The head of Planned Parenthood faced off with Congressional Republicans on Tuesday for the first time since the release of controversial videos that have renewed conservatives calls to end the organization's federal funding.
Throughout the contentious House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said she is "proud" of her organization's work supporting fetal tissue research and said secretly recorded videos of employees discussing the practice are part of a "smear campaign."
"The sensationalistic atmosphere the doctored videos seek to create is exactly the opposite of the reasoned and deliberate process President Reagan set in motion with the Human Fetal Tissue Transplantation Research Panel," Richards said. "The videos mislead rather than inform the public debate."
The videos, obtained by David Daleiden who posed as an executive interested in purchasing fetal tissue for medical research, show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses.
Republicans both in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail have condemned Planned Parenthood for the recordings, and some have called for shutting down the government unless federal funding for the group is eliminated.
In addition to quizzing Richards on Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue practices, Republicans questioned the group’s spending -- and why, with an annual budget of $1.3 billion, it still relies on federal dollars.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, grilled Richards over the group's expenses, including her salary, travel and lobbying.
"That's money that's not going to women's health care," Chaffetz said.
Planned Parenthood receives about $450 million from the federal government, which cannot be used for abortions in the vast majority of cases.
Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney called Chaffetz’s questions about Richard salary, which she said is $520,000 annually, “totally inappropriate and discriminatory.”
“I first would like to register my opposition and my objection to the chairman beating up on a woman, on our witness today, for making a good salary,” Maloney said. “In the entire time I’ve been in Congress I’ve never seen a witness beaten up and questioned about their salary.”
Richards said the financial support from the government comes largely in the form of reimbursements for addressing the needs of Medicaid's low-income patients, and attempted to stress the group's work aside from fetal tissue research, which she called "miniscule."
She also argued it is anti-abortion activist Daleiden who should be the subject of Congressional inquiry.
"It is clear they acted fraudulently and unethically, and perhaps illegally. Yet it is Planned Parenthood, not Mr. Daleiden, that is currently subject to four separate congressional investigations," she said.
Daleiden has said he has released full, unedited versions of the recordings.