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During debate on a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., alluded to secretly recorded videos that prompted the legislation, then he made a claim about the group’s political activity.
"If you watch this debate, you have to ask: How could anybody defend the practices at Planned Parenthood?" Duffy said on the House floor on Sept. 18, 2015, the day the House approved the one-year defunding.
"Harvesting body parts. How could anybody defend that? It’s an easy answer. Look in (the) political season. Millions of dollars, millions of dollars are spent by Planned Parenthood to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives and to the Senate. This isn’t about babies; this is about money."
A reader asked us to check Duffy’s claim.
The videos, the funding
The videos, first released in July 2015, show Planned Parenthood officials offhandedly discussing how they sometimes procure tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research. The anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress, which recorded the videos, alleges Planned Parenthood is illegally profiting from fetal organ sales. But Planned Parenthood says it has done nothing illegal, and that the videos were edited in a misleading way.
The defunding bill, which has yet to be taken up by the U.S. Senate, would end federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, diverting the money to thousands of community health centers. Republicans say those clinics could handle the displaced Planned Parenthood patients, but Democrats say the centers are overburdened and sometimes in remote locations.
Planned Parenthood gets around $450 million each year in federal payments, mostly Medicaid reimbursements for handling low-income patients. That's around one-third of the organization's $1.3 billion annual budget.
As for Planned Parenthood’s political activity, some of this ground was covered when Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina made a similar claim. She said Planned Parenthood "funnels millions of dollars in political contributions to pro-abortion candidates."
PolitiFact National rated the statement Mostly True. Millions have been spent.
But the caveat is that the operational, medical clinics of Planned Parenthood cannot spend money in politics -- separate entities that are affiliated with Planned Parenthood can.
Duffy’s claim was a little different -- that Planned Parenthood spent millions to elect Democrats to the House and Senate. We found, using figures from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, that that was this case.
In the 2014 election cycle alone, Planned Parenthood-affiliated groups that can't give directly to candidates or coordinate with them, such as Planned Parenthood Votes, a Super PAC, made over $6 million in independent expenditures.
That included $1.85 million spent in support of Democrats and $2.87 million spent against Republicans.
"In addition, Planned Parenthood's PAC gave nearly $590,000 to congressional candidates, all of them Democrats."
The numbers would be higher, of course, if previous cycles were included.
Duffy said: "Millions of dollars are spent by Planned Parenthood to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives and the Senate."
By law, the operational, medical clinics of Planned Parenthood cannot spend money in politics. But separate entities that are affiliated with Planned Parenthood can, and they spent millions just in the 2014 election cycle to elect Democrats.
We rate Duffy’s statement Mostly True.
CSPAN, video of (quote at 2:39:37), Sept. 18, 2015
Email exchange, U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy press secretary Cassie Smedile, Oct. 7, 2015
PolitiFact National, "Carly Fiorina says Planned Parenthood gives ‘millions’ to candidates (Mostly True)," Oct. 5, 2015
Associated Press, "House OKs GOP bill blocking Planned Parenthood funds," Sept. 18, 2015
Center for Responsive Politics, Planned Parenthood 2014 cycle profile
Center for Responsive Politics, Planned Parenthood 2014 cycle contributions to federal candidates
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