One might be tempted to call this an interview, but it’s clearly not — it’s a one-on-one debate between MSNBC’s Tamron Hall and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN). The Congresswoman appeared on the MSNBC show to debate her standalone bill to defund Planned Parenthood through statute, which has two key features. One, it would pass separate from the budget, so that its debate would have no impact on votes for appropriations, which avoids a government shutdown. More importantly, a statutory ban on federal funding going to clinics that perform abortions would shut down statutory Medicaid funding as well as monies appropriated by Congress for Title X programs, shutting down the federal spigot altogether.
Hall then tries playing a gender card with Black — repeatedly — but Black came prepared:
Tamron Hall: Okay with that said, with this moratorium that you have proposed here on the funding, you and I both know that the Hyde Amendment prevents funds that go to Planned Parenthood to be used for abortion. That has been since 2011. We know that $500 million of government funding, mostly through Medicaid and federal family planning dollars go to subsidize birth control, cancer screenings, and women’s health services. What do you tell those women who will be effected in your moratorium if it goes through – that they will not have some of those services? Those women who are watching right now and see you as a female representative of this country – one of a very few honestly in that city on Capitol Hill – what do you tell those women?
Rep. Black: I’m so glad that you brought this issue up because there are 13,000 different [facilities] that provide these women’s health services across the country. Planned Parenthood puts most of their facilities in urban areas but these facilities would get this money if it doesn’t go to Planned Parenthood . . . health departments, faith-based organizations that provide these women’s services and in many way provide more than Planned Parenthood does. They actually provide mammograms, whereas Planned Parenthood does not provide those. If there’s a problem they have to refer them to these organizations. We did this in the state of Tennessee. We have found that there’s been an increase in the services to women – in preventive services – and the money is not being used for abortion. Which means women are getting more of those services that the money is really meant to give . . . Money is fungible. If you have a building on one side of the wall where you do abortions, on another side of the wall you’re doing women’s health services that are preventive services – the money is fungible. How do you say how the money is being used for the rent, for the gas and electric, and all the services that are being provided within one building? There is definitely a question about how much of that money is being used that goes from one side to the other.
Tamron Hall: And I think my question was though, [can’t] an investigation still take place [and] the resources still be in place while that happens? . . . Why eliminate, even if it’s one option for women, especially those who can’t afford it? Why eliminate even one?
Rep. Black: Because there are good resources out there for these women. We did it in the state of Tennessee and we’ve proven it can be done. As a matter of fact, our health departments – and I was still in the state senate in Tennessee when we did this – our health departments were saying, ‘We have to compete against Planned Parenthood, and it’s too difficult for us to compete.’ But when we were able to defund [Planned Parenthood] these health department folks came back to me and said ‘Thank you for doing this. We can now have more money. We can serve more women. And we can produce even more services to them. So they lose no services and the money is going truly where it needs to go and that is to provide women with good health services. Look, I’m a nurse. I want to make sure women have the services they need and this money can go to these facilities without providing money for abortion.
Tamron Hall: And you feel, as you pointed out, as a nurse – as someone who’s taken a pledge to provide the best healthcare possible, I would imagine, to those in need – again, going back to my question of removing this option . . . Do you understand why people might say … this investigation is not truly one about women’s health, it’s about John Boehner or about the ongoing conservative battle against Planned Parenthood and in the end those who are hurt are American women?
Rep. Black: Let me also go back to the fact that Planned Parenthood has been asked to come before the committee, they have refused to bring the doctors that were seen on these films to the committee. They were talking about how they have to have their lawyers and go through all that. If nothing is being done inappropriately, why is Ms. Richards not saying ‘I want to come before these committees? I want to be there.’ They’ve been invited, they will be invited again and I hope that they will show up to defend what is going on. And by the way, I’ve seen these films in total, they are not cut and paste. You can go and watch them and you can see that they are not a cut and paste, they are a full picture of the veil being broken of what’s going on behind those closed doors where fetal tissue is being harvested for a profit by Planned Parenthood.
That’s actually a very good question. Hall challenges Black to justify cutting off funds, but Planned Parenthood is not the only health service available to American women, and they are not automatically entitled to government funding. Congress has serious questions about their practices, and if they want their funding to continue, then Planned Parenthood should make these officials available for Congressional hearings. If they don’t want to cooperate, fine, but then Planned Parenthood had better learn to live without federal funding.
Let’s put this in another context. If an investigative journalist had undercover video evidence that Defense Contractor Incorporated violated labor laws and statutes involving environmental protection, then the same people who are painting Planned Parenthood as a public utility would demand that Congress haul the executives of that company into public hearings and cut off their contracts. How is this any different?
Anyway, kudos to a very well-prepared Rep. Diane Black, whose cheerful and comprehensive grasp of the controversy clearly confounds Hall by the end of the interview — er, debate.