After Giving Free Pass to Planned Parenthood Head, Spitzer Batters FRC's Tony Perkins Over Abortion Funding

It was an obvious contrast in demeanor last week, Eliot Spitzer's lapdog interview of the president of Planned Parenthood and his aggressive sparring with social conservative Tony Perkins. Spitzer simply let Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards air her spin on the organization, but went after the Family Research Council's (FRC) Perkins from the get-go on CNN Thursday night.

Consider the statements Richards made last Wednesday night that Spitzer was content not to scrutinize: Planned Parenthood has received "enormous support" from both Democrats and Republicans, the organization is "very transparent" about its services, Planned Parenthood reduces need for abortions through family planning, and the recent efforts by Congress and state legislatures to cut its funding "were to eliminate access for women to get access to life-saving breast cancer screenings, pap smears, and birth control."

Spitzer is no foe of the pro-choice movement. It was known that he was pro-abortion as New York's governor and attorney general. A NARAL New York PAC bragged about being "central" to his election as attorney general in 1998. He was pushing a pro-abortion bill as governor before he was ousted in a prostitution scandal in March of 2008.

In the Perkins interview, Spitzer grilled the FRC head over his assumption that Planned Parenthood has been implicated in multiple scandals involving covering for child prostitution and improper funding. Spitzer outright told Perkins that he was guilty of slandering Planned Parenthood.

Perkins was steadfast in his accusations. "Let me tell your listeners, your viewers, to go to LiveAction.com and they can see for themselves the undercover video that was filmed in Planned Parenthood clinics that shows them covering and facilitating sex trafficking. And then let your viewers make that decision for themselves," he told the news host. Spitzer wouldn't buy that, conveniently ignoring the accusations made by Live Action.

Meanwhile, Spitzer even took Cecile Richards' spin as his own words. Richards had claimed that Planned Parenthood works "like every other hospital in America, every other medical provider" in ensuring federal money covers health care, but not abortions. Spitzer then used those words as fact against Perkins.

"The structure that Planned Parenthood has, that you're saying should prohibit their getting any federal money, is identical to the structure that every hospital in the United States has," Spitzer claimed. "Hospitals provide abortions. Hospitals cannot use federal money to provide those abortions. They segregate those services. They account for them separately, just the way Planned Parenthood does."

Perkins argued that the tax dollars are fungible go to underwrite abortions at Planned Parenthood. "Dollars are fungible," he insisted. "And so what is happening is government tax dollars are being used to underwrite the overhead of Planned Parenthood doing abortions."

For a transcript of the segment, which aired on June 16 at approximately 8:28 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

ELIOT SPITZER: In tonight's American issues segment, the return of the highly-charged battle over abortion rights and the funding of the procedure. Three states have voted to eliminate Planned Parenthood's funding and three more states are about to do the same. Last night, I spoke with the organization's president Cecile Richards, and she had this to say.

(Video Clip)

CECILE RICHARDS, president, Planned Parenthood Federation of America: I think it's a political miscalculation, Eliot. I think that they are playing politics with women's health care. And when you talk about – we're not even talking about abortion here. The moves by these legislatures, and the efforts by the U.S. Congress were to eliminate access for women to get access to life-saving breast cancer screenings, pap smears and birth control. And the American people don't want that.

(End Video Clip)

SPITZER: Joining me now from Washington is someone who has been working feverishly to cut Planned Parenthood's funding, Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council. Tony, thanks for joining us.

TONY PERKINS, president, Family Research Council: Good evening, Eliot.

SPITZER: Let me begin with this question. Aren't you trying to prevent the government from funding health care services that are constitutionally protected, services the Supreme Court has said women should have access to?

PERKINS: No, not at all. I mean, this is not about health care. In fact, all of the procedures in terms of health care are still being funded in these states. What's being done here is that funding to the nation's largest abortion provider is being redirected. And so –  in fact, take Indiana, for instance. Under the Indiana provision, there are about 34 sites that are affected in 21 counties.
These are Planned Parenthood clinics. They'll no longer be able to receive federal tax dollars if they're involved – or state tax dollars – if they're involved in abortion-providing, if they provide abortions. But in those same 21 counties, they're 800 other eligible providers, so this is not about cutting health care.

SPITZER: Tony, let me just put up on the screen so folks can see, a diagram, a pie chart that shows what Planned Parenthood does. I mean, you can see 16 percent of what it does is cancer prevention. 35 percent is contraception, you know, sexually transmitted disease, testing and treatment, 35 percent. Only three percent is abortion-related services and absolutely no money by law can go to that. We agree. I think you would agree with me, no money goes to abortion services as a matter of law right now. Can we agree on that point?

PERKINS: That's correct.

SPITZER: OK. So what you're trying to do then is say the organization, because three percent of its services are abortion-related, all the other stuff that we just put up on the chart – they shouldn't be able to do that.

