U.S. Republican lawmakers clashed sharply with the head of a nonprofit women's reproductive health care agency over whether the group deserves continued federal funding.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), an abortion opponent, accused health service provider Planned Parenthood of wasting much of the $528 million it receives annually from the federal government on political lobbying against abortion restrictions and "exorbitant" spending for salaries, travel and parties.
Planned Parenthood's president Cecile Richards, defended her group, which annually treats 2.7 million mostly poor women, performing abortions and providing birth control, cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. She told lawmakers that except in rare instances, no federal funds are used to perform abortions.
Chaffetz and Republican lawmakers called the hearing after an anti-abortion activist surreptitiously filmed Planned Parenthood officials during the past three years casually discussing how they provide fetal tissue from abortions for research to help cure diseases, research that has been legal in the United States for more than two decades.
"What I do not like, what I do not want to tolerate, what I do not want to become numb to is wasting those taxpayer dollars," said Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "And as best I can tell ... this is an organization that does not need federal subsidy."
Abortion opponents in the U.S. accuse Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of the fetal tissue, but the agency says it only receives expense money for supplying the tissue to researchers.
Richards told the lawmakers that except in rare instances, no federal funds are used to perform abortions and rebuffed allegations that it profited from the sale of the aborted fetal tissue.
"The latest smear campaign is based on efforts by our opponents to entrap our doctors and clinicians into breaking the law and once again our opponents failed," she said.
Democratic lawmakers on the congressional panel who support abortion rights said that David Daleiden, the activist who filmed the Planned Parenthood officials, edited out key statements of the medical personnel when they refused to sell the tissue at a profit.
"The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood based on heavily doctored videos are offensive and categorically untrue," Richards said.
Elimination of federal funding for Planned Parenthood has become a rallying cause for Republican lawmakers and the party's 2016 presidential candidates. Nonetheless, the money for the agency remains in the short-term spending measure Congress is on the verge of approving to prevent a partial government shutdown later this week.
President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any spending bill that eliminates federal funds for the organization, although the issue is likely to be debated again in December when the short-term government funding expires.
Some information is from AP.