A Nebraska audit revealed this week that Planned Parenthood appears to have illegally funded its abortion practices with federal tax dollars in 2015, according to a state news report.
The Omaha World-Herald reports state auditor Charlie Janssen discovered that Planned Parenthood of the Heartland used at least $3,500 in tax dollars for physicians fees, staff salaries and pathology work related to abortions in Nebraska. Federal law prohibits the money, which comes from a federal family planning program, from being used for abortions.
“It appears Planned Parenthood of the Heartland provided abortion services but billed those services to the state as family planning,” said Taylor Gage, a spokesman for Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts. “This dovetails exactly with the governor’s concerns from almost a year ago about Planned Parenthood’s abortion activities.”
Gage told the news outlet that the governor ordered “an immediate review of the findings.” Ricketts also began investigations of abortion facilities last year after undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress showed top Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of aborted babies’ body parts. State investigators found multiple violations, LifeNews reported.
According to the latest news report:
The state auditor reviewed a two-month period of operations by Planned Parenthood as they related to family planning funding during the 2015 fiscal year. HHS officials reviewed the audit results and said they agreed with them.
In the report, auditors noted:
One payment of $1,970 for physician fees. The report did not identify the physician, but indicated no other family planning fees were paid to the doctor based upon Planned Parenthood’s annual ledger.
$1,260 in pathology expenditures related to what Planned Parenthood called “products of conception.” The phrase refers to placental or fetal tissue collected during an abortion. A staff member told auditors that the expenditures should have been coded to abortion services.
$255 in travel reimbursements that were not consistent with time sheets and “appeared related to abortion services.”
$52 for two hours of on-call time paid to a clinic manager related to abortion services.
A Planned Parenthood of the Heartland spokesperson blamed a coding error for the misuse of funds, and said they are taking steps to fix the problem.
“Obviously staff miscoding time is not something specific to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland,” Angie Remington said. “Coding errors are not uncommon in the health care profession.”
Remington also claimed the finding was “politically motivated.”
However, Janssen said the state did not specifically target Planned Parenthood. The finding came as a result of a larger state audit of agencies that receive at least half a million dollars in federal funds, he said.
“We just want to make sure the money is spent in the manner it is intended to be spent, whether we agreed with it or not,” Janssen said.
The findings will be turned over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which will decide what action to take against the abortion group, according to the report.
Janssen said Planned Parenthood is not likely to lose its federal tax money because of the findings.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has been accused of illegally using tax money to fund abortions before. Former Planned Parenthood director Sue Thayer filed a lawsuit Thayer v. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, that claims the abortion business submitted “repeated false, fraudulent, and/or ineligible claims for reimbursements” to Medicaid.
“No person, no business should view a woman’s body as a profit center, yet that is exactly what Planned Parenthood does,” Thayer wrote in an opinion column for The Des Moines Register last September. “As the former director of two Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa, I know first-hand how massive are the profits and how terrible are the costs generated by their predatory practices on women and girls. And all the while, our tax dollars have been helping them do it.”
According to the lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Thayer, Planned Parenthood knowingly committed Medicaid fraud from 2002 to 2009 by improperly seeking reimbursements from Iowa Medicaid Enterprise and the Iowa Family Planning Network for products and services not legally reimbursable by those programs.
The lawsuit alleges that Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa, an affiliate now known as Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, filed nearly one-half million false claims with Medicaid from which Planned Parenthood received and retained nearly $28 million. If Thayer prevails, Planned Parenthood could be ordered to pay the United States and Iowa as much as $5.5 billion in False Claims Act damages and penalties.