WASHINGTON – Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, had a simple question for Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards in his opening statement at a congressional hearing into federal funding for the abortion provider Tuesday morning.
If the controversial undercover videos exposing the apparent dismemberment and selling of baby parts by her organization were heavily edited, as she claimed, why did she apologize for the videos just two days after they surfaced?
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He never got the answer he was looking for.
"Everyone knows these videos are, as the speaker of the House said, barbaric and repulsive," Jordan had said in his opening statement at the hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Jordan's questioning of Richards turned into a cat-and-mouse game, as he tried to get her to concede that she had already apologized for wrongdoing, and to explain exactly what Planned Parenthood had done wrong.
The congressman repeatedly asked the same question, in a variety of ways: What, exactly, were you apologizing for?
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And Richards repeatedly refused to cite or acknowledge any specific wrongdoing, but kept insisting it was merely inappropriate, on the first undercover tape, for the doctor to have exercised the "bad judgment to have a clinical discussion in a non-clinical setting."
Jordan noted Richards had issued her own tape just two days after the release of the first undercover tape on July 14, and asked again, "Which statements were you apologizing for?"
Richards demurred, responding, "It was really the situation she was in."
Jordan pressed on, asking, "Were you apologizing for statements that were untrue? Because you normally don't do that in life. If something is untrue and false, you don't apologize for that, you correct the record. But that's not what you said. You said I personally apologize for the tone and statements."
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He then reiterated the question.
Searching for an explanation, Richards sputtered a bit, replying, "I was reflecting that, on that video, not any particular statement, that, given, that did not reflect, the compassionate care that we provide at Planned Parenthood ..."
Jordan cut her off, asking if her apology was untrue.
Richards never answered the question directly, but again asserted it was merely inappropriate for a doctor to discuss such matters in a non-clinical setting.
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Losing patience, the congressman insisted, "You can't have it both ways. You can't say I'm apologizing for statements in one video, and then not tell us what those statements were."
Jordan offered her the chance to say, on the record, that she wasn't really apologizing in her video.
"But it can't be both positions," he insisted. "It has to be one. And I want to know: Which one is it?"
Richards then reiterated her mantra, "It was inappropriate to have that conversation in a non-clinical setting and in a non-confidential area."
"Why didn't you say that?" asked Jordan. "This wasn't a reporter sticking a mic in front of your face. This was a video you produced to send out to the whole world."
"Congressman, we may just have to agree to disagree on this matter," she replied.
He retorted, "I don't think we're agreeing to disagree. I think you are not answering my question."
Undercover videos heavily edited?
Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., contradicted Richard's claim that the undercover tapes were selectively and heavily edited.
"Planned Parenthood commissioned a report by Fusion GPS examining the authenticity of the videos," he noted. "The conclusion of that report said the analysis did not reveal widespread evidence of, quote, 'substantive video manipulation.' And it shows, quote, 'no evidence of audio manipulation.'"
Walberg added, "Full versions of the videos are available on the Center for Medical Progress website and the CMP YouTube channel."
He said that showed the only parts that were edited were bathroom breaks.
Richards didn't address that directly, but said Planned Parenthood had asked that all the original source footage be released.
Walberg said Congress wanted that, too.
Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., grilled Richards over a particularly gruesome undercover video GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina blasted during the most recent debate, causing critics to claim no such tape existed.
"Ms. Richards," he asked, "if a child survives an abortion attempt, should it be given nourishment and medical care?"
"I've never heard of such a circumstance happening," she replied, at least, not at a Planned Parenthood facility.
After some back and forth, the congressman said, "There was one specific one (tape) with a technician, Holly O'Donnell, she was describing harvesting the brain of a late-term boy. She said she wasn't sure if the baby was alive since its heart was still beating, and that she harvested the brain by cutting his head open, starting with the chin, do you recall that?"
"That woman does not work for Planned Parenthood, so I cannot speak to anything she said. I'm not responsible for her," responded Richards.
"Do you deny that her description of what happened is something that does occur in Planned Parenthood clinics or its affiliates?" he pressed on.
She said she would have to know specifically what he was referring to and repeated that O'Donnell never worked at Planned Parenthood.
DeSantis agreed she was a technician for StemExpress, the company that bought baby body parts from Planned Parenthood, adding, "I think it was something that was very, very troubling to sit there and read that, or to sit there and watch that video."
Parts for profit
He then asked if Planned Parenthood or its affiliates harvest and sell fetal body parts for profit.
When she did not directly answer, DeSantis said he would take that as a "no."
He then continued, "If that's the case, then, the video with Dr. Gatter negotiating over the price of the parts, if there's no profit being made, then why would you be negotiating over how much the parts are going to be sold for?"
