the American people to see the evidence of the abortion business’ wrongdoing.
Chaffetz, who said he would skip a bid for House Speaker if Rep. Paul Ryan agreed to run, chastised Democrat House Judiciary Committee members October 8 for using his own words to claim innocence for the abortion business.
The Utah representative told members, “Did I look at the finances and have a hearing specifically as to the revenue portion and how they spend? Yes. Was there any wrongdoing? I didn’t find any.”
The context of the comments that I made were in relationship to a hearing as the chairman of the Oversight Committee that I conducted. The hearing that we conducted in Oversight was about the finances of Planned Parenthood. We didn’t get into the content of what they do. We didn’t get into the content of the video. We didn’t get into the practices that they do. We didn’t get into the fetal body tissue issues. We didn’t do that. We were very narrowly focused on the finances.
The point we were making is that Planned Parenthood have revenue of $127 million more than their expenses. And we started to look as a non-profit organization on what people were making and how they were spending that money. They were spending money overseas, they were spending money and giving it to political organizations. They have a lot of shared services.
I think that’s a legitimate question as we look at the finances of an organization that’s structured as a non-profit organization. I was asked a direct question about the finances – that’s the way I took the question because that’s what the drive and the hearing was about – did we find any wrongdoing? The answer was “No.” It is inappropriate to suggest that I have come to some grand conclusion about every part of their operation.
Chaffetz’s response to the “direct question” he was asked serves to underscore conservatives’ recurrent concern that current congressional “panels” and “committees” will simply draw out the inevitable continued taxpayer-funding of Planned Parenthood.
Ironically, Chaffetz sent a memo to Oversight Committee members, one that demonstrated Planned Parenthood’s exorbitant travel costs and lavish parties, and also specified that Richards was paid $590,928 in 2013 – though she told committee members during the hearing her annual compensation is $520,000.
The memo points out numerous problems with Planned Parenthood’s “finances:”
Taxpayer dollars subsidize political affiliates.
Over the past five years, Planned Parenthood has given the Planned Parenthood Action Fund $21,567,629 in grants. It has also given other 501(c)(4)s a total of $1,099,932.
- In the five years of tax returns provided to the Committee, Planned Parenthood Federation of America transferred funding from its 501(c)(3) organization, which is restricted in the amount of lobbying it may conduct, to its 501(c)(4) organization, which may conduct lobbying as its primary activity.
- This practice appears to be widespread. Planned Parenthood transferred millions to its lobbying arm each year, and affiliates likewise transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to related 501(c)(4)s and PACs.
Planned Parenthood’s “Three Percent” claim is false. Planned Parenthood claims that only “three percent of all health services are abortion services.”
- One affiliate reported receiving $3,718,474 from family planning services versus $1,424,275 from abortion services – 28 percent of their entire service revenue.
- According to Cecile Richards’ testimony before the Committee, Planned Parenthood serves 2.7 million individuals per year. In 2014 their annual report states Planned Parenthood performed 327,653 abortions. This would be at least 12 percent.
Perhaps Congress has shied away from a discussion about Planned Parenthood, but the pro-life base of the Republican Party has not.
President of Students for Life of America Kristan Hawkins shares her view of Chaffetz’s comments with Breitbart News.
“I don’t think we should be putting a lot of stock in what a Member of Congress says whose first question to the CEO of an organization that was shown to be casually discussing the harvesting and sale of the body parts of aborted babies on camera was something about sending money to the Congo,” she states. “Any smart person can understand that money is fungible and taxpayer money goes to fund abortion, whether directly or indirectly, and that Americans do not support the funding of abortion.”
Similarly, in a statement to Breitbart News, Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said, “The House Judiciary Committee would have done well to drill down more on the waste, abuse and potential fraud that almost every audit conducted on Planned Parenthood has revealed.”
On Tuesday, in the wake of her appearance before the House Oversight Committee, Richards announced that Planned Parenthood would no longer be accepting payments for aborted baby organs, although she insisted her organization did nothing wrong in doing so, and maintained that the group that exposed Planned Parenthood’s practices made “patently false claims” intended to promote an “extreme political agenda.”
Americans United for Life president and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest tells Breitbart News, “These investigations have just begun, and there are many questions still to be considered, both financial and programmatic. The urgency has intensified with Planned Parenthood’s false claims that they were merely being ‘reimbursed’ for costs. But semantic maneuvering does not change substance.”
What the Committee needs to investigate is how Planned Parenthood determines its “costs” per specimen; how much money it saves in avoiding the disposition costs of the unborn infants’ remains; how it reports its infant body part revenues in its financial statements; and for those affiliates involved, what portion of their revenues and expenses are related to the harvesting and selling of infant body parts.
On the day of Richards’ announcement, Sen. David Vitter said in a statement from his office, “It’s reprehensible that any organization would actualize the practice of pawning babies’ body parts, and today’s announcement is just a political ploy to make justifiably outraged and disgusted Americans forget what Planned Parenthood is doing.”
“But there is no doubt they will continue to harvest fetal tissue,” Vitter added. “Planned Parenthood and all abortion mills deserve to be prosecuted and stripped of American taxpayer funding, and I will not rest until they do.”
Blackburn, who is vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, issued the following statement in reaction to Planned Parenthood’s announcement that they would no longer accept reimbursements for donating fetal tissue:
I’m glad to see Planned Parenthood is finally recognizing the need to end this disgusting practice. It’s about time. However, there are still many questions yet to be answered surrounding Planned Parenthood’s business practices and relationships with the procurement organizations. This is exactly why the House is investigating abortion practices and how we can better protect life.
Last week, a judge allowed all the videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress to be released from a temporary restraining order and sent to Congress for review.
On Friday, the House Budget Committee approved a bill, 21-11, to both gut Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood through the use of reconciliation, a budgetary tool that allows the bill to bypass a Democrat filibuster in the Senate. The measure would defund Planned Parenthood for one year and redirect those federal funds to community health centers that do not provide abortions.
Democrats used reconciliation to pass Obamacare in 2010. President Obama, however, a supporter of Planned Parenthood, has said he will veto any legislation that defunds the abortion business.