Update September 29, 3:45 PM: After a full five hours, the House Oversight Committee adjourned its grilling of Cecile Richards. By the time legislators had finished berating the Planned Parenthood head —the hearing's only witness — journalists managed to finish their dissections of many of the most egregious misrepresentations of the day. Kevin Drum at Mother Jones explained how Rep. Jason Chaffetz took facts about abortion and cancer screening into his own hands. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, testified before the House Oversight Committee about the work the group does and just how devastating it would be for women's health care if Congress eliminated its federal funding. Within the first hour, we saw an all too familiar tactic: Republicans arguing against the group with statistics... that happen to be made-up. While questioning Richards about what services Planned Parenthood provides, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah pulled up a slide detailing an apparent decrease in breast exams and an increase in abortions, sourced to an anti-abortion activist group. The numbers, Richards said, come from "Americans United for Life, which is an anti-abortion group, so I would check your source," she said to Chaffetz. "Well," Chaffetz said, unchastened after Richards responded to his repeated interruptions and badgering, "we’ll get to the bottom of that."
Reproductive rights supporters gathered in Washington to show support for Richards and Planned Parenthood today. This afternoon, pro-choice Congressional leaders and allies will deliver a petition asking legislators not to cut the group’s funding that has garnered more than 2.4 million signatures. The gathering in the capital is only one of hundreds of events to stand in solidarity with Planned Parenthood and community health groups, including free STD screenings and public sexual education events. One in five women in the U.S. will rely on health care from Planned Parenthood during their lifetimes. Defunding these centers would leave millions of women, most of them poor and non-white, without vital medical care. Planned Parenthood has 59 independent affiliates nationwide, which run 667 health centers. But contrary to every conservative talking point about Planned Parenthood, the vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s work is dedicated to providing preventative care, like STI and cancer screenings for women who might not be able to get them otherwise. And, of the clinics that perform abortion services — and many clinics provide no abortion services — only two of 59 affiliates are involved in the fetal tissue donation program that anti-abortion activists targeted in their heavily-edited videos. That works out to only 1% of all Planned Parenthood health centers. This will not be the end of this fight over women’s health care, even if Congress avoids a government shutdown. Attacking Planned Parenthood is a proven tactic for gaining support among Republicans — Carly Fiorina rocketed up in the polls after her performance in the second debate in which she vehemently attacked Planned Parenthood. The fact that she did so by citing a video that doesn't actually exist doesn't seem to have hurt her much.