"Well, with respect, I completely disagree with your characterization of that, and that is why I read all of the transcripts, the full, not these edited sensationalized videos, and what I read – because we take this very seriously – I read over and over ..." said Richards.
"There is negotiation. I understand," surmised the congressman.
"I just disagree with your characterization," the witness objected.
"And that's fine, and people can judge it for what it is," the congressman concluded.
Death for profit
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., led Richards through a series of questions designed to support his eventual conclusion that Planned Parenthood sought to eliminate competition by other women's health-care providers to profit off of death.
He pointed out how Planned Parenthood profits after expenses in 2014 reached $127 million.
Gosar then said he was puzzled why the organization had an "80 percent reduction in prenatal care services, the 57 percent reduction in cancer screenings preventive services, the 45 percent reduction in breast exams, on and on and on."
He accused Planned Parenthood of spending about $3 for the average contraceptive while receiving a reimbursement of $35 by government Medicaid.
Gosar said if Planned Parenthood had instead passed the savings on to the government, that would have helped provide more services to the public.
"Our entire focus is on serving as many patients as we can," replied Richards. "And so your example ..."
"That is not exactly true because what you've done now – and the reason I can show this is – is you've narrowed the focus," retorted the congressman.
"What we end up having is, there's very few primary-care docs out there because they can't afford to stay in practice, so what you've done is narrowed the scope of the practice," he continued.
When Richards attempted to interrupt, he cut her off and concluded, "From that standpoint, what you've done is narrowed that focus so that you're profiting off death. Because the numbers, where you're making that profit center is actually off abortions. And that's appalling to me."
Abortion for profit
When defending its federal funding, Planned Parenthood points out that abortions account for only 3 percent of the services it provides.
However, Richards was forced to concede, other than the funding it gets from the federal government, 86 percent of the money Planned Parenthood makes comes from performing abortions.
Cynthia Lummis, R-Wy., pointed out that figure came from Planned Parenthood's own statistics for 2013.
Richards attempted to reiterate her contention that federal money does not go for abortions, replying, "I think the other -- so that's why they're not – those numbers don't – aren't connected."
Lummis shot back, "Can you tell me how many of your affiliates receive the majority of their revenue from abortion?"
"I don't know that answer," replied the Planned Parenthood CEO.
"Could you get it for me?" asked Lummis.
"I'll talk to my team, "said Richards.
Lummis said she would appreciate that, considering taxpayers were funding more than 40 percent of Planned Parenthood.
Defunding Planned Parenthood
In his opening statement, Jordan ridiculed the notion that Republicans want to shut down the federal government over defunding Planned Parenthood.
"We simply want to shift the money from an organization caught doing what they were caught doing ... and give it to the 13,000 federally approved community health centers."
He zeroed in on what he cited as the real problem: money and politics.
"Here's how it works. Politicians give money to Planned Parenthood, who gives it back to politicians at election time," the congressman said.
"Planned Parenthood spent almost $12 million in advertising in 2012 election cycle. One-hundred percent of that went to Democrats. Every penny, every single penny, went to Democrats. No wonder they are defending this repulsive game," said Jordan.
Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, questioned how the abortion provider spent that money.
He said Planned Parenthood made $127 million in net profits in 2014 but reduced the number of cancer screenings it performed by 54 percent from 2013-2015.
"I don't understand why," Chaffetz said.
He noted the organization has "massive" salaries, with Richards making nearly $600,000 a year.
Travel expenses were $5 million in 2013, including first-class tickets and private jets.
He said Planned Parenthood spent $600,000 just on parties from 2012 to 2013.
And it spent $67 million on fundraising and $22 million on lobbying, which, he said, "has absolutely nothing to do with providing a breast exam for young women."
"It's a political organization, and that's something that needs to be ferreted out."
Planned Parenthood profits
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., asked why Planned Parenthood would have to cut any services if it lost $60 a year in federal funding and made $127 million last year, after expenses.
Richards said the group used its profits to expand its services.
Mulvaney observed, "You might not have been able to expand your services, but every single woman that walked into every single clinic would have been served if you had not received that money from Congress."
After Richards said she disagreed, Chaffetz asked her why.
"Revenues would still exceed expenses, even with $60 million less," he noted.
She explained, "I raise money every single day to expand services and education services to people in America. That's what we do at Planned Parenthood."
Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., then picked up on that thread, asking, "Why is it that taxpayers need to be providing $60 million when you have $127 million a year? I'm just going back to the question already asked. I'm trying to find why is the taxpayer responsible for your expansion."
Richards simply denied that taxpayers were paying for Planned Parenthood's expansion, stating that federal dollars "all pay for services directly provided to patients."
According to the committee, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, Planned Parenthood reported approximately $1.3 billion in total revenue, of which $528.4 million, or 41 percent, is attributed to "government health services grants and reimbursements."
Follow Garth Kant @DCgarth