Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards was grilled by the GOP lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday, as part of the latest congressional effort to strip funding from the women’s health organization, despite the fact that there’s no concrete evidence her organization has broken the law.
The specific controversy stems from a video campaign that alleges Planned Parenthood is illegally profiting from the sale of fetal tissue, which abortion patients can opt to donate to scientific research. During the hearing, during which Richards was repeatedly interrupted by the Republican men on the committee, lawmakers spent more than five hours questioning whether Planned Parenthood deserves taxpayer support in light of the videos’ allegations.
For the organization’s opponents, those five hours may not have been enough. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the committee chairman, indicated on Tuesday that the House may create a select committee with subpoena power to continue investigating Planned Parenthood.
The House’s focus on Richards, however, coincides with the most recent proof that Planned Parenthood’s activities are completely legal. Also on Tuesday, the Missouri attorney general issued a report confirming there’s no evidence of misconduct at the state’s only Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis. The state official reached that conclusion after reviewing more than 3,500 pages of documents and conducting multiple interviews with the clinic’s employees.
Missouri joins five other states — Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota — that have also cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing after launching investigations following the release of the inflammatory videos. An additional seven states considered investigating the group, but decided there wasn’t enough information suggesting Planned Parenthood has broken the law to justify a statewide probe.
CREDIT: ThinkProgress/Dylan Petrohilos
Investigations in other states — including states like Texas, Louisiana, and Ohio that have already enacted multiple restrictions on abortion services — are ongoing. However, over the past several weeks, Planned Parenthood officials have repeatedly pointed to the fact that so many of these investigations have fallen flat to argue that further inquiries into the group are a waste of time.
“We’ve always said that these extremists’ claims would fall apart upon closer inspection, and that’s exactly what’s happening,” Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, said in a press statement released Tuesday. “The more the public and various officials look into this, the more they’re seeing that Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong.”
During her testimony on Tuesday, Richards called the allegations that Planned Parenthood has violated the law “outrageous,” and added that the controversy stems from “deceptively edited videos released by a group dedicated to making abortion illegal in this country.”
Nonetheless, abortion opponents — many of whom have built their careers around targeting Planned Parenthood — show no signs of backing down. There’s also some evidence of the video campaign against Planned Parenthood gaining momentum on a more local level. Fetal tissue research, which is used to help create vaccines and find new treatments for degenerative diseases, is also now under attack in state legislatures.