September 16, 2015 — The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has issued a subpoena calling for the Center for Medical Progress, an antiabortion-rights group, to submit unedited footage of the videos it secretly recorded involving Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue research, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Fram, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/15).
CMP secretly filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization has said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations and only receives reimbursement for costs associated with such donations, which is legal. Meanwhile, supporters of Planned Parenthood have said the videos are part of a decades-long campaign against the organization (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/21).
In August, Planned Parenthood submitted a report to Congress that found CMP's videos were heavily manipulated, making them unreliable for official inquiries into the organization.
Last month, House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) began probing whether CMP violated any state or federal laws in its video campaign against Planned Parenthood. He noted that CMP's "disturbing actions raise questions about whether [CMP] has broken federal or state laws and whether some members of Congress may have been aware of these potentially illegal activities before they were made public earlier this year" (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/15).
Cummings noted that CMP has failed to present a "single document" as part of the investigation, according to the AP/Chronicle.
Planned Parenthood spokesperson Eric Ferrero said Planned Parenthood supports the committee's decision to subpoena the information, noting that "it will only show how heavily edited and deceptive these videos are" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/15).
Conservatives Consider Reconciliation for Defunding Planned Parenthood
In related news, some congressional conservatives are weighing whether to use a specific legislative maneuver to defund Planned Parenthood, CQ Roll Call reports (Krawzak, CQ Roll Call, 9/15). The budget reconciliation process allows certain bills to pass with a simple majority, which would allow conservatives to avoid a filibuster (Dumain, "218," Roll Call, 9/15). If lawmakers move forward with the plan, they would add a provision defunding Planned Parenthood to a reconciliation measure that seeks to repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) (CQ Roll Call, 9/15).
Following the release of the CMP videos, some conservatives called for Congress to defund Planned Parenthood. Further, some have said they will not support any government spending measure that includes funding for the organization. The government will shut down after Sept. 30 if lawmakers do not pass a continuing resolution to keep it funded through mid-December. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have indicated they oppose shutting down the government.
Meanwhile, several standalone measures to defund Planned Parenthood have been introduced, including a bill (HR 3134) proposed by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), a bill (HB 3443) from Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), and a measure (S 1881) from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/14).
The Senate earlier this summer blocked S 1881 in a 53-46 vote (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/4).
President Obama has said he would veto any measure that defunds Planned Parenthood ("218," Roll Call, 9/15).
The House could draft the reconciliation measure as soon as this month, according to CQ Roll Call.
However, it is not clear whether Congress could even include the defunding language in a reconciliation measure. The Byrd rule "prohibits provisions which have budgetary effects that are merely incidental to the non-budgetary components of the provision," according to Ed Lorenzen, a senior adviser to the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. He added, "A provision denying funds to Planned Parenthood is primarily a non-budgetary policy which at most will have small incidental savings" (CQ Roll Call, 9/15).