Top 5 Most Ridiculous Moments From the Planned Parenthood Hearing

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In case you haven’t noticed, Planned Parenthood has become the new bogeyman on Capitol Hill–arguments over its funding had, until very recently, the potential to spark a government shut down. This summer, a group called the Center for Medical Progress released heavily edited, now debunked videos that insinuated that Planned Parenthood did a bunch of awful things, including selling fetal tissue for a profit. Despite the fact that these videos were deceptively edited, and investigations of Planned Parenthood have determined that the non-profit didn’t act in any illegal ways, conservatives on the Hill have latched onto a witch hunt aimed at the organization. Yesterday, Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president since 2006, attended a hearing hosted by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. There she was subjected to hours of inappropriate questioning, interruptions, and bullying by some of the House Republicans present. There were so many ridiculous moments to chose from, but here are the top five from yesterday’s hearing.

5. Richards’ Exchange with Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)

Shortly after the first video was released, Richards put out an apology:

Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide. In the video one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion, this is unacceptable and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.

As Richards explained during the hearing, she was apologizing for the fact that she believed the conversation that was taped by the Center for Medical Progress was in an inappropriate context and setting. But Jordan, like a dog with a bone, fixated on the fact that she apologized for “statements” and demanded to know exactly which statements she was apologizing for. Despite Richards explaining again and again that she was apologizing for the overall situation, Jordan refused to take that answer. Here’s the exchange:

Richards answered his question many, many times. But it wasn’t good enough for Jordan, and that’s really kind of the whole point of the hearing that happened yesterday. It wasn’t about getting answers, it was about berating Richards and showing conservative supporters that the reps were willing to be “tough” on Planned Parenthood. It’s nice that Jordan was able to make that so abundantly clear from the get-go.

4. Questions about Richards’ Salary

At one point Richards was subjected to questioning about her salary by the chair of the committee, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Now Richards is paid a fair salary for her job as head of an absolutely enormous non-profit, a bit over $500,000. Keep in mind that Planned Parenthood is the 38th largest non-profit in the United States, running it is no easy task, and here in the United States it’s important to pay people competitive salaries for the jobs they do.

Yet Chaffetz saw that as ammunition against Richards, and by extension, Planned Parenthood. Some of the Democratic Reps defended Richards on this front, including this powerful speech from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), but it still stood out as an inappropriate line of questioning.

3. Richards Could Barely Get a Word In

Normally, when people are brought to sit in front a group of Representatives for questioning, they are allowed to answer the questions. Unfortunately that wasn’t true in this case, as Richards was interrupted by pretty much every Republican questioner on the panel, yet another indication that many of them found what they had to say significantly more interesting than what she was saying. Slate’s XXFactor put together a truly fantastic/infuriating rundown of every single time that Richards was interrupted, but the top prize goes to Representative Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) who admitted that he didn’t want to actually hear the answers to his questions when he said told Richards “This is my time. This is my time. So don’t interrupt it.” The audio is below, and it’s pretty clear that Gosar wasn’t there to listen:

2. Everyone Freaked Out About Mammograms

One of the big criticisms about Planned Parenthood brought out at the hearing was that the organization does not provide mammograms, despite being an organization that does provide a relatively inclusive array of health services. Over and over, the reps questioning Richards tried to insinuate that because Planned Parenthood doesn’t provide this one particular service, it renders all of the other things it does useless.

The thing is, mammograms require very specific tools and trained professionals and for providers be accredited by the American College of Radiology. They take place in hospitals or radiology centers, because those are the places that are equipped to provide them. Planned Parenthood shouldn’t be condemned for not providing services that it is not equipped to provide, moreover the organization works with some radiology centers to provide mammograms to low income women when possible. A lack of mammogram services on site does not mean that all of the other services it provides are no longer useful, legitimate, and very much needed. But nice try, Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) who attempted so very hard to imply that’s the case.

1. Really Just the Worst Chart

By now, most of you have probably heard of or seen the chart that Chaffetz displayed, that stood contrary to pretty much all logic and math.

The red line is supposed to portray the number of abortions conducted by Planned Parenthood; the pink line cancer screening and prevention services (these are not the only services that Planned Parenthood provides, but the two that were cherry-picked for the purposes of this chart.) The chart is attempting to show that overall number of abortions performed has gone up from 2006 to 2013, and the number of cancer screening and prevention services has gone down over the same time period. But the chart isn’t anything even remotely to scale, as it makes 327,000 look like it’s a larger number than 935,573. That is obviously incorrect.

Chaffetz then asked Richards to explain the chart. She couldn’t, because she’s presumably a sane human being, and then explained to Chaffetz:

My lawyers have informed me that the source of this is Americans United for Life which is an anti-abortion group so I would check your source.

To which Chaffetz paused and replied: “Then we will get to the bottom of the truth of that.”

Yes Chaffetz, please do get the “bottom of the truth” of who made this truly horrendous and non-sensical chart.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.



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