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House Members Urge Speaker To Disband Special Committee Investigating Abortion Providers

House Members Urge Speaker To Disband Special Committee Investigating Abortion Providers

December 2, 2015 — Following the shooting last week at a Colorado-based Planned Parenthood, six House members on Tuesday sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) urging him to dissolve a special House subcommittee created to probe abortion providers, McClatchy/Sacramento Bee reports (Whitley/Douglas, McClatchy/Sacramento Bee, 12/1).

Committee Details

The subcommittee was created earlier this year following the release of a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood. It is the fourth House committee to investigate the organization following the videos' release.

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."

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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/25).

Background on Colo. Clinic Shooting

Last week, a man opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., killing three individuals and injuring nine others. The suspect, Robert Dear, surrendered and was taken into custody. On Monday, a Colorado judge told Dear that he will be charged with first-degree murder.

Law enforcement has not disclosed the motivations behind the assault. However, following Dear's arrest, he reportedly made antiabortion-rights statements to law enforcement (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/1).

Letter Details

In the letter to Ryan, six House members wrote, "In the aftermath of the attack at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs last Friday, we strongly urge you to disband the Select Investigative Panel of the Committee on Energy and Commerce" (McClatchy/Sacramento Bee, 12/1).

The letter was signed by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.J.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) (letter from subcommittee members, 12/1).

At a press briefing on Tuesday, Speier said, "The incendiary language and rhetoric being used associated with this committee is disgusting." She added, "It's time for us to take down this committee and take down the vitriolic comments" (Ferris, The Hill, 12/1).

DeGette noted that Dear's reported antiabortion-rights comments were similar to language used by certain members of the subcommittee (McClatchy/Sacramento Bee, 12/1). Citing an increase in violence against Planned Parenthood amid the heated debate over abortion rights, DeGette said, "It is my humble suggestion, as a congresswoman from Colorado, that we all take it down a notch" (The Hill, 12/1).

According to The Hill's "Floor Action," the letter follows Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) call on Monday to end the committee's investigation. He said, "We should not fail to see the context in which this vile assault took place. Last summer, a right-wing group began releasing videos with unsubstantiated allegations. Since that time the [conservative-led] Congress have made it their mission to push these unsubstantiated allegations" (Carney, "Floor Action," The Hill, 11/30).

Planned Parenthood Opens New Clinic in Calif.

In related news, a new Planned Parenthood clinic opened on Tuesday in West Hollywood, Calif., Reuters reports. Sue Dunlap, president and CEO for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, said the ceremony celebrating the clinic's opening was intended partly to show Planned Parenthood's commitment to continue providing health care services.

According to Reuters, the clinic will provide a range of health care services, such as abortion care, breast exams, contraception, gynecological exams and testing for sexually transmitted infections. The clinic will also start offering medications aimed at reducing HIV infections.

With the addition of the new clinic, Planned Parenthood now operates 20 facilities in Los Angeles County (Russell, Reuters, 12/1).