October 8, 2015 — The House on Wednesday voted 242-184 to approve a resolution (H Res 461) to create a special Energy and Commerce subcommittee to investigate abortion procedures and fetal tissue procurement, AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Fram, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/7).
Three House committees have investigated Planned Parenthood since the antiabortion-rights group Center for Medical Progress started releasing misleading videos targeting the organization in July (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7). According to conservative lawmakers, the new, 13-member subcommittee aims to "deepen" those investigations, The Hill reports (Ferris, The Hill, 10/7).
The subcommittee will be allowed to probe, among other topics, federal funding for abortion providers and providers' practices for abortions later in pregnancy (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7). The resolution does not specifically mention Planned Parenthood (The Hill, 10/7). Rather, it gives the subcommittee the ability to investigate "medical procedures and business practices used by entities involved in fetal tissue procurement" and "any other relevant matters with respect to fetal tissue procurement" (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7).
According to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the subcommittee will have subpoena powers that it will use in consultation with the new House Speaker, who also will oversee the panel's budget and schedule (The Hill, 10/7).
The resolution does not allocate funding for the panel, nor does it estimate the cost of an investigation (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7). Further, the panel does not have a timeline for its investigation (The Hill, 10/7). However, it will be dissolved 30 days after it submits a report based on the investigation's findings. The subcommittee could recommend changes to laws and regulations based on its findings (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7).
According to The Hill, six of the 13 subcommittee slots are reserved for Democratic lawmakers (The Hill, 10/7). However, it is not clear whether Democratic lawmakers will participate in the subcommittee, according to Drew Hammill, spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/7).
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said, "Why do we spend time and funds and resources investigating an organization we know has done nothing wrong?" She added, "We are dealing with a majority that is obsessed with taking away constitutionally protected health care from women, many of whom are poor" (Zanona, CQ News, 10/7).
Similarly, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) said that the formation of a panel investigating Planned Parenthood "borders on an abuse of power" (The Hill, 10/7).