“We Paid for Those Abortions”: That was the title of a piece Kevin Williamson wrote on NRO earlier this summer, in response to the news that Planned Parenthood had defrauded the government in Texas. It’s far from the only fraud the nation’s largest abortion provider has been accused of.
For years, pro-life groups have argued that the abortion giant should be defunded, an argument that never legislatively gets beyond the House of Representatives in Washington. It certainly doesn’t help that Barack Obama is in the White House: Speaking to the group in April, he said, “Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you.”
Last week, in response to a request from pro-life members of Congress in February, the General Accounting Office confirmed that it would investigate how Planned Parenthood is spending its money.
A poll conducted by Kellyanne Conway’s polling company for the National Right to Life Committee this spring found that the majority of Americans don’t know that Planned Parenthood even does abortions — a state of ignorance the group’s branding is determined to ensure. Thus we talk about pink sneakers in Texas, when a lawmaker, with Planned Parenthood as its cheering squad, argues against protecting the lives of unborn children capable of feeling pain, in the later stages of pregnancy.
Alliance Defending Freedom is among the groups that have been doggedly laboring to shed light on what exactly it is that Planned Parenthood does, and with taxpayer support. Steven Aden, senior counsel and vice president for the organization’s Center for Life, talks about what we know and what the GAO ought to be asking.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: The GAO is investigating Planned Parenthood. How long overdue is this?
STEVEN ADEN: Over the past ten years, Planned Parenthood and its 71 separate affiliates have reportedly received more than $4 billion in taxpayer funding. During that same period of time, approximately 20 percent of Planned Parenthood’s affiliates have been implicated in waste, abuse, and potential fraud. Much of this waste, abuse, and potential fraud has been identified in publicly available audits to which little attention has been paid until Alliance Defending Freedom’s first report to the Congress in October 2011. Additional potential fraud has been identified in several whistleblower federal False Claims Act lawsuits around the country. One such federal False Claims Act lawsuit recently led to an agreement by Planned Parenthood to pay $4.3 million or more to settle claims for what the U.S. Department of Justice called Medicaid fraud.
In view of the massive amounts of overbilling documented in these publicly available audits, it is particularly troubling that Planned Parenthood received in 2012 $542 million in taxpayer funds. In that same year, Planned Parenthood spent millions of dollars to elect politicians who support, defend, and shield Planned Parenthood from any serious audit or investigation.
For over two years, Alliance Defending Freedom has been calling on Congress and state attorneys general around the country to exercise proper oversight of Planned Parenthood’s use of taxpayer dollars. Beginning in September 2011, Alliance Defending Freedom provided support and information to the chair and staff of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which had launched a still-ongoing investigation of Planned Parenthood and its use of federal taxpayer dollars, including its compliance with federal restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion. In February 2013, Representative Diane Black (R., Tenn.), joined by more than 70 members of Congress, asked the GAO to initiate an investigation. Again, Alliance Defending Freedom provided support and information to these members of Congress to aid their efforts.
If authorities at both the federal level and state levels do not investigate and audit Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, these officials will be complicit in waste, abuse, and potential fraud by Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, involving massive amounts of American taxpayer dollars. American taxpayers deserve to know that their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent wisely and efficiently. As that is obviously not the case with Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, GAO’s investigation and audit are clearly long overdue.
LOPEZ: What are your expectations?
ADEN: If GAO’s investigation and audit are thorough, they will confirm Alliance Defending Freedom’s experience that Planned Parenthood’s primary motivation is to maximize its revenues from complex, well-funded federal and state programs that are understaffed and rely on the integrity of the provider for program compliance. GAO’s investigation and audit will confirm that, as Alliance Defending Freedom has documented, the rampant waste, abuse, and potential fraud among Planned Parenthood and its affiliates that has been revealed through a relatively few and generally superficial public audits is just the tip of the iceberg.
GAO’s investigation and audit will confirm that many more millions of taxpayer dollars have been misspent or misused by Planned Parenthood and its affiliates. They will confirm the mounting evidence of negligent care and treatment of women by Planned Parenthood and other “family planning” facilities, including, in some cases, the deaths of women treated at these facilities. They will confirm that, unlike nearly all medical and ambulatory surgical centers, abortion clinics are given special treatment and are often unregulated. They will confirm that there is little or no transparency in these complex, well-funded family-planning programs, and that there is massive duplication in these programs which, in and of itself, leads to more waste, abuse, and potential fraud.
To date, Planned Parenthood has been shielded from any meaningful investigation or audit by its political allies in Congress and the executive branch. Thus, whether our expectations are met remains to be seen.
LOPEZ: What are the most important questions you’d want answered?
ADEN: How can federal and state laws be changed to give federal and state elected officials the backbone necessary to make objective decisions about how taxpayer dollars are being wasted on politically powerful organizations like Planned Parenthood and its affiliates? What is it about the laws or our culture that enables Planned Parenthood and its affiliates to engage in waste, abuse, and potential fraud?
What is the role of the lead organization, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in promoting, tolerating, or conspiring in a culture of waste, abuse, and potential fraud among its affiliates? Paraphrasing the famous words of Senator Howard Baker, “What did Planned Parenthood Federation of America know about these allegations of waste, abuse, and potential fraud, and when did it know it?”
LOPEZ: How would you begin a conversation with people inclined to have warm feelings for Planned Parenthood? So that we talk beyond pro-lifers?
ADEN: If you could prove that an organization was committing millions of dollars in waste, abuse, and fraud, would you (a) give them more money or (b) take a look at their books?
Would you not agree that it does not matter how you “feel” about the issue of abortion, when it comes to the question of supporting waste, abuse, and potential fraud in federal and state family-planning programs?
Would you not agree that your hard-earned dollars that are transferred as taxes to the federal and state governments should be spent wisely?
Wouldn’t women be better served by directing Planned Parenthood’s half-billion dollars in taxpayer funds per year to full-service health-care providers that care for the whole woman, and not to politically preferred allies like Planned Parenthood?
While most Americans are opposed to abortion — and Planned Parenthood commits more than 330,000 abortions per year — virtually all Americans are opposed to wasteful and fraudulent use of their taxpayer dollars.