WASHINGTON — Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, on Tuesday warned that banning federal funds for Planned Parenthood would cut off vital health care services for low-income Maryland women.
“A lot of people who need these services are people who live in our districts. They live in areas that do not have these services,” Cummings told the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The ranking member of the panel, Cummings is considering a run for the Senate.
Cummings said during his opening remarks at the contentious hearing that poor women in rural and underserved communities in his home state would lose “a host of healthcare services, including pap tests, breast exams and cancer screenings” if federal funding for Planned Parenthood stopped.
Planned Parenthood has seven locations in Maryland.
Planned Parenthood’s federal funding has been challenged by abortion foes after videos surfaced in July depicting employees trying to sell fetal tissue for profit. The videos were secretly recorded and released by David Daleiden, founder of The Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood and the hearing’s witness, said the videos were edited to frame employees in a false light.
A subpoena has been filed by the committee to obtain the unedited videos from Daleiden, but Chaffetz said that there is currently a temporary restraining order in California that is preventing the release of the videos.
Cummings said that House Democrats wanted Daleiden to testify, but the GOP refused. Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, stood by his decision that it would have been inappropriate to invite Daleiden without access to the videos.
Both Chaffetz and Cummings agreed that the committee will continue to try to retrieve the original videos.
A report by Coalfire, a cybersecurity and IT firm, was released earlier Tuesday, detailing that the viral videos were unedited. Many Republican committee members used this report during their questioning at the hearing.
Richards said that Planned Parenthood does not sell fetal tissue for profit, but the organization does allow fetal tissue donation for research from abortions or stillborn babies, with consent from the mother. Fetal tissue donation was made legal in 1993. Richards testified that less than one percent of Planned Parenthood centers facilitate fetal tissue donations.
Cummings argued that the Republican members of Congress are seeking to take away the constitutional right of women to decide what is best for their health.
“Do you want to align yourselves with the radical extremists who manipulate the facts and most importantly do you want to attack millions of women who have the constitutional right affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States to make their own healthcare decisions with the advice of their doctors?” Cummings asked his Republican colleagues. “Based on the evidence of last week it appears you do.”
Several Republicans said that the federal government should not be supplying Planned Parenthood with federal dollars, when some taxpayers do not agree with the services and actions of the non-profit.
“What I don’t like, what I don’t want to tolerate, what I don’t want to come to is wasting government dollars,” said Chaffetz in his opening remarks.
Richards said that one in five women have sought care from the organization, and federal funding allows for birth control, STD testing, and breast exams to be provided. Richards also noted that Planned Parenthood does not use federal funding to pay for abortion costs, except in limited circumstances as outlined by federal law. These situations can include instances of rape, incest, or life-threatening pregnancies.
Planned Parenthood is reimbursed by the government for direct services to the health centers’ patients, and does not receive money up front.
“Republicans make it sound as if the federal government writes a check to Planned Parenthood each year,” Cummings said.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said that the government should “take the money from the guys who are doing the bad things, and give it to the ones who aren’t.”
“There is one thing that we seem to be glossing over and moving around –it is the law. It is the law,” Cummings said, referring to Planned Parenthood’s services. “(People) may not like the law, but you are doing what is in the bounds of the law.”