PERKINS: No. No, they're not prohibited from doing that. They can choose. Now that three percent represents 37 percent of their profit. Now I would say that also, that three percent is not an accurate number because Planned Parenthood uses fuzzy math. If somebody comes in and they get a birth control method and they have some other thing done, that's not counted as one. That's counted as multiple. So the math is a little fuzzy. But let's stick with the three percent. It's still 37 percent of their billion dollars' worth of revenue that they bring in. Now they take in about $336 million in government money.

SPITZER: That's correct.

PERKINS: What's being said here is a very bright line is being drawn, where if you want to provide these health care services and receive government money, you can.

SPITZER: But Tony –

PERKINS: But you cannot be doing abortions, too, because these are being done in the same facilities. You could have the same receptionist. The same overhead is being covered. Dollars are fungible. And so what is happening is government tax dollars are being used to underwrite the overhead of Planned Parenthood doing abortions.

SPITZER: I'm sorry I didn't mean to interrupt. But we just agreed no federal dollars are permitted under any circumstances, anywhere in the United States to go to abortion services. That's the Hyde Amendment.

PERKINS: Directly to – directly to the procedure of abortion.

SPITZER: Right.

PERKINS: But you can carry the overhead so that all of that abortion revenue, that 37 percent of their revenue is pure profit.

SPITZER: But Tony –

PERKINS: And over the last five years – over the last 10 years, they've made over $500 million in profit from the services they've provided.

SPITZER: Wait, Tony, here's the thing. The structure that Planned Parenthood has, that you're saying should prohibit their getting any federal money is identical to the structure that every hospital in the United States has. Hospitals provide abortions. Hospitals cannot use federal money to provide those abortions. They segregate those services. They account for them separately, just the way Planned Parenthood does. They also, these hospitals, provide cancer treatment, STD treatment, contraception, all the things that are both legal and necessary. So your argument would apply to every major hospital in the United States.

PERKINS: Eliot, what we're talking about here is the same thing that was in place up until Bill Clinton was president. Prior to Bill Clinton becoming president and by executive order, changing the rules, Title 10 funding could not go through an organization going into a same facility that did both abortions and family planning. Because this is government money, and over 70 percent of taxpayers are opposed to their money going to underwrite the cost of abortions, this is simply drawing a bright clear line of distinction. Either you do the health care or you do the abortion.

SPITZER: Am I right though? I will concede that point – way back, the rules were different. But in today's world, the laws and rules that apply to every major hospital permit hospitals, and in fact, hospitals do exactly what Planned Parenthood does. They keep all the funding for abortion separate. They provide the entire panoply of medical services, and they keep all the federal money away from the abortions exactly the way Planned Parenthood – am I correct? I mean, just as a matter of fact, am I correct that these are identical situations?

PERKINS: Well, I would say that I'm not certain that they are, in part because Planned Parenthood, in what has brought them to the forefront and has made them the focus of the work of legislators across the state, it's because they've been implicated in improper funding, as well as covering for child prostitution, not reporting underage women or girls coming in for abortions. They have some legal trouble. This has come to the forefront. During the whole health care debate with President Obama –

 SPITZER: Tony, Tony –

PERKINS: – it was made very clear that Americans did not want to underwrite this type of behavior.

SPITZER: Tony, I've just got to interrupt you right there and I apologize. You just made a series of undocumented, unproven comments about Planned Parenthood.

PERKINS: No, no.

SPITZER: Wait. Listen. Wait a minute, Tony. You are building, trying to build a case that is simply not accurate and fair to Planned Parenthood. Wait a minute, Tony. You want to agree that they should not have federal funding for abortion services, we can have that. But to try to slander the organization and say they're involved in prostitution and failure – I'm not going to let you get away with that, because that's simply not factually the case.

PERKINS: OK. Let me tell your listeners, your viewers, to go to liveaction.com and they can see for themselves the undercover video that was filmed in Planned Parenthood clinics that shows them covering and facilitating sex trafficking. And then let your viewers make that decision for themselves.

SPITZER: Tony, we can have a principled conversation about how where federal funds should go. You know and I know Planned Parenthood is a principled organization.

PERKINS: No, we don't know that. We cannot agree on that.

SPITZER: We disagree with some of their principles and that's fair game for debate, but do not try to implicate them there. I think you demean your own arguments which I'll respect, but not when you go there, Tony.

PERKINS: It's been turned order to law enforcement. It's been turned over to federal officials. It's documented. It's true.

SPITZER: Tony, look, you're not serving yourself well. We can have a fair debate about the other stuff. Look, let's continue this down the road. Time is short. You know how TV works. But I want you to come back. We'll continue this conversation because you haven't really answered the question. Planned Parenthood is just like every hospital. They do it the same way every hospital does.

PERKINS: No. They're not, Eliot. I'll be happy to continue the conversation.

SPITZER: Tony, thanks for coming on. We will continue it. I appreciate your coming on.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center