September 28, 2011 — Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations earlier this month launched an investigation into the operations of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates, National Journal reports (McCarthy, National Journal, 9/28).
Subcommittee Chair Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) on Sept. 15 sent PPFA President Cecile Richards a six-page letter asking that the organization provide internal audits of how much government money it received and spent from 1998 to 2010. He also requested any state audits of the organization's affiliates from the past 20 years that have not been previously publicized, as well as how "segregation between family planning and abortion services is accomplished" and how the organization is monitored for compliance. Stearns is seeking the documents by the end of the month.
"The committee has questions about the policies in place and actions undertaken by PPFA and its affiliates relating to its use of federal funding and its compliance with federal restrictions on the funding of abortions," Stearns wrote (Kellman, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/27). By law, federal money cannot be used for abortion services. House Republicans this year have repeatedly tried to strip Planned Parenthood affiliates of federal funding used for family planning and other services, which they argue frees up money for the organization to subsidize abortion care.
According to a PPFA release, the organization already has contacted committee staff to respond to the request in a "timely manner" (National Journal, 9/28). Richards said, "This politically motivated investigation is a continuation of the efforts of earlier this year to undermine Planned Parenthood, and more disturbingly, women's access to the primary and preventive care they need" (Dinan, Washington Times, 9/27). She added, "As people learn about this latest attack on their health care provider, they will speak out and stand with us to protect access to health care for women and families."
House Democrats Criticize Stearns for Planned Parenthood Probe
Meanwhile, two House Democratic leaders are pushing back against the investigation, which they say Stearns launched for political reasons, The Hill reports.
Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Diana DeGette (Colo.), the ranking Democrat of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said Republicans have "singled out" PPFA "as part of a Republican vendetta against an organization that provides family planning and other medical care to low-income women and men."
In a letter to Stearns, they wrote that there is "no predicate that would justify this sweeping and invasive request to Planned Parenthood," noting that the HHS Office of Inspector General and state Medicaid programs routinely audit the organization. "These audits have not identified any pattern of misuse of federal funds, illegal activity or other abuse that would justify a broad and invasive congressional investigation," Waxman and DeGette said (Lillis, The Hill, 9/27).
"It would be an abuse of the oversight process if you are now using the committee's investigative powers to harass Planned Parenthood again," they wrote, adding, "Your fervent ideological opposition to Planned Parenthood does not justify launching this intrusive investigation" (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/27).