Cecile Richards turned the tables on a hostile U.S. Congress, which was working to defund her organization Tuesday. The embattled President of Planned Parenthood, an organization that has been under fire since some highly-edited videos surfaced beginning July 15, held her own in the face of a Congressional committee determined to tear her down. When Richards was grilled by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, she held her ground and never wavered, reports NBC News.
Here are the top five ways Cecile Richards stayed strong in the face of severe adversity, and on Planned Parenthood‘s “Pink Out Day” no less.
5. She Called The Infamous Videos “Fraudulent”
Cecile Richards pulled no punches defending her organization’s credibility Tuesday. According to USA Today, Richards was on the defensive but professional when it came to the series of “fetal tissue harvesting” videos that appeared to show Planned Parenthood reps discussing the price of harvested fetal body parts “for sale.”
Richards described the organization that produced the video as “unethical” and “perhaps illegal.” Cecile Richards went on to say that the people behind the controversial videos that claim to show Planned Parenthood employees negotiating the “sale” of fetal tissue systematically infiltrated the non-profit organization for three years in order to produce the videos. Even so, Cecil Richards continued, in not a single one of the highly edited videos does a Planned Parenthood employee take the bait and attempt to orchestrate an exchange of human fetal tissue for any amount o money.
“…[they] failed to succeed in convincing even a single affiliate to enter into a procurement contract.”
4. She Explained What Planned Parenthood Really Does For The Most Part
Cecile Richards clearly and concisely explained the primary services Planned Parenthood provides. Spoiler alert: abortion is way down on the list. Richards spelled out to a befuddled U.S. Congressional committee the wide array of reproductive health services provided by her organization to millions of Americans every year. She calmly and concisely described STD testing, pregnancy testing, STD treatment and cancer screening programs that are the source of the vast majority of her organization’s Federal funding. Cecile Richards went on to describe that these funds come primarily in the form of Medicaid reimbursement for these vital medical services, which constitute the vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s non-profit business.
While Cecile Richards was sworn in on the stand, defending her organization, social media weighed in.
— colin meloy (@colinmeloy) September 30, 2015
— Diane Black (@RepDianeBlack) September 29, 2015
3. She Explained That Abortion IS Healthcare
Despite opinions of some on the “right” to the contrary, Cecile Richards once again reiterated something Planned Parenthood has been saying for decades. Namely that abortion is healthcare. Safe, legal abortion on demand saves women’s lives and protects their health, and on this “Pink Out Day,” Cecile Richards defended the practice as fundamental women’s healthcare while she was grilled on Captial Hill.
In an Huffington Post article published today, authored by Cecile Richards herself, the Planned Parenthood President described all of the services in addition to abortion that her organization provides. However, despite reiterating that Planned Parenthood provides more than just abortion, Richards refused to apologize for abortion.
“This is really part of an extreme political agenda to ban abortion and deny patients the ability to go to Planned Parenthood. This isn’t about fetal tissue. To be clear, fetal tissue research can lead to important medical breakthroughs (it helped lead to the polio vaccine), but Planned Parenthood affiliates in just two states provide this opportunity for their patients.”
Cecile Richards also schooled the Congressional committee about Federal funding being used to pay for abortion services. Richards advised her questioners that it is illegal to use Federal money to reimburse the costs of abortion services except under very limited circumstances, i.e., in cases of rape or incest.
2. She Described Legal Fetal Tissue Donation
Under oath and while being brutally questioned by a Congressional committee, Cecile Richards went into depth about what’s really going on with the harvest and donation of fetal tissue within her non-profit organization. Cecile Richards clarified that the organization does participate in the donation of fetal tissue for medical research – but that the option for patients to participate in the invaluable program is provided in available in just 1 percent of Planned Parenthood’s clinics. Cecile Richards went on to unequivocally declare her support for the fetal tissue donation program.
“While our involvement with fetal tissue research is a small component of Planned Parenthood, it offers the potential of lifesaving research.”
Despite the criticism and negative publicity the Cecile Richard’s organization has endured as a result of the “fetal tissue sale” videos, Planned Parenthood has consistently stated that it works in accordance with the law. Under U.S. law, human tissue cannot be sold. It is legal, Richards clarified, for facilities that harvest human tissue to be reimbursed for the costs they incur in the process.
1. She Defended Her Salary
In one of the most notable interactions of Tuesday’s hearing, Cecile Richards was called out by Representative Jason Chaffetz about her $520,000 annual salary. The Utah rep was particularly concerned about the dollar figure Richards earns considering that the Federal government is shelling out $450 million each year to Planned Parenthood. The fact that the money is used to reimburse for Medicaid-covered medical procedures and almost never covers abortion didn’t seem to matter to Chaffetz, a Republican.
Fortunately for Cecile Richards, Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney came to her defense, and her words were priceless. She called Chaffetz’s line of questioning “totally inappropriate and discriminatory,” and she then further called him out for his treatment of Cecile Richards.
“I first would like to register my opposition and my objection to the chairman beating up on a woman, on our witness today, for making a good salary. In the entire time I’ve been in Congress I’ve never seen a witness beaten up and questioned about their salary.”
Cecile Richards defended herself and her salary, too. She went on to reiterate that the admittedly large amount of money that Planned Parenthood receives from the Federal government annually is primarily reimbursement for Medicaid-covered healthcare services. It’s certainly not earmarked for the salary of Cecile Richards.
Regardless of the outcome of the Congressional committee’s hearing, or how diligently Congress works to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding, President Obama has sworn to veto any such legislation that lands on his desk. Many see the continued efforts of Congress (namely the Republican-controlled House of Representatives) as a waste of time and money in order to pander to voters. Most pundits believe that Cecile Richards is secure in her employment following the hearing.
[Image Courtesy: Mark Wilson/Getty Images]