Perhaps you've seen the commercials touting the life-saving benefits of Planned Parenthood. They're very professional, very persuasive, and clearly very expensive. Viewers might wonder why, if Planned Parenthood can afford this multimillion-dollar image advertising, it would be devastated by the loss of about $300 million in taxpayer support?
That Planned Parenthood is spooked by Republican efforts to withdraw funding is obvious -- though they have additional reasons to fret about their image just now. Over the course of the past few months, they've been stung by a group calling itself Live Action. In one case, a man and a woman posing as a pimp and a prostitute (yes, shades of the ACORN prank) visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in Perth Amboy, N.J. There, a Planned Parenthood manager coached the couple in how to obtain birth control, HIV tests, and abortions for prostitutes she was told were 14 and 15 years old. The manager was fired, but not before real damage was done to Planned Parenthood's reputation.
As part of the rehabilitation effort, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards appeared on Joy Behar's show. The Behar show is not on Fox, so of course, it's unbiased and impartial. Here's a sample of Behar's questioning of Richards about efforts to rescind federal funding: "It's illogical what they're doing. Because if you are not going to help people with birth control, you're going to have more abortions. Don't they think of that? So besides being evil and immoral and unethical, they're also stupid!"
In the course of her response, Richards inadvertently gave Live Action more ammunition. "What's going to happen," Richards told Behar, "if this bill ever becomes law, millions of women in this country are going to lose their health care access -- not to abortion services -- to basic family planning, you know, mammograms, cancer screenings, cervical cancer..."
Live Action phoned 30 Planned Parenthood clinics in 27 states. They spoke to clinics in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Atlanta, Lincoln, Washington, D.C., and many other cities. The responses were uniform. Not a single Planned Parenthood clinic that Live Action phoned performed mammograms. "We're mostly a surgical facility" one receptionist explained.
Richards's comments were also highly misleading in another way. As Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who authored the legislation, pointed out, the bill "does not reduce funding for cancer screenings or eliminate one dime of funding for other important health services to women; the money that does not go to Planned Parenthood as a result of the Pence Amendment will go to other organizations that provide these services."