The GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee is having themselves a very reasonable and neutral-sounding hearing on Planned Parenthood today, sensitively entitled “Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider.” Not invited to testify: a single person who works for Planned Parenthood.
The hearing’s witness list, with one exception, is a veritable who’s who of experts in the field of talking about abortion being evil and wrong: James Bopp Jr., a conservative attorney who serves as the general counsel of National Right to Life (and a host of other organizations, including the anti-gay Focus on the Family and the Susan B. Anthony List, another anti-abortion group), Gianna Jessen, pictured above, an anti-abortion activist who says she was born after a failed abortion, and Melissa Ohden, who also says she is an “abortion survivor.”
The only person not there to claim that abortion is a despicable horror enveloping the nation was Priscilla J. Smith, the senior fellow and director for the Study of Reproductive Justice at Yale Law, who testified that the videos produced by the rather sketchy Center for Medical Progress were unreliable and deceptively edited, and who patiently explained that defunding Planned Parenthood will lead to more unplanned pregnancies, which, you know, increases the number of abortions. She also pointed out, to a panel of deaf ears, that federal funds do not pay for abortions:
[T]here is an extreme mismatch between the concerns expressed over fetal tissue donation procedures and defunding the critical, nonabortion related health care services provided by Planned Parenthood. As HHS officials have emphasized recently, no federal funding supports abortions or health benefits coverage that includes abortions, except for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is endangered. 9 Instead, the only federal funds provided to Planned Parenthood cover “services such as annual wellness exams, cancer screenings, contraception, and the testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.”
But anyway, the point of the hearing wasn’t to listen to pesky facts about what Planned Parenthood actually does—it was for Republican lawmakers to parade their shock and concern for the fictional selling of fetuses all over CSPAN and hopefully in front of the eyes of their approving constituents. Here’s Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chair of the committee, praising the CMP and saying their videos showed “horrors” that called for new laws “to help protect innocent life nationwide.”
House Democrats—there are 16 of them on the committee, compared to 23 Republicans—responded sharply to the claims being made by the witnesses, as well as the entire fact of the hearing itself.
“I’m still not entirely sure what this hearing is about,” said Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, dryly. He pressed Bopp on whether he’d been told not to discuss the allegations of criminal activity against the Center for Medical Progress, who are accused of a variety of legal infractions in how they collected their undercover footage, as well as numerous IRS violations.
“That’s not what this hearing is about,” Bopp responded, a little peevishly.
Planned Parenthood responded to not being invited to their own hanging in two ways: they released a report detailing the years of failed smear attempts against the non-profit, dating back to 2000, the last time they were falsely accused of “selling baby parts” or fetal tissue. And Dawn Laguens, the vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, released a statement politely calling the witnesses “extremists” and the House Judiciary members a bunch of frothing time-wasters with a vendetta and evidently, no more pressing business to attend to. From the statement:
“This hearing was political theater at its very worst. From the provocative title to the slate of life-long anti-abortion activists invited to testify, 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.
“Millions of people across the country depend on Planned Parenthood for basic, reproductive health care. More than half of Planned Parenthood’s health centers are in rural or medically underserved areas, meaning that quite literally, without us, many of our patients would have nowhere else to go. These attacks against Planned Parenthood are fraudulent, have been widely discredited, and are intended to deceive the public in order to further an anti-abortion agenda. The public overwhelmingly rejects these baseless attacks and overwhelmingly supports federal funding for Planned Parenthood’s preventive services. This is not what people want to see Congress spending its time doing.”
Supporters for Planned Parenthood also appeared at the hearing, wearing bright pink t-shirts:
You can watch the last moments of the hearing live below:
Gianna Jessen testifies at today’s hearing. Image via AP.