Planned Parenthood seeks 'fair and impartial' treatment from Paul Ryan

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards listens while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sep. 29, 2015, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards listens while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sep. 29, 2015, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. 

The president of Planned Parenthood is urging newly elected House speaker Paul Ryan to provide “fair and impartial” treatment, in wake of a new GOP-led special committee his predecessor, John Boehner, created to investigate the practices of the embattled women’s reproductive health group.

The group's President Cecile Richards, who had a contentious five-hour long hearing before a House committee this month, told the Wisconsin Republican in a four-page letter dated Oct. 30, that the “troubling” practices of the four ongoing congressional committees' probes “raise concerns about the impartiality and integrity of their investigations.”

Richard’s concern comes a week after a House GOP staffer allegedly leaked a court-ordered and confidential Planned Parenthood video to the conservative website Got News, POLITICO reported

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“We have nothing to hide, and the facts are on our side,” she said. “But this leak calls into serious question the objectivity of this investigation, and underscores concerns that this is a political exercise, rather than a fact-finding effort.

The letter comes as an effort by Planned Parenthood to help bridge the eroding political divide between Planned Parenthood and conservatives, as Ryan replaces Boehner, a religious and social conservative, who just resigned from Congress. On Thursday, before the House after he was elected speaker, he called for a renewed effort to make the House function as a great deliberative body again.

"The House is broken," he said. "We are not solving problems We are adding to them. Only a truly functioning House can represent the people."

The GOP has led a failed effort in recent weeks to slash federal funds from Planned Parenthood, after the release of highly edited videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group, which showed officials from the organization discussing the sales of fetal tissue for research. The videos have triggered backlash throughout Republican and conservative circles. Even though Ryan has voted to defund Planned Parenthood, he hasn't said much publicly about the videos. 

Planned Parenthood has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing – including accusations that it illegally altered abortion procedures to obtain better samples – saying it only accepts small sums to cover necessary costs.The group plans to maintain programs at some of its clinics that make fetal tissue available for research, but will not accept any sort of payment to cover the costs, even though it’s legal for them to do so under federal law.

Richards told the speaker that since the House inquiry into Planned Parenthood began, the group has handed more than 27,000 pages of documents to the committees and four of her staffers we interviewed for more than eight hours. She later singled out the special investigative panel that Boehner appointed last week, saying that  none of the "allegations related to fetal tissue donation practices—has resulted in no evidence of wrongdoing.”

“The fact that the members of the select committee announced to date are some of the most vocal opponents of abortion and advocates of defunding Planned Parenthood in the Congress undermines the fairness of this inquiry. Some of these members have already publicly stated that furthering these policy goals is the purpose of their investigation,” said Richards.

Democrats have likened the special GOP-led committee investigating Hillary Clinton's (former secretary of state and Democratic presidential hopeful) handling of the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi that left four Americans dead. They said both committees are politically-motivated. 

This week, New York Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, a high-ranking member of the House's Rules Committee, urged Ryan to disband the "wasteful Benghazi and Planned Parenthood committees as his first official act."