By Dave Andrusko
In a nearly five hour long hearing, PPFA President Cecile Richards today sparred with critics on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and basked in praise from supporters. Here are five takeaways from the hearing which centered on taxpayer funding of the largest abortion provider in the United States. As was noted early and often, government funding makes up 41% of PPFA’s $1.3 billion in revenues.
#1. After watching every minute, it’s easy to understand why Ms. Richards was paid a tidy sum of $590, 928 in 2013. Regardless of how a given question was initially asked, and no matter how many different ways it might have been asked subsequently, her answers went as far as she wanted them to go and no further. When she was repeatedly non-responsive, Richards would smile and tell the questioner that Richards and the questioner must agree to disagree, the clear implication being the questioner was incapable of understanding plain English.
#2. Richards was asked by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) about the video PPFA produced after the first undercover video was released by the Center for Medical Progress. In their official rebuttal, Richards said
Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide. In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion. This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.
What “statements” had Dr. Deborah Nucatola made to the CMP investigators for which Richards felt the need to apologize? Richards simply refused to answer. Instead she rewrote history.
What she’d been talking about was that it was “Inappropriate to have a clinical discussion in a non-confidential setting in a nonclinical setting.” (This, by the way, could have been said about a number of other Planned Parenthood officials as they haggled over prices for baby body parts.) Asked repeatedly what the “statements” were, Richards continued to duck, feint, and evade. Eventually she recycled a line from the video–that “it did not reflect the compassionate care PPFA gives.”
#3. A lot of numbers came out in the hearing that to a less confident and self-assured (and politically-wired) CEO would have been extremely unnerving. Not just the hefty salaries a number of PPFA executives are paid (40 executives were paid over $200,000 for the years 2009-2013), or the $14,000 dollars a day Planned Parenthood spends on travel, or the $34.8 million it spent to purchase corporate office space two blocks from Madison Square Garden. Richards was unfazed.
When it was noted that PPFA had an endowment of more than $100 million (various affiliates have their own endowments), Richards said that was or would be used to build new clinics or provide additional health services to women. This evasion was important. Committee members showed how PPFA annually has considerably more revenue than expenses and could have provided every health service every single service to every single woman without federal money.
Richards dusted off the old abortion is just 3% of the services PPFA provides. But, as Richards said repeatedly, PPFA serve 2.7 million clients, if there are roughly 327,000 abortions, how can Richards say that abortion constitutes 3% of its services? (It’s more like 12%.)
Richards slid off into the usual, usual about repeat visits. But even the Washington Post Factchecker has seen through that charade.
And one question Richards skated by over and over: how many affiliates receive a majority of their revenue from abortion–and who are they?
#4. Richards was asked by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) what should be done if a baby survives an abortion. She paused and said she had never heard of such a circumstance happening, which, to put in the politest terms, is impossible to believe. She then quickly added none (no babies surviving) that she was aware of at a PPFA facility. “We don’t provide abortions after viability.”
Another evasion, since live births can occur a month or more before “viability.”
Moreover, Richard’s claim warrants scrutiny. As NRLC’s director of Education Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon wrote in 2013 , “The truth is that Planned Parenthood clinics advertise and perform abortions well into the second trimester, even up to 24 weeks (with hints it can ‘help’ if the woman is even more advanced).”
Note that a recent New England Journal of Medicine study found that 23% of infants are surviving at an 22 weeks of pregnancy (20 weeks after fertilization) with treatment.
#5. Give pro-abortion Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee their due. In their world to ask Cecile Richards exactly what she meant and ask if she would she agree to provide certain information was “disgraceful,” evidence of misogyny, beating up on a woman, “insensitive,” an “offensive approach” filled with “badgering” rhetoric.
Meanwhile, of course, committee Democrats had no trouble lambasting committee Republicans for aligning themselves with “radical extremists who manipulate the facts.” Nor were they shy about insisting the committee’s “integrity” had been compromised by even having this hearing. And, they mimicked Richards’ self-serving claim that the committee’s inquiry was not, in the end, about Planned Parenthood, but was an attack the 2.7 million women who receive “health care” from Planned Parenthood.
But committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) ended by summarizing the areas the committee still had questions about. There were plenty.