I spent about 2.5 hours watching the Planned Parenthood hearing. Its purpose was to examine the use of federal funding in their national office and affiliates. I will refrain from sharing my stance on this issue because it is irrelevant to the purpose of this post. Instead I will focus on what happened during the hearing. My disappointment is equally distributed amongst everyone involved and my intent is bring light to why this hearing was in my opinion ineffective.
Behavior of the Members of Congress– It is unknown to me why the congressmen and congresswomen were allowed to speak to Ms. Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood, the way they did. They ranted at her and often times did not allow her adequate time to answer their questions. They fired facts at her that she had no chance to dispute or confirm. They asked questions in “yes or no” form that often required a more detailed response yet they did not allow for such a reply. Overall, I found their aggressive nature to be ill-mannered and disturbing. It seems like our elected officials should engage with a witness in a way that shows respect and does not badger or intimidate them out of answering a question effectively. I will not make the argument that she was treated this way because she was a woman as some members of congress did. I will however, express my extreme disappointment that any person who is there to testify to congress could be treated with such a lack of respect. I was genuinely taken aback by their often harsh tones and their lack of basic manners. I expect more from our elected officials.
CEO: Ms. Richards- I am certain that Ms. Richards and her team are highly intelligent people. However, I was deeply disappointed in many of her answers to the questions she was asked. She often replied with “I can’t confirm”, “ I am not sure”, or “I do not have that information in front of me”. This is unacceptable. An organization who is so often critiqued and questioned should be diligent and thorough in their preparation for a hearing like this one. They should have fully prepared for any form of question and prepared Ms. Richards to respond to the rapidly fired inquiries concisely and quickly to convey her point clearly. She is the sole person representing the organization in front of many members of congress and it is of the utmost importance to planned parenthood supporters and patients that she be well equipped to defend the organization. Nonprofit CEO’s should be well-informed about every nook and cranny of their organization to be able to defend any penny spent or raised and activities conducted in the organizations name. This may be a slightly unrealistic request but often times the people demand this type of knowledge and when a hearing is called to examine what you have, how you spend it and what you do, it seems like something you would want to know.
Lack of Objectivity-A congressional hearing does not seem like the pLace to divulge personal information about previous health care experiences with Planned Parenthood or how much you value your daughters and mothers. Nor should it be the place where you advocate for your anti-abortion agenda. This hearing is not for the members of congress to express their own opinions of this organization in the mere 5 minutes they have to speak and ask questions. The purpose of this hearing is to address facts regarding the funding they receive from the federal government. I find it unprofessional and inappropriate to bring personal experiences and private emotions into a conversation that should be operating on a facts only. If Planned Parenthood is or has broken the law then they should be dealt with accordingly. If they have not, then they should continue on. This hearing was far too emotional for a government setting.
I admit that I am no expert on congressional hearings or the intricacies of federal funding. But as an American, I was disappointed in how we treated a voluntary witness. As a former nonprofit employee, I was bothered by her seemingly unpreparedness on key issues. And as a person, I resented the lack of objectivity they showed in their choice of statements and questions.
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