Planned Parenthood Undergoes Congressional Scrutiny Over Sting Videos

Sep 29, 2015
Originally published on September 30, 2015 12:18 pm

House Republicans questioned the head of Planned Parenthood on Tuesday, on whether the women's health group needs federal funding. The testimony comes after the release of a series of videos that allege the organization violates rules on fetal tissue donation for research.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


On Capitol Hill, no federal government shutdown for now, but Republicans aren't giving up on efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. The head of the organization defended the women's health group today. That happened in the latest congressional hearing sparked by sting videos accusing the group of wrongdoing. NPR's Jennifer Ludden has the latest.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards was grilled for the better part of the day by lawmakers who brought up far more than the sting videos.


JASON CHAFFETZ: This is an organization that doesn't need federal subsidy.

LUDDEN: Jason Chaffetz chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Off the bat, he questioned Planned Parenthood's budget, Richards's half a million dollar-plus salary, $30 million spent on family-planning efforts overseas and what he called lavish parties and travel.


CHAFFETZ: First class tickets, private chartered aircraft.

LUDDEN: Chaffetz also questioned millions spent on advocacy and lobbying - much for Democrats. Richards tried to explain that was separate.


CECILE RICHARDS: Zero federal funds are related in the...

CHAFFETZ: It's the co-mingling that bothers us. Every dollar there - no, hold on. Every dollar that you get from federal dollars means you don't necessarily have to allocate it for these particular assets.

LUDDEN: In her opening statement, Richards said the bulk of Planned Parenthood's patients are low-income. They can only afford birth control and other services if they're federally subsidized, she said, through programs like Title 10 and Medicaid.


RICHARDS: We don't just get a big check from the federal government. We, like other Medicaid providers, we are reimbursed directly for services provided.

LUDDEN: Richards also denied allegations in heavily edited sting videos that Planned Parenthood profits from donating fetal tissue for research. Only two clinics currently donate tissue, and one of them, she says, collects nothing to reimburse its cost of doing so. She suggested the real dispute here was not the videos, but a fundamental disagreement over abortion and a woman's right to choose it.


RICHARDS: It is unacceptable that in the 21st century women in America are routinely harassed for accessing a legal medical procedure.

LUDDEN: That there was this question - repeatedly - here from Utah Republican Mia Love.


MIA LOVE: How many of your affiliates have those mammogram machines?

LUDDEN: Suggesting that Planned Parenthood doesn't offer a full range of services. Richards explained, time and again, that like most OB/GYNs, Planned Parenthood refers women to radiology specialists for mammograms. For five hours, Richards kept her composure, even as she had a hard time getting a word in. Here, Republican Paul Gosar of Arizona insinuates Planned Parenthood boosts certain services, like abortion, over others to make more money.


PAUL GOSAR: So what you've done is narrow the scope of the practice so where there's profit centers...

RICHARDS: I disagree.

GOSAR: This is my time. This is my time, so don't interrupt it.

LUDDEN: At another point.


RICHARDS: I would love that chance to respond, but I guess that wasn't really...

CHAFFETZ: It was more of a comment than a question. We need to keep the pace here.


LUDDEN: That prompted Virginia Democrat Gerald Connolly to criticize his colleague's treatment of their only witness.


GERALD CONNOLLY: Intimidation, talking over, interrupting, cutting off sentences, criticizing you because of your salary - how dare you?

LUDDEN: Democrats said the real person who should be testifying was David Daleiden, the maker of the sting videos. Republican say they have subpoenaed the full version of his undercover footage. So far it's being held up by a restraining order in a California court case against the Daleiden. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.