Fifty-six members of Congress, led by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), sent a letter Thursday to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking him to investigate Planned Parenthood facilities that have allegedly been covering up sex abuse of minors, according to a recent undercover report by Live Action.
The letter points out that Planned Parenthood is currently the largest recipient of Title X funds, although that may change if a proposed rule from the Trump administration goes into effect. The lawmakers emphasize that Planned Parenthood facilities are bound by Title X state reporting requirements for “child abuse, child molestation, sexual abuse, rape, or incest.”
It cites several cases where victims of sex abuse were brought by their abusers to Planned Parenthood for abortions as minors and the cases went unreported. That includes one Ohio case from 2004 where Denise Fairbanks, then 16, told Planned Parenthood she was being sexually abused by her father but she was ignored and sent back home where the abuse continued.
Planned Parenthood ended up settling in the case where Fairbanks was represented by the Life Legal Defense Foundation.
Cases like that one and the Live Action report with testimony from former Planned Parenthood employees about the culture of sex abuse cover-up highlight that “abusers feel comfortable taking their victims to Planned Parenthood,” according to the lawmakers.
In addition to requesting an HHS probe, they also asked for information from HHS including records “regarding any and all incidents of Planned Parenthood Title X recipients’ failure to report suspected sexual abuse of minors in their care.”
Live Action President Lila Rose participated in a press conference with lawmakers Thursday to call attention to the issue.
“Planned Parenthood, instead of reporting abuse, instead of being that person who can encounter a girl in an extreme state of distress and be that moment of intervention for her, does a secret abortion, has a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy,” Rose said, “and sends this vulnerable young girl back into the arms of sex abusers.”
“This report is a culmination of over ten years of research exposing the systemic abuse cover-up at Planned Parenthood,” she added.
Two senators, Joni Ernst (R-IA) and James Lankford (R-OK), joined 53 House members in signing the letter. The signatories include Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Diane Black (R-TN), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).