November 25, 2015 — A congressional subcommittee formed to investigate how abortion providers practice medicine and conduct business will receive $300,000 in funding, which conservatives are appropriating from a $1 million reserve fund, USA Today reports (Troyan/Shesgreen, USA Today, 11/24).
The subcommittee is the fourth House committee to investigate Planned Parenthood following the release of a series of misleading videos targeting the organization. This specially created investigative panel is tasked with investigating an even broader target: providers of abortion care.
The subcommittee will be allowed to probe, among other topics, federal funding for health care providers who also provide abortion services and providers' practices for abortions later in pregnancy. The resolution (H Res 461) that created the subcommittee gave it 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."
According to Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the panel will have subpoena powers that it will use in consultation with the House speaker, who also will oversee the panel's budget and schedule. The panel 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.
Then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced the subcommittee's eight conservative members in October, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the subcommittee's six liberal members earlier this month (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/6). Separately, Blackburn last week named March Bell, a former attorney with the Department of Justice and a congressional staffer, as the subcommittee's staff director and chief counsel.
Panel member Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) said the subcommittee would likely hold its first hearing by the end of the year.
The Energy and Commerce Committee last week received $300,000, which the House Administration Committee allocated from a reserve fund for unexpected expenses during the 2015-2016 session of Congress. The money is expected to fund the investigation through Jan. 2.
According to USA Today, liberal lawmakers said they opposed the funding decision because there was not a public debate on the matter. They also said they did not believe the investigation should be paid for by public funds.
Rep. Robert Brady (D-Penn.) and two other Democrat lawmakers on the House Administration Committee in a letter wrote that they "believe spending one cent on this investigative panel would constitute an indefensible use of public funds if not a deliberate betrayal of public trust."
Separately, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said, "It's at [conservatives'] peril that they attack health care access for women in this country," adding, "Women are going to be watching" (USA Today, 11/24).