Yesterday, after sitting through the full morning of Republican offensive and Democrat defensive questions and commentary to Cecile Richards, President of PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA, not all the doggone affiliates, this writer registered her dismay at the Republican effort. Frankly, it was more about throwing red meat to the conservative base than getting questions answered.
We all know that Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms. Getting Cecile Richards to admit that was no great feat. The president of any organization does not set the price of his or her compensation. That is done at the board of directors level. (And in Ms. Richards’ case, $500,000 might be considered combat pay.) The big time questioning of and answers about parties and lavish private travel needs to come from the board itself and the non-governmental big time donors whose cash is being used for this. None of those people were witnesses to be questioned. Bringing up unseemly spending makes great headlines, but was completely beside the point.
To be honest, John McCormack is correct in his Weekly Standard piece “How Not To Make Planned Parenthood Squirm.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, doomed the hearing from the start when he took any questioning of the revelations from the Center for Medical Progress’ videos off the table. Because of that, no one could ask:
- Is there any comment on the common thread through the videos that the physicians openly admit they are skirting federal law when they alter the abortion procedure to try to get fetal organs to come out intact?
- Why is there not a national policy from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America to the affiliates on altering the abortion procedure in order to be able to salvage fetal tissue? (After all, this IS a violation of federal law.) Why will there never be one?
- Who made the decision to not have such a national policy?
If Planned Parenthood officials and the Democrats just want to talk about legality, then start there. (The moral side of the question will never be settled in a committee hearing, anyway.) Those were topics openly discussed in the videos – and the justification for all of it is what WILL make somebody on the hot seat from Planned Parenthood squirm, not discussion of questionable spending. It is quite possible all that pre-dates Ms. Richards’ time at Planned Parenthood, and if so, it’s obviously part of the institutional culture. (That’s a matter for another post, hiding evil in the shadows.)
When it comes to the financial side of the house, there is a lot of noise about the $500 million that goes to the AFFILIATES, not the 501(c)(3) that Richards actually runs, that is reimbursement for medicaid payments. Once the paper trail at the state and affiliate level is sorted out, and we see just how much the safety net that Planned Parenthood provides costs, why are the poor and indigent being served with medicaid dollars for this? As a charity, Ms. Richards discussed fundraising and how successful the people of Planned Parenthood are at it. So the question in finance that did not get asked is:
With amazing name recognition from coast to coast, why not go the mass market fundraiser route, a la, walks, bike rides, marathons, 3-day events, that so many other health care related non-profits have, in order to raise the money to be able to offer the poor these services at no cost to them or the taxpayers?
Having been part of these events at one of the national disease related charities, it can be arranged for each affiliate to keep the cash locally, especially since they are all separate entities anyway. Software to make it all happen easily is commercially available. Staffing needs can be met quite easily with a skeleton crew and volunteers. (That’s how everyone does it.) What is stopping Planned Parenthood from going this route?
No one asked that question, at least not in that form. (The answer is most likely bad press in the form of protests, but still….) Specifics on the grants to the national organization weren’t requested, either. At least not that I saw. There should be reports to the government available outlining how the money was spent.
More or less, the meat and potatoes of this matter is still on the platter to be devoured. The videos themselves provide grist for the moral mill and for people who believe in the sanctity of life, but that’s not for a congressional committee to do much more than expose. The change of heart on that has to come from the people. The law so touted by the pro-death people was imposed, not legislated.
Cecile Richards, or somebody else at Planned Parenthood, still has not answered the big questions. The bigger conundrum is…will someone actually ask them?