November 2, 2015 — In a letter sent to new House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Friday, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, asked for "fair and impartial" treatment from Congress, as it continues to investigate Planned Parenthood following an antiabortion-rights group's release of misleading videos targeting the organization, MSNBC reports (Atkinson, MSNBC, 10/31).
The Center for Medical Progress earlier this year released a series of secretly recorded, misleading videos targeting the organization's fetal tissue donation program. Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. Further, Planned Parenthood in August submitted a report to Congress that found that the videos were manipulated, making them unreliable for official inquiries into the organization.
Since the videos' release, conservatives in Congress have sought to defund Planned Parenthood. Last week, the House voted 240-189 to approve legislation (HR 3762) that would use the budget reconciliation process to defund Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile, the Obama administration said President Obama would veto the reconciliation measure if it passes through Congress (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/26).
Three House committees have investigated Planned Parenthood since CMP started releasing videos. The House earlier this month also approved a resolution (H Res 461) to create a special subcommittee to investigate abortion procedures and tissue procurement (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/8).
Meanwhile, CMP footage that had been submitted to the House Oversight Committee in response to a subpoena was leaked despite a court ban on its public release. A spokesperson for the Oversight Committee has said the panel was unaware of the leak. NAF President Vicki Saporta has called for Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to investigate that matter to determine "whether the leak came from Congress" (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/23).
In the letter Friday, Richards cited her organization's compliance with the investigations, noting that Planned Parenthood has shared more than 27,000 pages of documents with the congressional committees (MSNBC, 10/31). Further, she noted that in addition to her own five hours of testimony, four Planned Parenthood staffers "have been interviewed for a total of more than eight hours."
Despite Planned Parenthood's compliance, the investigative committees have demonstrated some "troubling activity," she wrote (Planned Parenthood letter, 10/30). Regarding the leaked footage, Richards noted, "We have nothing to hide, and the facts are on our side. But this leak calls into serious question the objectivity of this investigation, and underscores concerns that this is a political exercise, rather than a fact-finding effort" (MSNBC, 10/31).
Further, she noted that at one of the congressional hearings, Chaffetz presented a chart "produced by an antiabortion-rights group" that mischaracterized the relative quantities of various services the organization provides (Planned Parenthood letter, 10/30).
Richards also raised concerns about the special subcommittee tasked with investigating Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. "The fact that the members of the select committee announced to date are some of the most vocal opponents of abortion and advocates of defunding Planned Parenthood in the Congress undermines the fairness of this inquiry," she wrote (Ferris, The Hill, 10/30).
Moreover, Richards referenced an earlier letter to Congress in which she "summarized ... evidence" that CMP founder David Daleiden "may have broken multiple federal and state laws." She noted, "Yet congressional committees have now held multiple hearings on Planned Parenthood, while none have investigated Mr. Daleiden's actions."
Richards added that "it is increasingly difficult to understand the basis for the ongoing investigations into Planned Parenthood," given that the "original rationale for investigating Planned Parenthood -- allegations related to fetal tissue donation practices -- has resulted in no evidence of wrongdoing." She called on Ryan to "ensur[e] that investigations are fair and impartial, are conducted in a manner that meets the high standards of the Congress, and respect the safety and privacy of our patients, our clinicians, and our staff" (Planned Parenthood letter, 10/30).
Meanwhile, Ryan in an interview on Sunday said while he opposes funding for Planned Parenthood, there are practical limitations on Congress' ability to defund the organization (Scott, CNN, 11/1).