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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
PLANNED P'HOOD IN HOT SEAT
Under fire after damning 'authentic' videos, taxpayer funding questioned
The head of Planned Parenthood clashed with congressional Republicans on Capitol Hill Tuesday over the group's taxpayer funding, while using her appearance to attack the group behind a series of disturbing videos showing her organization's workers discussing fetal tissue harvesting.
Cecile Richards, speaking before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, claimed the videos were "deceptively edited" and "heavily doctored."
Yet just minutes before the hearing started, a forensic analysis said the videos "are authentic and show no evidence of manipulation or editing." The analysis was conducted for the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress.
Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, also seemed to brush off the claims of doctoring as he excoriated Planned Parenthood for its allegedly "insatiable" desire for taxpayer dollars. He pointedly cited the millions the group has spent on travel and parties and "fairly exorbitant salaries" even while cutting back, he said, on certain health care services.
"Their desire for more of taxpayer dollars is just insatiable," Chaffetz, R-Utah, said.
Chaffetz argued that Planned Parenthood "doesn't need a federal subsidy." Chaffetz, in emotional opening remarks, recalled his late mother's fight with breast cancer, and said much of Planned Parenthood's budget is not going "to women's health care."
Under questioning from Chaffetz, Richards acknowledged her annual compensation is $520,000. (Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., later criticized Chaffetz for the line of questioning, accusing him of "beating up on a woman ... for making a good salary.")
Richards, meanwhile, adamantly defended Planned Parenthood, saying she's "proud to be here" and stressing that their clinics largely provide birth control, cancer screenings and other health care services.
The videos showing conversations on fetal tissue harvesting, she said, were part of a "smear campaign" to "entrap" doctors into breaking the law.
"Once again, our opponents failed," she said.
She said less than 1 percent of their clinics facilitate donations for fetal tissue research, and they do so legally.
Richards won some support from Democrats on the committee. Top Democrat, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, blasted CMP for having "misled and essentially conned Planned Parenthood employees."
But Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, called the scenes in the videos "barbaric and repulsive."
A question looming over the hearing was whether any of the footage was in fact altered. Democrats repeatedly suggested that important passages were missing.
But the Alliance Defending Freedom engaged cybersecurity and forensic analysis company Coalfire Systems to examine the 10 "full-footage videos" put out by CMP.
According to their review, the videos were not manipulated. The report said any missing footage was of "non-pertinent" events like meals and bathroom breaks.
"The Coalfire forensic analysis removes any doubt that the full length undercover videos released by Center for Medical Progress are authentic and have not been manipulated," ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox said in a statement.
"Analysts scrutinized every second of video recorded during the investigation and released by CMP to date and found only bathroom breaks and other non-pertinent footage had been removed. Planned Parenthood can no longer hide behind a smokescreen of false accusations and should now answer for what appear to be the very real crimes revealed by the CMP investigation."
The 10 videos released so far capture Planned Parenthood officials casually describing how they sometimes obtain tissue from aborted fetuses for researchers. In one video, a doctor for a Planned Parenthood tissue harvesting partner appears to admit a baby's "heart actually is still beating" at times following abortions and an ex-procurement tech gives a first-person account of watching a baby's heart beat before she dissects its brain.
Planned Parenthood foes say the videos show the group breaks federal laws barring for-profit fetal tissue sales and altering abortion procedures to obtain usable organs. Planned Parenthood and its defenders say it's done nothing illegal and says that CMP Project Lead David Daleiden dishonestly edited the videos to distort what was said.
In written testimony, Richards fired back at Daleiden, calling for him to be investigated after she says he "tried unsuccessfully to entrap Planned Parenthood physicians and staff for nearly three years." Daleiden obtained the videos after posing as an executive of a nonexistent firm that buys fetal tissue for scientists.
So far, the most damage inflicted on Planned Parenthood by the videos is the insensitive way some of its officials discuss the procedures. That has drawn apologies from Planned Parenthood and bitter criticism from Republicans.
Most Democrats have rallied behind the group, and President Obama has threatened to veto GOP legislation cutting its federal money. Public opinion polls show majorities oppose blocking Planned Parenthood's taxpayer dollars. Departing House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., fearing voter anger, have rebuffed conservatives who would shut down the government if Obama doesn't agree to halt Planned Parenthood's money.
The organization receives about a third of its $1.3 billion annual budget, around $450 million, from federal coffers, chiefly reimbursements for treating Medicaid's low-income patients.
Democrats have used a Senate filibuster to block GOP legislation halting Planned Parenthood's federal payments. So two House committees plan to approve filibuster-proof legislation shifting Planned Parenthood's Medicaid funds -- about $350 million -- to community health centers.
The bill would also keep a promise made during this spring's budget debate to repeal key elements of Obama's signature health care law. Panel votes are expected Tuesday and Wednesday.
In addition to the four congressional committee investigations of Planned Parenthood, Boehner has said he will also appoint a special committee to probe the group.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and the Associated Press contributed to this report.