Republicans and Planned Parenthood square off in Congress
Planned Parenthood Federation president Cecile Richards testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Capitol Hill in Washington September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Congressional Republicans on Tuesday challenged Planned Parenthood's U.S. taxpayer support, while the health organization's president said defunding it would disproportionately hurt low-income women.


Allegations that Planned Parenthood improperly sells fetal tissue to researchers for profit have reignited anti-abortion voter fervor during a turbulent Republican presidential primary campaign.

At a U.S. House of Representatives committee hearing, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards appeared alone to respond to hostile questioning from Republicans, some of whom have vowed to shut down the U.S. government if federal support for the group is not cut off.

"As far as I can tell ... this is an organization that doesn't need federal subsidy," said House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz.

Republican Representative Cynthia Lummis asked Richards why Planned Parenthood needed federal funding.

"You're making a ton of dough," Lummis said, referring to Richards's annual salary of more than $500,000.

Richards said, “We don’t make any profit off federal money.” She added that Planned Parenthood was one of few health centers that will take in uninsured patients.

Planned Parenthood gets about $500 million annually in federal funds. It has been under fire for months over a series of secretly filmed videos. Produced and posted online by an anti-abortion group, the videos purport to show Planned Parenthood doctors discussing the illegal sale of fetal tissue.

At the hearing, Richards repeated the organization's stance that it has done nothing wrong. "There's been a great deal of misinformation," she said. "The latest smear campaign is based on efforts by our opponents to trick doctors and clinicians into breaking the law ... and our opponents failed."

Democrats on the panel defended the group and questioned Republicans' motives.

"The disrespect, the misogyny rampant here today tells us what is really going on," said Democratic Representative Gerald Connolly. "This isn't about some bogus video.

"This is about some constitutional philosophy that says ... we believe in rugged individualism and personal liberty with one big carve-out, and that is except when it comes to women controlling their own bodies and making their own health decisions."

(Reporting by Megan Cassella; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Lisa Von Ahn)