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Abortion-Rights Advocates Blast Congressional Hearing on Planned Parenthood

Abortion-Rights Advocates Blast Congressional Hearing on Planned Parenthood

September 10, 2015 — Abortion-rights supporters on Wednesday reiterated their support for Planned Parenthood, while the organization criticized a congressional hearing on Planned Parenthood that failed to include any Planned Parenthood representatives, The Hill's "Briefing Room" reports (Hensch, "Briefing Room," The Hill, 9/9).

Background

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday held a hearing on Planned Parenthood, following the release of a series of misleading videos targeting the organization. The videos, which depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation, were released by an antiabortion-rights group called the Center for Medical Progress. 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 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.

In August, Planned Parenthood submitted a report to Congress that found the videos were heavily manipulated, making them unreliable for official inquiries into the organization.

The hearing on Wednesday included testimony from Priscilla Smith, director of Yale Law School's Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice, and James Bopp, general counsel for National Right to Life, as well as testimony from two women who are antiabortion-rights advocates. The hearing did not include any representatives from Planned Parenthood or CMP (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/9).

Abortion-Rights Supporters Blast Hearing

On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood criticized lawmakers for not asking the organization to testify at the congressional hearing. Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the hearing "political theater at its very worst," adding, "It's clear this hearing was not about Planned Parenthood -- it was a chance for anti-abortion extremists and members of Congress to promote their political agenda of banning abortion in this country" ("Briefing Room," The Hill, 9/9).

Separately, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the decision to not call CMP to the hearing meant "that the committee didn't have a shred of evidence that Planned Parenthood" had violated the law (Ferris, The Hill, 9/9).

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) on Wednesday also expressed support for Planned Parenthood, saying the organization is one of the most important institutions in the U.S. "It helps women, women of color, poor women, and it gives them a choice -- as the Supreme Court gave them choice," he said, adding, "This hearing is about abortion, and I support Roe v. Wade" ("Briefing Room," The Hill, 9/9).

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called conservatives' attacks on Planned Parenthood part of a larger campaign against women's reproductive health and family planning. She said, "Since I have been here -- it's 28 years -- [conservatives] have been out to get Planned Parenthood," adding, "This is more than Planned Parenthood. It's about women, it's about reproductive freedom, it's about respect for women's judgment about the sizing and timing of their families" (Lillis, The Hill, 9/9).

According to The Hill, Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), after receiving criticism Wednesday about the one-sided testimony, said the hearing would be one of two inquires. He did not offer further details (Ferris, The Hill, 9/9).

Boehner Warns Against Shutting Down Gov. Over Planned Parenthood

In related news, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) during a meeting on Wednesday told fellow conservatives that shutting down the government as part of an effort to defund Planned Parenthood could undermine conservative lawmakers, according to sources at the meeting, Politico reports.

The government will shut down after Sept. 30 if lawmakers do not pass a continuing resolution to keep it funded through mid-December (Sherman, Politico, 9/9). Several lawmakers have proposed standalone measures that would defund the organization, 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). Meanwhile, 28 conservative lawmakers in the House have signed a letter saying they will not support any government spending measure that includes funding for Planned Parenthood (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/9).