The pro-life movement may be on the verge of scoring another big win that could land huge dividends.
Florida Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns wants Planned Parenthood to come clean about its practices, policies, and procedures in the wake of increased criticism and scrutiny of America's largest abortion provider.
"Planned Parenthood has an extensive record of violating state sexual assault and child abuse reporting laws, and of encouraging young girls to lie about their ages to circumvent state reporting laws," Rep. Stearns said in a statement to CBN News.
As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigative arm, Rep. Stearns wrote a letter earlier this month demanding information about Planned Parenthood's handling of federal funds and its compliance with federal laws as they relate to abortion funding.
Rep. Stearns' letter, which gives Planned Parenthood two weeks to respond, clearly illustrates that he means business. Here are a few examples of what he requested:
- Please provide any official documentation that ensures federal money received by PPFA (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) and its affiliates is not being used impermissibly to subsidize abortion.
- Please describe how the segregation between family planning and abortion services is accomplished, how this segregation is monitored for compliance, and what internal audits, controls, or overviews are conducted to ensure this.
- Please provide a summary of how PPFA detects criminal conduct (e.g. suspected sexual abuse or sex trafficking) and the policies and procedures in place to prevent it or report it.
Planned Parenthood accuses Rep. Stearns of playing politics but states on its website that it is responding to the request "in a timely manner."
"This politically motivated investigation is a continuation of the efforts of earlier this year to undermine Planned Parenthood, and more disturbingly, women's access to the primary and preventive care they need," said Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president.
Allies of the abortion provider are coming to its defense, describing the investigation as "harassing," "ideological," and "intrusive."
"We are aware of no predicate that would justify this sweeping and invasive request," wrote Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., high-ranking Democrats who also serve on the committee.
In a letter addressed to Rep. Stearns, they insist reviews from individual states and the Department of Health and Human Services would catch or flag anything improper.
"The HHS Inspector General and state Medicaid programs regularly audit Planned Parenthood...These audits have not identified any pattern of misuse of federal funds, illegal activity, or other abuse that would justify a broad and invasive congressional investigation."
Stearns believes it's all about accounting.
"Although Planned Parenthood is barred from using federal funds to perform abortions, these funds are fungible and allow the group to use funds from other sources ostensibly for abortions," his statement continued.
"Since the Planned Parenthood [Federation] of America receives about $1 million a day in taxpayer funds, I sent a letter to the group's president requesting documents and information as we look at the organization's use of federal dollars and its compliance with various laws. Also, with a national debt exceeding $14 trillion, funding of Planned Parenthood should be evaluated with other expenditures to reduce the deficit," he said.
Pro-life organizations eagerly await what may unfold after the group made news earlier this year for allegedly covering up a case of statutory rape and giving advice (taped on hidden cameras) to purported pimps involved in sex trafficking.
"This is a critical step in holding accountable an organization that has been exposed as a billion-dollar business centered on abortion and an unapologetic partner of those who wish to exploit young girls," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which campaigns to elect pro-life candidates.
SBA tells CBN News that it plans to use any findings from the investigation to further its efforts to defund Planned Parenthood at the federal and state levels.
Stearns, a 12-term Republican, is a member of the U.S. House Pro-life Caucus and received a 94 percent rating from the National Right to Life. Incidentally, he sought the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee after Republicans regained control of the House, but it seems he's perhaps making even bigger waves in his role as chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.