ITHACA, N.Y. — Over the last three months, Rep. Tom Reed has held three positions on the issue of federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

[do_widget id= text-55 ]

Before May, the Congressman from Corning — whose district includes the Ithaca area — voted against federal funding for the healthcare provider.

At a townhall meeting in May in Big Flats, NY, and then again at a meeting in Ithaca in June, Reed said that he would “stand with the funding for Planned Parenthood.”

On Friday, after a video surfaced showing a Planned Parenthood doctor coolly describing the procurement of fetal tissue for medical research over lunch, Reed reverted to his original position. The video, which promptly went viral, shocked many on both sides of the abortion debate.

Joining House Republicans, Reed said: “In light of the recent appalling revelations regarding Planned Parenthood, I join the voices calling for suspension of federal funding pending a full investigation into the alleged harvesting and sale of human body parts.”

Listen to the audio from Town Hall meeting:

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Reed added: “I understand what Planned Parenthood [in the Southern Finger Lakes region] does and the 12,000 folks impacted, potentially, by this decision.”

Republicans in Congress have called for an investigation into the video and the video’s allegations. In the Senate, a bill would end federal funding entirely, which amounts to about $528 million of the $1.3 billion Planned Parenthood takes in each year.

A bill proposing the defunding of Planned Parenthood failed in the Senate on Monday. A majority of 60 votes would have been needed to pass.

The video in question shows Dr. Deborah Nucatola, the medical director of Planned Parenthood, discussing in a cavalier manner the gruesome details of partial birth abortion, and the harvesting of fetal tissue.  It was widely criticized by both pro-life and pro-choice campaigners.

The video has now been viewed 2.7 million times on YouTube. Even the head of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, called the comments made by Dr Nucatola “unacceptable.”  She said, “I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.”

What does this mean for Planned Parenthood in Ithaca?

In Ithaca, the defunding that Congressman Reed called for would mean $2 million would be lost from both the Planned Parenthood center on West Seneca Street in Ithaca and from four other sister centers across the region. That’s around 30 percent of its total budget.

“None of those funds are used for abortion services, but rather together they help to reduce the need for abortion in our area,” says Joe Sammons, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes. The use of federal funding for most abortion services is already banned, he says, in accordance with the Hyde Amendment. (Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has barred the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, unless the case involves rape, incest or, if the termination would save the life of the mother.)

Rep. Reed. (Photo courtesy of his Facebook page)

“We provide high quality, preventive health care services in five different health centers to 12,500 people in our region,” said Sammons.

PPSFL serves four counties including Tompkins, Chemung, Steuben and Schuyler, through five different centers. They provide healthcare to 12,500 people in our region: roughly half of their patients live in Tompkins.

“For most of the communities we serve, we are one of the only — if not the only — safety net provider for patients and for community programs that answer real questions and provide real services,” Sammons said.  “Congressman Reed should not jeopardize any of that work based on the fraudulent attacks of a group with an extreme agenda.”

Official: “Six percent of our services are abortion services”

Sammons says that 94 percent of PPSFL services are designed to keep patients healthy, proving cancer screenings, STD/HIV testing, “well women” exams — like breast exams and PAP smears — transgender services and birth control.

“Six percent of our services are abortion services,” says Sammons.

The federal Title X funds that PPSFL receives are used to offer sliding fees – based on income – to patients, whether they have insurance or not.

In addition to the health services, PPSFL offers sex education and community based services such as the LGBT “Out for Health” program, and a Sexual Assault Resources Program (SARC), which is the rape crisis program in the three counties across the Southern Tier.

“It really is reckless and irresponsible for Congressman Reed to call for defunding that work,” says Sammons.

Congressman Reed’s spokesperson responded:

“As exemplified through numerous pieces of legislation he has introduced including the Campus Accountability and Safety Act and the International Violence Against Women Act, Tom has always supported access to care for women and resources for sexual assault victims. As such, he has supported the services for victims provided by Planned Parenthood.

“However, Tom has never supported taxpayer funding for abortion and in light of the recent videos he is calling for an investigation to ensure that current law prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion or selling of human tissue from abortion are not being broken.”

Ithaca’s Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes is one of the most politically active in the country

The Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes is one of the most politically active chapters in the nation. Last year, they canvassed 16,000 homes across the Finger Lakes region – a five county rural area. The goal was to combine fundraising with a “get out the vote” initiative.

“Over 60 percent of the people we visited were willing to identify themselves to a canvasser, right on their doorsteps, as a person who supports Planned Parenthood,” says Leslie Danks Burke, founding chairperson of the PPSFL Action, the advocacy arm of PPSFL.

“This high rate of vocal support does not surprise me, because I know how vital Planned Parenthood’s health care and education services are to the 22,000 people we serve across the Southern Finger Lakes each year.”

Provided photo

Danks Burke, who ran for the Congressional seat in 2012 but lost in a Democratic primary, strongly criticized Reed and said that she was “deeply disappointed in Congressman Reed’s call to cut off Medicaid for families who rely on Planned Parenthood for basic health care.

“Last May, Congressman Reed promised to ‘stand with the funding for Planned Parenthood,’” she said. “To now embrace Washington politics at its worst and go back on his word is irresponsible.”

***

Read Tom Reed’s Statement in full:

“In light of the recent appalling revelations regarding Planned Parenthood, I join the voices calling for suspension of federal funding pending a full investigation into the alleged harvesting and sale of human body parts.

“I care about protecting women’s health and will continue to support efforts by community organizations which provide access to women’s healthcare and counseling for victims of sexual assault. However, I have never supported taxpayer funding for abortion and it’s only fair to taxpayers that funding be suspended until such time that we can ensure no taxpayer dollars are used in support of these appalling practices as they callously disregard the value of human life.”

[do_widget id= text-61 ]

Melissa Whitworth

Melissa Whitworth is a freelance journalist, specializing in features and profile interviews. Email her at mwhitworth@ithacavoice.com or click on the icons in the top right for more.