October 16, 2015

Planned Parenthood leader talks about the videos and defunding

Earlier this month, there was a nationwide push to protest against Planned Parenthood. It was the second national call to action in the last two months.

Vicki Cowart 2014

CEO and President of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Vicki Cowart Photo: Courtesy of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains

Since July, anti-abortion activists have been calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood after short, highly-edited portions of a series of videos insinuated that the organization sold and profited from fetuses.

The CEO and President of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains was in Albuquerque on Friday and New Mexico Political Report sat down with her to talk about what her organization does and what would happen if they were defunded.

Vicki Cowart, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told New Mexico Political Report there has been some misunderstanding when talking about Planned Parenthood and funding.

“There’s not this big half-a-billion dollar grant that we get,” Cowart said. “The funding that we receive from the federal government, by in large, comes either in small grants or in the form of reimbursements for services that we provide to people who have Medicaid.”

It’s those who qualify for Medicaid, Cowart said, that would be affected if Congress were to  bar Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds.

Supporters of defunding the group have argued that there are other health care providers available other than Planned Parenthood.

Cowart does not argue that there are other health care options, but said those who rely on Medicaid may have to wait weeks before seeing a doctor without Planned Parenthood. She said the fight against Planned Parenthood is not new and boils down to restricting healthcare access to women who might not have resources to access healthcare otherwise.

“It’s about shutting down access for women to reproductive health care which enables them to take full part in life and be a part of every aspect of our society,” Cowart said.

Those who oppose Planned Parenthood have also criticized the group for allegedly selling fetuses for profit, an accusation that arose after a conservative group called The Center for Medical Progress released a series of edited videos that were filmed with hidden cameras.

Cowart partially credits the backlash from the videos as the reason Planned Parenthood recently announced they would stop taking money for fetal tissue. The money, Planned Parenthood had said, was for the costs of handling and transportation of fetal tissue donations. This is allowable by law.

“We want to take away the smokescreen,” Cowart said.

Cowart echoed the sentiment from the national Planned Parenthood organization and said the videos were highly edited and the activists “asked incredibly leading questions.”

A recent article about a Colorado rally in favor of Planned Parenthood reported that the FBI warned about threats against the group.

Cowart said her organization takes many precautions when it comes to the safety of employees and patients.

“We have a full security force and they have relationships with all the local law enforcement,”Cowart said.

With a smile, Cowart said she gets yelled at by protesters but takes it in stride.

“They scream out my name,” Cowart said. “They say, ‘You don’t have to go to hell, Vicki.’”