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Senate Fast Tracks Measure To Defund Planned Parenthood; Calif. AG Launches Investigation into Group Behind Videos

Senate Fast Tracks Measure To Defund Planned Parenthood; Calif. AG Launches Investigation into Group Behind Videos

July 27, 2015 — On Sunday, conservative leadership in the Senate finalized a procedural process to fast track a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, The Hill's "Floor Action" reports (Carney, "Floor Action," The Hill, 7/26).

Background

The amendment is part of conservative efforts to target Planned Parenthood after an antiabortion-rights group released two videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation.

The Center for Medical Progress secretly filmed the videos by posing as buyers of fetal tissue. The videos depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue collection and associated costs. Planned Parenthood stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization 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 said the videos are part of a decades-long campaign against the organization (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/24).

Defunding Measure Fast Tracked

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) finalized the fast tracking process on Sunday, which allows the measure to bypass the committee process and be scheduled directly for a Senate floor vote. The measure being fast-tracked for a Senate vote was originally proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) ("Floor Action," The Hill, 7/26).

According to The Hill, McConnell finalized the fast-tracking process on Sunday after rejecting an effort from other conservative lawmakers to add to an unrelated measure (HR 22), an amendment that also would defund Planned Parenthood (Ferris [1], The Hill, 7/26). Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Paul had hoped to add the amendment to the underlying bill ("Floor Action," The Hill, 7/26). However, McConnell last week used a separate procedural tactic to allow only two amendments to be added to the underlying bill, neither of which were the Planned Parenthood defunding amendment. According to The Hill, Lee's amendment was rejected because it was not germane to the underlying measure, which is focused on transportation funding.

On Sunday, Lee tried to override McConnell's decision and add the Planned Parenthood amendment but was unable to garner enough votes to do so (Ferris [1], The Hill, 7/26).

Calif. A.G. To Review CMP

In related news, California Attorney General Kamala Harris' (D) office said Friday it will review the Center for Medical Progress' tactics to decide whether the group's actions violated state law, the Sacramento Bee reports (Cadelago, Sacramento Bee, 7/24).

Lawmakers who support abortion rights have asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch (D) and Harris to investigate the legality of CMP's actions. Lynch already has said the Department of Justice is "going to review all the information and determine what steps, if any, to take at the appropriate time" (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/24).

Harris wrote in a letter released Friday, "We will carefully review the allegations raised in [the request] to determine whether there were any violations of California law." She added, "This office will also review any materials filed by the [CMP] with the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trusts to determine whether the organization violated laws including, but not limited to, our registration and reporting requirements" (Sacramento Bee, 7/24).

Richards Slams Groups for Staging Video Attack

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards on Sunday lambasted the "militant anti-abortion activists" behind the secretly recorded videos, The Hill reports.

During an appearance on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Richards called the videos "heavily edited" and "sensationalized." She noted that the group "lied to gain access to clinics" and was "absolutely trying to entrap doctors" with the footage.

Richards added that the tissue donation process discussed in the videos is "laudable" because "women and their families choose to make fetal tissue donations in order to potentially save the lives of other folks" (Ferris [2], The Hill, 7/26).

Planned Parenthood Hacked

In other related news, an antiabortion-rights group calling themselves 3301 on Sunday night claims to have hacked into Planned Parenthood and plan to make public the not-for-profit's website databases, as well as the names and email addresses of Planned Parenthood workers, the Daily Dot reports.

According to the Dot, one of the hackers said the attack was politically motivated. The group said they will decrypt and make public internal company emails "soon." There were no emails included in the first information release, the Dot reports (Turton, Daily Dot, 7/27).