Republicans didn’t go easy on Planned Parenthood’s president during a highly contentious hearing over the future of federal funding for the women’s-health organisation.
The popular-but-divisive organisation has found itself at the center of a political firestorm after an anti-abortion group posted a series of undercover videos featuring Planned Parenthood executives and affiliates discussing the use of aborted fetuses for research.
Planned Parenthood has repeatedly denied accusations that it profits off aborted fetal tissue, saying it acts within federal law and accusing its opponents of exaggerating claims in a years-long effort to derail the organisation
Republicans on the House Oversight Committee used Tuesday’s emotionally charged hearing to critique the organisation on everything from revenue, to abortion care, to corporate-travel spending, to Richards’ personal salary. The line of questioning infuriated some Democrats.
“The disrespect, the misogyny, rampant here today tells us what is really going on here,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia).
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, contended that Planned Parenthood doesn’t need federal funding. He briefly teared up while talking about the death of his parents, which Chaffetz implied may have been prevented if the federal government spent more on cancer-prevention research.
Chaffetz dedicated some of his time to questioning Richards’ salary, which he pointed out rose by $US100,000 over four years.
“Does this organisation, Planned Parenthood, really need federal subsidies?” Chaffetz asked Richards.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) focused on questioning Richards about an apology she made in a Planned Parenthood video addressing the controversy. During his line of questioning, Jordan grew increasingly testy with Richards, repeatedly interrupting Richards and talking loudly into his microphone.
“You said, ‘I personally apologise for the tone and statements,” Jordan said. When Richards began to speak, Jordan cut back in.
“No, no, no, no. Here’s the question: Which statement were you apologizing for?” Jordan said.
“It was really the situation that she was in — “
“That’s not what you said,” Jordan said, before repeating his question.
The Hill quickly posted the testy exchange, which lasted for several minutes:
One by one, Democrats on the committee lined up to defend the embattled organisation and criticise Republicans like Jordan.
“I hope every American woman is watching today’s hearing, because just the visuals as well as the audio tells you a lot,” Connolly said.
“This is very troubling to sit here as a woman,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence (R-Michigan) said, calling the questions from Republican members on the committee “insulting.”
“For the life of me, I know my colleagues are more intelligent than this,” she added.
But many Republicans on the committee dismissed the claim that Richards was being treated any differently than other congressional witnesses.
“Ms. Richards, this is my 27th year in Congress, and I can assure you I’ve seen many male witnesses treated much tougher than you’ve been treated here today,” said Rep. Jim Duncan (R-Tennessee) “I’m not going to be tough on you, but surely you don’t expect us to be easier on you because you’re a woman.”
Watch the full hearing below:
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