In conjunction with the widely-successful National Pink Out Day yesterday, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards voluntarily appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to answer questions about their funding. The hearing was prompted by the highly-edited videos that were intentionally cut-and-pasted together to make it look as though Planned Parenthood was making a profit off of the selling of the body parts of aborted fetuses in their facilities. It is, of course, completely untrue, but the video release had the intended effect of causing yet another witch hunt to destroy this critical and important healthcare organization that provides hundreds of thousands of women with affordable healthcare that they would otherwise not receive.
Before the hearing began, Democrat Elijah Cummings from Maryland gave a powerful and passionate defense of Planned Parenthood, making point after point after point that knocked down the talking points being used by Republicans, largely untruthful talking points, to malign the organization. It’s strikingly good:
Once the hearing got started, it quickly became evident that this was never intended to be a venue where Cecile Richards was going to be able to be heard. The Republicans gave grandstanding speeches, constantly interrupted Richards, and, when she attempted to answer, was asked not to interrupt THEM. Slate compiled the interruptions and their disrespect of her is enough to make your blood boil:
Richards was clearly channeling her mother, former Texas governor Ann Richards. Her grace under the onslaught of disrespect and outright misogyny was nearly superhuman. To hear the Republicans tell it, every Planned Parenthood clinic in the country is encouraging women to abort their fetuses so that they can harvest them for body parts to make a huge profit. The fact is, of course, that they make no profit on this whatsoever and only 1% of their clinics even participate in the legal collection of fetal tissue for medical research.
Democrat Gerry Connolly responded beautifully to the hideous treatment of Richards by his Republican colleagues. Like Cummings, he was brilliant:
Finally, Elijah Cummings spoke again, pointing out the hypocrisy of Republicans who seemed shocked that the head of a large national organization would make a large salary doing important and legal work while they look the other way entirely when massively-compensated CEOs of companies known to be breaking the law:
My Congressman, Republican Tim Walberg, proved once again that he has no interest in facts when it comes to Planned Parenthood. He recently made a floor speech where he said, “No matter what party you belong to, we should all agree that taxpayer dollars should not be used for harvesting baby parts for profit.” Walberg was either intentionally lying about Planned Parenthood or is willfully ignorant about the truth.
During yesterday’s hearing, Walberg spoke about an investigation conducted on behalf of Planned Parenthood looking into the veracity of the recently released tapes. In his statement, he said, “Planned Parenthood commissioned a report by Fusion GPS examining the authenticity of the videos. The conclusion of that report says the analysis did not reveal widespread evidence of ‘substantive video manipulation’ and it shows ‘no evidence of audio manipulation.'”
However, if Walberg had actually read the report he quoted from, he’d know that it says quite the opposite. In fact, he wouldn’t have had to read the whole thing. Here’s the executive summary from the report:
At direction of counsel to Planned Parenthood, Fusion GPS analyzed a series of videos recently released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) purporting to represent undercover sting operations against Planned Parenthood. Fusion GPS also commissioned experts to review the videos and conducted preliminary research into the CMP organization and its personnel.
Between July 14th and August 4th, 2015, CMP released a series of videos depicting Planned Parenthood staffers in conversation with CMP operatives posing as employees of a biomedical firm that procures fetal tissue for sale to stem cell researchers. The videos attempt to show that Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of fetal tissue, and, secondarily, that its doctors follow an abortion procedure that violates the so-called “partial birth” abortion ban. A thorough review of these videos in consultation with qualified experts found that they do not present a complete or accurate record of the events they purport to depict.
Each release by CMP contained a short edited video, between eight and fifteen minutes in length, that intercuts clips from the undercover recordings with other content, and a “full footage” video that claims to provide the raw, unedited footage of each interview. A video forensics expert, a television producer, an independent transcription agency, and Fusion GPS staff reviewed this material. While these analysts found no evidence that CMP inserted dialogue not spoken by Planned Parenthood staff, their review did conclude that CMP edited content out of the alleged “full footage” videos, and heavily edited the short videos so as to misrepresent statements made by Planned Parenthood representatives. In addition, the CMP transcript for the “full footage” video shot at Planned Parenthood’s Gulf Coast facility in Texas differs substantially from the content of the tape.
At this point, it is impossible to characterize the extent to which CMP’s undisclosed edits and cuts distort the meaning of the encounters the videos purport to document. However, the manipulation of the videos does mean they have no evidentiary value in a legal context and cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries unless supplemented by CMP’s original material and forensic authentication that this material is supplied in unaltered form. The videos also lack credibility as journalistic products.
Walberg’s response is a microcosm of the national conservative/Republican/forced birther response to these atrocious and offensive videos. He picked his position then cherry picked evidence, even if it didn’t exist in his case, to support his position.
We are not battling on behalf of an organization idly. As Cecile Richards made crystal clear in her response to Gerry Connolly, their organization serves a population that, by and large, would be under-served or not served at all were it not for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood and their supporters use facts and have the fact that abortion and the collection of fetal tissue for medical research are both legal in the United States of America on our side.
Their detractors – those who are attempting to destroy them – have only lies and distortions to support their position.
This is why we must continue to fight for and financially support Planned Parenthood.
[Cecile Richards photo by Anne C. Savage]