BY JEFF HORSEMAN | The Press-Enterprise
A state legislative committee Tuesday, Aug. 25 rejected an Inland assemblywoman’s request for an audit of Planned Parenthood to ensure the organization is not illegally profiting from the donation of tissue from aborted fetuses.
Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, asked the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to approve a probe of state Medi-Cal reimbursements to determine if Planned Parenthood broke the law by profiting off fetal tissue donations, an allegation advanced by secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood officials by a pro-life group.
Planned Parenthood has said the videos were deceptively edited and that the organization only seeks to cover the cost of shipping fetal tissue, which is used in medical research.
The audit committee consists of assembly members and senators who review and give the go-ahead for state audits. Local members including Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, as well as Sens. Richard Roth, D-Riverside and Connie Leyva, D-Chino.
Speaking before the committee, Melendez, who is pro-life, said she was not out to harm Planned Parenthood. But if a law enforcement agency that confiscates guns was seen on video discussing selling those weapons, there would be no question about the need for an audit, she said.
“Maybe nothing is being done that is illegal and wouldn’t it be great if you could put that to bed?” Melendez asked.
Roth and Leyva, however, were skeptical that any evidence existed of Planned Parenthood’s wrongdoing.
“In the absence of evidence, I’m wondering how we justify the audit and the request,” Roth said.
Leyva said while she doesn’t think Melendez was on a witch hunt, it’s important to conduct an audit based on facts.
“Women need these services,” Leyva said. “And if we continue to go after Planned Parenthood or any entity that is helping women and we don’t have our ducks in a row … then I think we are doing them and the women they serve a disservice.”
Jones, who represents Idyllwild, Aguanga and Anza, said enough evidence existed to support an audit.
Planned Parenthood officials spoke against the audit. Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said the videos were part of a smear campaign to “end Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue research and women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care.”
No money from Medi-Cal, a state health insurance program for the poor, goes toward fetal tissue donations, said Beth Parker, Planned Parenthood chief legal counsel. Planned Parenthood follows all state and federal laws and the organization’s participation in Medi-Cal is heavily regulated, she said.
Dozens of people supporting and opposing the audit appeared at the hearing in Sacramento.