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Finally. Planned Parenthood’s President Cecile Richards appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to answer questions. Most people were under the impression that she would be answering some on the Center for Medical Progress’ series known as Human Capital. Not exactly, even if she was right to tell Dr. Deborah Nucatola that clinical conversations should be in a closed door setting.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz and the rest of the Republicans just wanted to know where the federal money goes…and the Democrats just wanted to trash Republicans and attempts by the pro-life community to get information out about what the abortion industry is up to. (When it was all over I needed a drink. SHOT!)
The first thing that was really striking about the questioning was the aggressiveness coming from the Republicans. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (Utah) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) were relentless when it came to asking things like why the national office spent $12 million in advertising, why money was transferred from the 501(c)(3) to the 501(c)(4) and why the so touted screening services done by the affiliates dropped over the last few years as opposed to abortion services which increased. They were so relentless, that there were times this writer wanted to take each of them by the collar and tell them to let the woman finish her answer, since she was never able to give one. Of course, THAT played right into the Democrats’ hands. (Videos of the exchanges are linked on their names.)
The Democrats just wanted to use a bunch of superlatives like “extreme radical” and “heavily edited” to describe the efforts of the pro-life community to bring a human face to killing children in the womb. It was a blatant propaganda session, to be blunt. Given their base, and the image of men beating up on a woman that several used as admonishment of Chaffetz and Jordan, from a public relations standpoint, the left may well have won the day in more than one aspect: the Republicans demonstrated amazing ignorance of non-profits, how they operate to remain transparent and how Planned Parenthood is set up.
Being a veteran of the non-profit world, with the best constructive criticism this writer can muster, for as much homework as the Republicans did in preparation for today’s hearing and fireworks, they missed some big stuff.
Charity Navigator – EVERY 501(c)(3) non-profit has a Charity Navigator page. In order to have high Charity Navigator transparency marks which is most desirable in the non-profit world, organizations post their public tax form known as a 990 which is to be available for public inspection at all times, audited financial statements, and the most recent annual report on their websites. There is no reason to badger a witness for those documents when the staffers can print them off the internet. (Planned Parenthood Federation of America has four stars, so all that has to be on their website.)
Cecile Richards is the President of The NATIONAL Planned Parenthood organization. She has no direct control over the affiliates. They all have their own boards – For most Americans this makes absolutely no sense, but in non-profit there are a lot of service providers in a number of different fields that are AFFILIATED with a national group, but technically, legally, not part of it. They legally operate as separate entities with shared national standards of practice and logos. Planned Parenthood falls under that category. The affiliates are the ones providing the services, not the national office. The national office is more of a lobbying, marketing and outreach arm…that actually does business in Africa and Latin America. (Yeah, that’s one the American people would probably would like to know more about.)
Non-profit accounting includes this thing called “restricted funds” – Restricted funds are those given for a specific program, line item cost, or event. When money on that line item is spent, it is deducted from the grant line item itself. What no one asked Ms. Richards was how are federal funds to the national organization treated, as restricted funds for specific programs, or did that cash go into the unrestricted pot. If the cash is treated as a restricted grant, then questions should have been asked of the grant specifically. If it goes into an unrestricted pot, then this fight is over a small fraction of the actual federal money going to Planned Parenthood. That never was asked.
Medicaid reimbursements is what totals $500 million and more and are part of entitlements, not the continuing resolution which is the fight on the table – The aspect of the “Defund Planned Parenthood” movement that has made this writer want to tear her hair out is that all of the tax money going to the organization gets lumped together into a single sum when Republicans rail on it. The truth is is that Planned Parenthood does offer a diverse array of services and efforts, and the grant and reimbursement record reflects that. If it is the case that the half billion in “funding” to Planned Parenthood is medicaid reimbursements from the states, the affiliates should be able to produce a paper trail with personal information redacted. Those invoices and payments have to be recorded somewhere.
This is the aspect of Chaffetz, Jordan and the rest of the Republicans going on the attack that is going to play well to the base, and is counter-productive even if they are correct that the larger question of well-woman exams being a bit of smokescreen. Apples and oranges did and do get mixed up when talking about financing Planned Parenthood. Frankly, if they are as good at fundraising as Ms. Richards asserts, maybe asking the donors to help defray the costs of the well-woman services might be in order since a few other things cropped up in the course of the exchanges today:
- If it is true as Ms. Richards asserts, particularly in the south, that safety net medical services are scarce, then that needs to be addressed at least at the state level. (Hint: malpractice awards.)
- If it is true that low cost providers have a medicaid patient quota, the question needs to be asked why, and how can that be changed. (Hint: payment vs. costs)
- It would also be a good idea to ascertain costs for specific services provided by Planned Parenthood to sort out the line items on how much revenue is generated for each service. (Abortions cost more than the other stuff.)
This is not to say that Planned Parenthood preying on women living around the poverty line wasn’t on full display at that hearing. It was – and it is still reprehensible. However, there are some points regarding gaps in healthcare in this country that did arise that need scrutiny and some places where Republicans would do well to educate themselves about how non-profits work. (Don’t let the name fool you. They’re always at least break-even profitable or they close.)
That being said, can we talk about how abortion kills the sons and daughters of America and how it contributes to the objectification of women?