Dems hammer GOP's Planned Parenthood funding probe

A pair of leading House Democrats are pushing back this week against a Republican probe into the nation's most prominent reproductive healthcare provider.

Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.), senior Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), the ranking member of the panel's Oversight subcommittee, claim Republicans have "singled out" the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) "as part of a Republican vendetta against an organization that provides family planning and other medical care to low-income women and men."

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In a Sept. 27 letter to Oversight subcommittee Chairman Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who launched the GOP investigation earlier this month, the Democrats argue that there's "no predicate that would justify this sweeping and invasive request to Planned Parenthood." 

"The HHS Inspector General and state Medicaid programs regularly audit Planned Parenthood and report publicly on their findings," Waxman and DeGette wrote. "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."

Current law already prohibits the federal funding of abortion. But Planned Parenthood critics argue that, because money is fungible, there's no practical way for the group to isolate the private funds it receives for abortion services from the federal funds it receives for contraception and other family-planning programs.

As part of his investigation, Stearns has asked Planned Parenthood to turn over documents detailing "how the segregation between family planning and abortion services is accomplished ... and what internal audits, controls or reviews are conducted to ensure this."

In a Sept. 15 letter to PPFA, Stearns also asked what procedures are in place "to ensure that suspected sex trafficking is reported to the proper authorities."

PPFA President Cecile Richards on Tuesday said the group is "confident that any fair-minded person will see through this politically motivated investigation."  

“As people learn about this latest attack on their health care provider, they will speak out and stand with us to protect access to health care for women and families,” Richards said in a statement.

It's hardly the first time Planned Parenthood has come under fire from Republicans on Capitol Hill. In February, House Republicans easily passed an amendment to a 2011 spending bill to prohibit PPFA from receiving any federal funding.

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"It's morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use it to fund organizations that provide and promote abortion," Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the bill's sponsor, said during that debate.

Senate Democrats stripped the language from the larger legislative package before it became law.

Stearns has asked that Planned Parenthood deliver the requested documents to the oversight subcommittee by Thursday.

PPFA said it's "already contacted the Subcommittee … and is responding to the request in a timely manner."

Meanwhile, Waxman and DeGette are urging a quick end to the investigation.

"It would be an abuse of the oversight process if you are now using the Committee’s investigative powers to harass Planned Parenthood again," the Democrats wrote to Stearns. "Your fervent ideological opposition to Planned Parenthood does not justify launching this intrusive investigation."