GOP seeks Planned Parenthood study with hope to strip funding

Dozens of Republicans in the House and Senate have asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine how Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortion services are using taxpayer money.

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Those spearheading the effort — Rep. Diane Black (Tenn.), Rep. Pete Olson (Texas) and Sen. David Vitter (La.) — are hoping the study confirms their suspicion that these groups are focusing more on abortion and less on other healthcare services. Black said this finding could be used to justify a reduction in federal funds to abortion providers.

"I firmly believe that organizations which both provide comprehensive health care and respect all life — both the born and unborn — are best equipped to offer the most effective health care services to those in need," she said in a press release. "My hope is that through greater transparency and accountability we can successfully mobilize the support needed to defund abortion providers — once and for all."

Black added that Planned Parenthood showed in its latest report that they are providing more abortions and fewer other health services, all while federal funding has increased. "An independent study of the federal funding for abortion providers is necessary to further expose the truth of how these precious taxpayer dollars are truly being used," Black said.

Federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer funding for abortion. But opponents of Planned Parenthood argue that it is not clear the group is ensuring federal dollars are not used for abortions, as required. Olson said there are signs that Planned Parenthood has "failed to properly follow correct billing practices to prevent federal tax dollars from funding abortion services."

"This new report is critically needed to shine a bright light on how taxpayer funds are allocated," Olson said.

Sen. Vitter agreed that there is "no accounting" for how these groups use federal money.

Their letter to the GAO asks for a study on how much money Planned Parenthood, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and several other groups receive from the government. It also asks the GAO to identify the various federal sources of this money, how it was distributed, a list of all the services the groups provide, and the number of people being served in each category.

The letter was also signed by 63 Republican members of the House, and Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), James Risch (Idaho), and Tim Scott (S.C.).

Monday afternoon, Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) responded to the GOP request for a study by calling it a waste of taxpayer money that is meant to undermine women's health.

"Congressional Republicans have signaled that they intend to waste valuable time and taxpayer money investigating and scrutinizing groups like Planned Parenthood, who provide primary care to patients including pap tests, breast exams, and testing for sexually transmitted infections to millions of Americans," they said.

Slaughter and DeGette, who cochair the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, said the finances of Planned Parenthood and other groups are routinely audited, and none of these audits have ever found a misuse of taxpayer money.

"This has nothing to do with accountability and everything to do with an ideological crusade against women's health, reminding the American people that while Republicans may not be interested in averting the sequester's disastrous cuts, they are interested in getting between women and their doctors and limiting women's health choices," they said.

— This story was updated at 5:51 p.m.