“We believe women should be able to make their own decisions about their pregnancies and their futures”
Washington, DC — Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, testified before Congress today, at a hearing held by the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee.
The hearing comes after an unprecedented and unpopular attack on women’s reproductive health care in the 114th Congress, which has taken 14 votes to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care in the past few months — and four in September alone. Despite a fanatical obsession with attacking women’s health care by anti-abortion activists, Republican presidential candidates and extreme members of Congress, 10 national polls have now shown that the public both widely supports Planned Parenthood, and opposes blocking the nonprofit health care provider from accessing federal funds.
In addition, a separate written testimony was submitted to the committee yesterday.
Below is the testimony given by Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards, as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I’m proud to be here today speaking for Planned Parenthood, a leading provider of high-quality reproductive health care in the United States.
One in five women in America has sought care from a Planned Parenthood health center. They trust us, because our rigorous health standards have been developed with the nation’s top medical experts over our 99-year history.
There has been a great deal of misinformation circulated about Planned Parenthood recently, and I want to be absolutely clear at the outset. The federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives allows doctors and clinicians at our health centers to provide birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
While the federal policy discriminates against low-income women, no federal funds pay for abortion services at Planned Parenthood or anywhere else, except in the very limited circumstances allowed by law. These are when the woman has been raped, has been the victim of incest, or when her life is endangered.
Planned Parenthood operates just like all other health centers and hospitals that provide medical care to Medicaid patients. Medicaid reimburses us for the preventive health services we provide. The Department of Health and Human Services conducts routine audits of the Medicaid program to ensure that these funds are used appropriately. And the same is true for Title X, the federal family planning program, which was signed into law by President Nixon.
Planned Parenthood has been in the news recently because of deceptively edited videos released by a group that is dedicated to making abortion illegal in this country. This is just the most recent in a long line of discredited attacks — the 10th over the last 15 years.
The latest smear campaign is based on efforts by our opponents to entrap our doctors and clinicians into breaking the law — and once again our opponents failed.
To set the record straight, I want to be clear on four matters.
First, using fetal tissue in lifesaving medical research is legal, according to the 1993 law passed by the Senate 93-4 and based on recommendations from a blue-ribbon panel created by the Reagan administration.
Second, currently less than one percent of Planned Parenthood health centers are actually facilitating the donation of tissue for fetal tissue research.
Third, in those health centers, donating fetal tissue is something many of our patients want to do, and regularly request. Finally, Planned Parenthood policies not only comply with, but indeed go beyond the requirements of the law.
The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood, based on heavily doctored videos, are offensive and categorically untrue.
I realize, though, that the facts have never gotten in the way of these campaigns to block women from the health care they need and deserve.
Mr. Chairman, you and I do disagree about whether women should have access to safe and legal abortion. At Planned Parenthood, we believe women should be able to make their own decisions about their pregnancies and their futures. And the majority of Americans agree. We trust women to make these decisions in consultation with their families, their doctors and their faith — and not by Congress.
It is unacceptable that in the 21st century, women in America are routinely harassed for accessing a legal medical procedure. Doctors who provide abortion, as well as their families, often face harassment and threats of violence. After this most recent smear campaign, it has only gotten worse.
These acts against women and health care providers don’t reflect American values or the rule of law. I hope this committee will condemn them.
For 99 years, Planned Parenthood has worked to improve the lives of women and families in America. Largely as a result of access to birth control, women are now nearly half the workforce in America, and more than half of college students. As a result of better sex education and more access to birth control, we are now at a 40-year low for teen pregnancy in America.
But for all the progress we have made, there is still so much work to be done. For many American women, Planned Parenthood is the only health care provider they will see this year. It is impossible for our patients to understand why Congress is once again threatening their ability to go to the health care provider of their choice.
Two weeks ago, I was in Plano, Texas, with one of our patients, Dayna Farris-Fisher. Dayna can’t be here today because she has a new job and is working to support her family. But if she were here, Dayna would tell you what she told me: Planned Parenthood saved her life.
In 2013, her husband lost his job and, therefore, their health insurance. Not long after, Dayna found a lump in her breast. The only two clinics who would take a patient without insurance couldn’t see her for at least two months. So Dayna came to Planned Parenthood for a breast exam. Our clinician of 21 years, Vivian, guided her through the process of follow-ups and referrals, and helped make sure that her treatment was covered. She called Dayna repeatedly to check on her as she entered treatment. And I’m so happy to say that Dayna is now cancer free.
Mr. Chairman, I wish this Congress would spend more time hearing from women like Dayna. All women deserve to have the same opportunity as members of Congress and their families for high-quality and timely health care. I want to thank you for this opportunity to testify on behalf of Dayna and the 2.7 million patients who rely on Planned Parenthood for essential, high-quality health care every year.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With approximately 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.