The highly edited video, which was secretly recorded by two anti-abortion activists posing as representatives for fetal tissue researchers, was released Tuesday by a group called the Center for Medical Progress. It shows Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services, Deborah Nucatola, talking, in medically graphic detail, about tissue donation. She also discusses possible costs related to donation, and is explicit throughout that these costs are about covering expenses associated with preserving and transporting tissue—not profit.
But House Speaker John Boehner wasted little time before calling for an investigation. "When an organization monetizes an unborn child—and with the cavalier attitude portrayed in this horrific video—we must all act," he said in a statement released Wednesday, adding that President Obama should "denounce, and stop, these gruesome practices." Republican leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee issued their own statement, calling the video "abhorrent" and pledging to "get to the bottom of this appalling situation.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, along with several other Republican presidential contenders, reacted by calling on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood entirely. “There is no place for taxpayer funding of organizations that profit from taking away innocent life, much less profiting off the bodies of the lives they have stolen,” he said in a statement.
This shouldn't come as a surprise: while Republicans in Congress are pointing to the video as the reason they're pushing to defund the organization, the "sting" operation is just the most recent cover for a campaign to dismantle funding for Planned Parenthood. In fact, this time last month, House Republicans tried to defund the reproductive health provider by other means: In June, the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee released a fiscal year funding proposal that eliminated all funding for Title X, the only federal grant program dedicated to supporting family planning and other preventative health services.
The cuts would leave the 4.7 million people who rely on Title X-funded clinics for healthcare without access to services like cancer screenings, pap smears, contraception, and family planning counseling. (Because of the Hyde Amendment, none of the funding can go toward abortion services, though they are no less necessary.) The funding proposal would also be expensive as hell: cutting the $286,500,000 currently invested in Title X would cost taxpayers an estimated $2,031,285,000 in expenses related to unintended pregnancy and reproductive health, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute.
Planned Parenthood is among Title X's most visible grant recipients, which is perhaps why gutting the program is so attractive to conservatives. But the House proposal to quietly eliminate funding for Title X wasn't the first time congressional Republicans tried to go after Planned Parenthood: in 2011, the House GOP voted overwhelmingly to defund the organization. (The effort ultimately failed.)
Congressional Republicans are now claiming that calls to investigate and defund Planned Parenthood are about allegations of illegal activity. If that's really the case, then what was their excuse when they tried to do the same thing last month?