The current political uproar over an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s use of federal funds reveals an interesting paradox. While all congressional leaders want to cut wasteful programs and investigate possible misuse of taxpayer dollars in theory, it is a different matter entirely when the institutions in question are political favorites.
In a time where deep cuts are necessary to budgets across the board, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) recently sent a letter to Planned Parenthood asking for financial records and documents. The purpose was to learn more about troubling questions facing Planned Parenthood regarding possible misuse of taxpayer dollars and inadequate institutional responses to sexual crimes against young girls and women. Rep. Stearns chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations which is responsible for overseeing federal funds received by the nation’s largest abortion provider.
Understandably, since Planned Parenthood receives more than $363 million in taxpayer funding each year, anxious taxpayers want to know what they are getting for their money.
Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood and its lobby – including Reps. Harry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) – are up in arms. Reps. Waxman and DeGette asserted in a letter to Rep. Stearns that they are “aware of no predicate that would justify” the investigation and asked him to end his inquiry.
Planned Parenthood concurred. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards claimed in a recent fundraising appeal that the investigation was “not about fiscal responsibility.” If the word “only” is added to her assertion, she is correct. The issues involved go beyond merely money.
As our organization, Americans United for Life documented in “The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood” released in July, substantial evidence exists to counter Planned Parenthood’s assertion that its affiliates have “always complied with all laws and regulations applicable to the receipt and use of federal funds.” Planned Parenthood affiliates in multiple states have been exposed for overbilling government health care and family planning programs.
For example, a California audit of Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside Counties in 2004 revealed that the one Planned Parenthood affiliate – in one year alone – overbilled the Medicaid program by over 5 million dollars.
According to Victor Gonzalez, who was the Vice President of Financial Administration with Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles at the time, the illegal overbilling practice was a state-wide problem at Planned Parenthood. In his whistleblower case, Mr. Gonzalez estimates that over a six-year period beginning in 1999, the overbilling by Planned Parenthood’s California affiliates exceeded $180 million.
Since 90 percent of that overbilled funding came from federal government, checking further into Planned Parenthood’s finances seems fiscally responsible.
Audit reports in New Jersey, New York, and Washington likewise have caught Planned Parenthood affiliates taking more from federal government-funded programs than the law allows.
Planned Parenthood’s transgressions have not been limited to overbilling Medicaid. And much like its overbilling, Planned Parenthood violations of other laws are not isolated or fluke instances.
Planned Parenthood affiliates have exhibited a pattern and practice of violating and circumventing parental involvement laws. For example, in 2009, the Alabama Department of Public Health issued a report stating that Planned Parenthood staff at a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic “failed to obtain parental consent for 9 of 9 minor patients in a manner that complies with state legal requirements.”
Legal action against Planned Parenthood occurred in at least Alabama, Arizona, and Ohio for failure to report the abuse of young girls. Live Action’s undercover investigations indicate that many more Planned Parenthood clinics fail to report instances of suspected sexual abuse, instead advising minors and their abusers on how to circumvent mandatory reporting laws.
In addition, video footage recorded by Live Action in three states and the District of Columbia documents an apparent willingness of Planned Parenthood employees to advise and assist an alleged sex-trafficker.
Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood manager confirms that Live Action is not simply “lucky” in finding the few cases of Planned Parenthood abuse.
Asked about the Live Action videos, Ms. Johnson acknowledged, “It happens all the time, it happened at my clinic… I let it happen.”
Live Action’s investigation went viral when footage from the Perth Amboy, N.J. clinic was released earlier this year. In living color, a Planned Parenthood clinic manager gave advice to a self-proclaimed pimp and prostitute on how to skirt the law when bringing in young girls engaged in sex trafficking. After first claiming the video was a hoax, Planned Parenthood eventually fired the employee in question.
Such scandals continue to reverberate and have financial implications.
The law requires Planned Parenthood employees to properly report suspicions of sexual abuse, sexual trafficking or molestation of underage girls. In fact, the Federal Acquisition Regulation requires every contractor doing business with the federal government to “exercise due diligence to prevent and detect criminal conduct” and to “otherwise promote an organizational culture that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with the law.”
No institution that covers up or turns a blind eye to the crimes of sex offenders, molesters and abuser should expect the taxpayer to write a blank check of support.
The time is right for a public accounting of the money already spent and to end the taxpayers’ generous support of the profitable abortion industry.
Recent polls show that seven in ten Americans do not want their tax dollars subsidizing abortion. Ending funding to Planned Parenthood would therefore be a bipartisan budget cut and long overdue.
Dr. Charmaine Yoest is president and CEO of Americans United for Life where attorney Anna Franzonello is staff counsel.