Cecile Richards Before Congress: A Failure to Communicate
What we had here was a failure to communicate.
Democrats in Congress seem willing to shut down the government to prevent any money being removed from Planned Parenthood in the upcoming Continuing Resolution.
Yesterday, Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, testified before an extraordinarily well-attended (by both Members and the public) hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
In his opening statement, Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) explained that this hearing would examine Planned Parenthood’s use of taxpayer funding. Committee members, he said, could not talk about the Center for Medical Progress videos because they have not seen them; the Committee has subpoenaed the videos, but a California court has them locked up in a temporary restraining order.
Therefore, most of the Republican questions focused on aspects of PP’s finances.
Most of the Democrat members, however, attacked the CMP videos and bloviated.
Richard’s five-page opening statement never mentioned the word abortion. It focused on “Planned Parenthood’s central role in delivering family planning services across this country.”
Chaffetz made clear that what is at stake in the Continuing Resolution fight is a mere $60 million dollars, or 4.6% of Planned Parenthood’s revenue. Is it worth shutting down the government, he wondered, over that small amount?
Or, in the words of Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC): “If we took $60 million away, you could still perform every single service that you gave last year.”
Planned Parenthood had submitted some 20,000 pages of information prior to the hearing, from which the Committee learned that PP:
- spends more than $5 million in travel every year, or $14,000 per day
- spent $622,706 last year just on parties
- spent more than $67 million last year on fundraising
- spent $34.8 million in 2011 to purchase corporate office space two blocks from Madison Square Garden
- pays a dozen employees’ salaries in the quarter-of-a-million-dollar range
Chaffetz questioned whether PP necessarily needs taxpayer dollars to pay for that kind of thing.
In the past five years, PP has sent more than $32 million overseas. We have USAID, the State Department, all kinds of foreign aid, Chaffetz said, we don’t need Planned Parenthood doing foreign aid, but that’s what we’ve got.
“Any money Planned Parenthood raises and is given by individuals goes to Africa and Latin America,” Richards responded. Does PP have any ownership in foreign countries? “I don’t know what you mean,” she said.
Does any of that $32 million go to Congo? She didn’t know. (Congo is under sanctions and it is illegal to send money to a country under sanctions). She promised the Committee she would provide a listing of where the dollars go overseas.
Money is the mother’s milk of politics. Planned Parenthood doesn’t invest in motherhood, but it sure provides lots of that kind of milk.
Chairman Chaffetz pointed out that PP’s nonprofit and lobbying arms share employees, facilities, mailing lists, and assets—just like any political organization. He noted that PP had moved $21,567,629 from its tax-exempt 501(c)(3) to Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which has spent millions on redistricting fights and battling state initiatives. That has nothing to do with providing health care for young women who need a breast exam, Chaffetz said, it’s a political activity.
Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) reinforced that point: “What this is really all about is money and politics,” he said. “Politicians give money to Planned Parenthood, who gives it back to politicians at election time, who give it back to Planned Parenthood.” In the 2012 election cycle, he noted, Planned Parenthood spent $11,874,052 in advertising, 100% of which went to Democrats.
“We want to fund the government at the levels everyone agreed to,” Jordan said. “We just want to shift funds from the 700 Planned Parenthood clinics and give them to the 13,000 federally-approved community health centers. But the Democrats insist giving this money to one organization is worth shutting down the government.”
The Stuck LP
Most Democrat talking points sounded much like an LP stuck in one groove:
- the real reason we’re here is that Republicans want to eliminate a woman’s right to choose
- this is driven by politicians, most of whom are men
- it’s hypocritical these male politicians insult a woman by asking her about her $590,000 salary (she said it’s $520) when they didn’t ask the CEO of Morgan Stanley the same question
Few of the Democrats could pronounce David Daleiden’s name, but just about every one of them attacked him by name. Even though the videos were not the topic, they felt compelled to attack him. Hmmm . . . Might this defensiveness on their part be telling the world something . . .?
There’s one solid takeaway however. At least the hearing set the record straight on one issue.
On the Joy Behar show in 2011, Richards said cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood would mean “millions of women are going to lose access . . . to mammograms.” Her implication, of course, was that Planned Parenthood did mammograms—an impression she never bothered to correct. It promptly became a meme. President Obama picked up the line, as did the media and certain Presidential candidates.
Our side always said it was a lie, but we don’t control the media conversation. Yesterday, Richards, under questioning, admitted that not one of Planned Parenthood’s six-to-seven hundred clinics (she didn’t know the exact number) has a mammogram machine. Instead, they do breast exams and refer patients elsewhere for radiology.
Well, at least that’s clear now. One failure to communicate has been remedied.
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Connie Marshner is a commentator and researcher on life and family issues in the Washington, D.C., area.