This morning, the Virginia Department of Health held an Informal Fact Finding Conference on Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia's Certificate of Public Need application to expand its Virginia Beach center to include two operating rooms. This hearing comes on the heels of the department's initial denial of Planned Parenthood's request. The issue of the expansion has been the subject of media attention (see our commentary) since The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot uncovered ties between people involved with the center and Dr. Steven Brigham in March. This morning's proceedings operated much like a court hearing, in which Doug Harris, the Health Department's adjudication officer, heard testimony from counsel on both sides, as well as from witnesses on Planned Parenthood's behalf. At the hearing, Planned Parenthood first claimed its expansion would be for the purpose of surgically treating conditions such as chronic pelvic pain, suspicious breast lumps and incontinence, specifically for low-income, uninsured women.

But while discussing the details of the regulatory and licensing process, Harris stated:

Operating rooms are approved in Virginia and are fungible. There are no subsets of ORs. An OR is an OR is an OR under the regulatory umbrella. If you did something outside your COPN authorizing, there’s nothing we can do about it because the license is for a general OR.

Harris then pointedly asked Planned Parenthood's legal counsel, Steve Rosenthal, what its intention is regarding second and third trimester abortions. Rosenthal paused and said, "There is no intent about third trimester abortions."

What about second trimester abortions? The attorney seemed to cleverly dodge the question and provide a glimpse into the real motive for Planned Parenthood's expansion — more abortions. Finally! A shred of honesty from Planned Parenthood — an implicit admission of its goal to perform second trimester abortions if its COPN application is approved.

Rosenthal's statement contradicts what had been Planned Parenthood's public position to this point. When asked in May 2011 if it would perform second or third trimester abortions (a procedure not allowed in abortion centers in Virginia) if its application was granted, Dr. Bob Rashti (Planned Parenthood's CEO at that time) promised The Virginian-Pilot, "As long as I’m CEO, certainly not." Conveniently, Dr. Rashti retired on July 1 and the center's new CEO, Patrick Hurd, has not issued a similar guarantee. Mr. Hurd was noticeably absent at today's hearing, while Dr. Rashti was present as a "volunteer."

Of course, none of this comes as any surprise to the pro-life community and today's testimony simply confirms The Family Foundation's suspicions regarding Planned Parenthood's intent. Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion center who is now pro-life, sheds light on Planned Parenthood goals:

The bottom line about Planned Parenthood is that it's about all the numbers. … there is an abortion quota … 98 percent of Planned Parenthood services to pregnant women are abortion services. There is only money for Planned Parenthood in abortion services. … My superiors actually instructed me to increase the number of abortions at my facility.

Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood of America recently ordered all of its centers to begin performing abortions or lose affiliation with the parent group. In keeping with Ms. Johnson's account of the inner workings of Planned Parenthood, it is not hard to see that the Virginia Beach COPN application is just another attempt by a Planned Parenthood abortion center to increase its abortion numbers and, as a result, its profits. It’s unfortunate that Planned Parenthood chooses to use low-income and uninsured women as a marketable facade for its real motives.

Planned Parenthood took the next hour of the COPN hearing to cast a haze over its brief glimpse of honesty. It presented five witnesses (the surgical coordinator, a board member, a client, the medical director/doctor, and Dr. Rashti), all of whom reinforced the non-abortion surgical needs for low-income/uninsured women in the Virginia Beach area — a clever mask for an ignoble cause.

We discovered another interesting development today — Planned Parenthood's relationship with taxpayer-funded Eastern Virginia Medical School. Dr. Thomas Kimble, Planned Parenthood's Virginia Beach Medical Director as well as a professor at EVMS, said:

[EVMS has] had to refer patients from the academic center to Planned Parenthood. ... We have a formal rotation for our medical students to rotate through Planned Parenthood.

Taxpayer dollars funneled to the university should not be used to support Planned Parenthood and its destruction of human life. This is an unacceptable practice and The Family Foundation will discuss how to correct this issue with state lawmakers.

When asked to describe the Virginia Beach Planned Parenthood center, Dr. Rashti said, "Our organization is not driven by financial goals, but driven by reaching low-income women. That is our mission.” He later clarified, "That is our basic mission."

More accurately, that is what it says its mission is. There is no other way to couch it — Planned Parenthood is laser-focused on abortion and any attempt to disguise that simply is a public smokescreen. While a decision regarding the final status of its COPN application will not be rendered until February 2012 at the earliest, Planned Parenthood must be stopped at all costs from performing second trimester abortions in its Virginia Beach center and further destroying innocent human life.