Another Day, Another Battle In The GOP’s War On Planned Parenthood

September 29, 2011 1:00 a.m.

House Republicans have announced an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s funding, in the latest move in the seemingly endless effort to cripple the women’s health service provider.Last week, the Oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), sent a letter to Planned Parenthood requesting around twelve years of financial documents as part of an investigation into whether the women’s health organization is misusing its federal funds.

“The committee has questions about the policies in place and actions undertaken by PPFA and its affiliates relating to its use of federal funding and its compliance with federal restrictions on the funding of abortions,” Stearns said in the letter.

Under the Hyde Amendment, federal funds cannot be used for abortions, and the organization submits to yearly audits to that end. But the committee’s requests are still aimed at making sure Planned Parenthood isn’t violating this law, asking for internal audits of how the organization spent its federal funds between 1998-2010, and how “segregation between family planning and abortion services is accomplished.”

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the investigation “politically motivated” that “is a continuation of the efforts of earlier this year to undermine Planned Parenthood, and more disturbingly, women’s access to the primary and preventive care they need.”

On Wednesday, Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Diana DeGette (D-CO), ranking member of the Oversight subcommittee, sent a letter to Stearns decrying the investigation and questioning ” whether Planned Parenthood is being singled out as part of a Republican vendetta against an organization that provides family planning and other medical care to low-income women and men.”

“The HHS Inspector General and state Medicaid programs regularly audit Planned Parenthood and report publicly on their findings,” the letter said. “These audits have not identified any pattern of misuse of federal funds, illegal activity, or other abuse that would justify a broad and invasive congressional investigation.”

DeGette told TPM that “the anti-choice Republicans have been on the warpath” regarding Planned Parenthood, and there’s “nothing illegal or wrong with Planned Parenthood providing a legal medical service with their own private money. I haven’t seen any evidence that Planned Parenthood is misusing” federal funds.

She added: “What they’re trying to defund is women’s health services, so I would really call it a war on women’s health.”

“It just seems like this is a big waste of time, frankly,” DeGette said.

But if it is a waste of time, House Republicans seem pretty OK with making it a repeated waste of time. During the battle to prevent a government shutdown in April, for example, defunding Planned Parenthood became a sticking point in their demands. Earlier this year, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) managed to get a bill through the House that stripped Planned Parenthood of its federal funding, though it didn’t make it through the Senate.

And the pro-life set at the state level have also gotten in on the game. To name a few examples: In July, New Hampshire voted to cancel a contract that gave $1.8 million in state funding to Planned Parenthood. The Obama Administration decided to re-hire the organization for services in the state to make up for the lost funding. Indiana is fighting a court’s temporary injunction against a law that cut off funding of Planned Parenthood. And North Carolina’s legislature voted to override Gov. Beth Perdue’s veto of the state budget that stripped the health center’s federal funds.

Meanwhile, the public seems to be leaning more toward the “pro-choice” side of things these days. One Gallup poll from May found that 49% of Americans identify as “pro-choice,” while 45% identified as “pro-life” — making it the first time since 2008 that “pro-choice” won out. A Pew Research poll from March found something similar, with 54% of those surveyed saying they support legal abortion most or all cases, compared to 42%.

Planned Parenthood, which has retained council for the probe, has until the end of the month to provide all of the requested documents.

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