March 31, 2011 — The conservative group Live Action on Wednesday released audio tapes that seek to discredit Planned Parenthood by allegedly providing evidence that the organization does not provide mammograms as it supposedly said it does, the Washington Post reports (Stein, Washington Post, 3/30).
The new allegations come as Congress continues debating a spending bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2011. The House-approved continuing resolution (HR 1) for FY 2011 eliminates funding for the Title X family planning program, which helps provide family planning and reproductive health services to low-income women, including contraceptive counseling and supplies, pelvic exams, breast and cervical cancer screening, safer-sex counseling and basic infertility counseling. The continuing resolution also includes an amendment, introduced by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/30). In February, Live Action released an undercover video also aimed at discrediting Planned Parenthood and alleging that the organization advises girls as young as 14 to lie about their age when seeking abortion care and other reproductive health services (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/2).
The group based its most recent investigation on Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards' appearance on CNN's "The Joy Behar Show." According to the group, Richards said, "If this bill [HR 1] ever becomes law, millions of women in this country are gonna lose their health care access -- not to abortion services -- to basic family planning, you know, mammograms." Live Action secretly recorded telephone conversations between a hired actress posing as a woman seeking a mammogram and Planned Parenthood employees at 30 clinics in 27 states. The actress allegedly was told that Planned Parenthood clinics do not provide mammograms, and many clinics said that no Planned Parenthood facilities provide such services.
A Planned Parenthood spokesperson said that the Richards' statement refers to the overall effect on women's health services if HR 1 would become law and does not mean that the organization offers mammograms. Stuart Schear, vice president for communication at Planned Parenthood, said that the organization "provides a wide range of preventive health care services to millions of women through its 800 health centers, including contraception, Pap tests, annual exams, HIV and other STI tests, and lifesaving breast exams" and that affiliated "doctors and nurses provide more than 800,000 breast cancer screenings annually."
He added, "We offer breast exams at every one of our family planning health centers. Like the vast majority of primary care physicians and ob-gyns, we refer our patients to other facilities for mammograms when indicated based on a breast exam, age or family history" (Washington Post, 3/30).
Live Action's "interpretation of the clip holds up only if you overlook or ignore Richards' use of the word 'access,'" Mother Jones' "Politico Mojo" reports. The clip is "not supported by any financial or documentary evidence but rather on that one brief clip of Cecile Richards," the blog post continues, adding, "In reality, PP does provide women with access to mammograms -- not by doing them itself, but by making referrals" (Drum, "Politico Mojo," Mother Jones, 3/31).