FIRST-PERSON: Planned Parenthood on the defensive
WASHINGTON (BP)--With fall and winter came the release of a series of undercover videos showing several Planned Parenthood clinics seemingly aiding and abetting the sex trafficking of underage girls. The advent of spring and summer brought denied funding to the organization by several states. Now, as the nation's largest abortion provider tries to recover from such stormy seasons, its public relations problems are only getting worse.
Americans United for Life (AUL), a leading national organization dedicated to protecting the sanctity of human life, released a report earlier this month calling for a full-scale federal investigation of Planned Parenthood for what it identifies as years of scandal, abuse and suspect allocation of taxpayer dollars.
"The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood" draws on 20 years of tracking the abortion giant's financial records and law enforcement reports. What AUL found is upsetting, though regrettably not altogether shocking for those who have been following Planned Parenthood. AUL's case against Planned Parenthood includes allegations of: Failure to report criminal child sexual abuse. Failure to comply with parental involvement laws. Misuse of the abortion drug RU-486 and misinformation on other so-called emergency contraception. Inaccurate and deceptive counsel to women seeking abortions based on the development of unborn children. Aiding prostitution and sex trafficking.
The full list of charges, detailed in 37 pages with an additional more than 100 pages of appendices and 250 footnotes, put Planned Parenthood in the hot seat to provide explanations. Days later, a rebuttal arrived -- short on substance and long on denial of AUL's "recycled" charges. In turn, AUL has offered a counter statement.
But the burden rests on Planned Parenthood. The organization should not be permitted to explain away the serious charges in sound bites or press releases. And it likely won't be given that luxury. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R.-Fla., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, has stated he believes his committee should review the findings and possibly hold hearings. Other representatives held a news conference on the AUL report.
The exposé of Planned Parenthood's sordid history comes at a time when its funding from many states is beginning to dry up. States scattered around the nation are beginning to turn off the spigot of taxpayer dollars to the agency, which received a staggering $363 million in taxpayer dollars last year. In recent months, Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin have all approved policies to sever taxpayer dollars from Planned Parenthood. The total denied by the eight states: $60 million, according to the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
Indiana's decision to cut off all state funding -- $2 million -- from Planned Parenthood under a new state Medicaid law is among those garnering attention. The state, along with 100 U.S. representatives led by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R.-Ind., and 28 U.S. senators led by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, is now in a fight with the Obama administration, which has rejected the plan and is threatening to withhold Medicaid funding to the Hoosier state in protest. And Texas, known for doing just about everything big, has cut off $47 million from Planned Parenthood under its approved budget. These are real dollars earned by real people.
Americans take this issue seriously. More than 60 percent do not want to subsidize the abortion industry, according to recent polling. Sentiment, however, is more tempered in Washington. In April, the Senate rejected a proposed amendment, 58-42, to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood for this fiscal year. Minutes earlier the House, to its credit, voted overwhelmingly, 241-185, to withhold taxpayer dollars from the abortion provider this year.
The American public has been clear: Abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood and tax dollars are an unacceptable mix. Governors and state legislatures are beginning to get the message. Now those in Washington -- namely the Senate and the White House -- need to heed that call. They cannot be reminded often enough.
Doug Carlson is manager for administration and policy communications for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's Washington D.C. office.