Rep. wants Planned Parenthood 'under oath'
WASHINGTON (BP) -- The congressman leading an investigation of Planned Parenthood wants it to testify at a Capitol Hill hearing after the post-abortion death of one of its clients and the organization's failure to answer his questions the last 10 months.
Rep. Cliff Stearns, R.-Fla., told Fox News July 24 he has received massive amounts of information with no answers since he launched an investigation in September 2011 of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates. Planned Parenthood is the country's leading abortion provider.
"I would like to put them under oath," said Stearns, who is chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee. "I would like to find out how they spend our half a billion dollars, and I would also like to explore some of the safety aspects, particularly in light of this death, of this tragedy."
Tonya Reaves, 24, died July 20 after undergoing an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Chicago.
In a written statement for Baptist Press Friday (July 27), Stearns said, "Although Planned Parenthood has provided some 8,000 pages of documents, they have not provided some of the records requested such as internal audits and audits by state agencies.
"For far too long, Planned Parenthood and its affiliates have operated with near immunity from Congressional oversight, gladly accepting over $1 million per day in taxpayer support while claiming an exemption from the normal standards of accountability that every other recipient of public funds is expected to meet," said Stearns, who described his investigation as the first congressional effort to hold PPFA accountable for its use of government funds. "State audit reports and admissions by former Planned Parenthood employees detail a pattern of misuse of federal funds by some Planned Parenthood affiliates, as well as ignoring state reporting laws designed to protect women and minors from sexual abuse."
In September, Stearns wrote PPFA President Cecile Richards to request information about the organization's use of federal funds and compliance with federal law. He asked Richards to provide audits, documentation, policies and procedures regarding such issues as improper billing, segregation of federal funds from abortion services and reporting of suspected sex abuse and human trafficking.
PPFA and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements in 2009-10, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That total is for all levels of government -- federal, state and local. That money helps support an organization with clinics that performed 329,445 abortions in 2010. That was more than one-fourth of the abortions in the United States for the year.
Various scandals have plagued Planned Parenthood in recent years, and a growing number of former clinic directors and other workers have made a variety of charges against the organization.
Sue Thayer, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, charged the abortion giant's Iowa affiliate with filing nearly 500,000 false Medicaid claims over a seven-year period, according to a federal lawsuit unsealed July 9.
Hidden camera investigations conducted by the pro-life organization Live Action have uncovered PPFA workers demonstrating a willingness to aid self-professed sex traffickers whose prostitutes are in their early teens and seeking to cover up alleged child sex abuse. Other undercover videos released in May and June by Live Action showed Planned Parenthood employees in four states -- Hawaii, New York, North Carolina and Texas -- seeking to help women who indicated they wanted sex-selection abortions.
Last July, Americans United for Life (AUL) documented in a 181-page report of known and alleged abuses by PPFA over a 20-year period and called on Congress to investigate it for misuse of government funds and circumvention of state laws.
Reaves' death is the latest in this ongoing series of scandals and negative reports.
Documents show Reaves underwent a dilation and evacuation abortion at 11 a.m. July 20 at the Loop Health Center Planned Parenthood, CBS Radio affiliate WBBM reported. A dilation and evacuation abortion typically takes place in the second trimester of a pregnancy and normally involves the use of a suction tube and/or forceps to remove the unborn child's body in pieces.
Bleeding ensued, but she was not taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital until 4:30 p.m., according to the report. An hour later, the hospital performed a second abortion procedure because the first was incomplete. Further tests revealed a perforated uterus. Doctors performed surgery on Reaves at 10:12, when an "uncontrollable bleed" was discovered, and she was pronounced dead at 11:20, WBBM reported.
Illinois pro-life organizations called on state legislative leaders to act to regulate Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics in the wake of Reaves' death. Illinois does not require such clinics to undergo inspections, according to a July 26 letter from the Life Education and Resource Network and other organizations.
"A woman who goes to an abortion provider naturally assumes that she is going to a medically approved facility and not to a company that is operating an unlicensed, uninspected, and unregulated surgery," the letter said.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has acted three times this month alone to circumvent state or local decisions and aid PPFA affiliates that have lost government funds.
On July 25, a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Durham, N.C., received $426,000 in Title X family planning funds from the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The North Carolina legislature had voted July 2 to override Gov. Bev Perdue's veto and defund Planned Parenthood and other private family planning providers.
Earlier in July, HHS made similar grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates in New Jersey and Memphis, Tenn., after their funds were cut.
Federal family planning funds may not be used for the performance of abortions, but pro-life advocates point out the government grants free up other funds for use in Planned Parenthood's abortion business.
When the Stearns-led congressional investigation was announced in September, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said he could think of "very few organizations that are more deserving of a thorough federal investigation than Planned Parenthood."
PPFA "should not be getting any government funding, period," said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "But as long as they are getting government funding, they should be the subject of aggressive congressional scrutiny."
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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