GOP "Witch Hunt" Panel Concludes With Anti-Choice Plan of Attack

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GOP "Witch Hunt" Panel Concludes With Anti-Choice Plan of Attack

The highly-partisan House subcommittee recommends slashing federal funds to Planned Parenthood and a national 20-week abortion ban

 Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards acknowledged the "serious threat" posed by the Trump administration, but vowed "we will not go without a fight."(Photo: Lorie Shaull/cc/flickr)

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards acknowledged the "serious threat" posed by the Trump administration, but vowed "we will not go without a fight."(Photo: Lorie Shaull/cc/flickr)

Updated 3:35pm EDT:

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) confirmed Thursday that defunding Planned Parenthood will be included in the Republicans' "reconciliation" bill that also repeals the core of the Affordable Care Act.

Earlier:

House Republicans' anti-choice "witch hunt" against Planned Parenthood came to a close this week—after 15 months and $1.59 million—with an expansive final report that, unsurprisingly, recommends stripping federal funds from the women's healthcare provider.

The panel, known as the "Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives," was formed in October 2015 in response to the video smear campaign by anti-abortion activists that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials "selling" fetal tissue obtained through its procedures—regardless of the fact that the video producers were later indicted for fraud.

The 485-page final report (pdf), issued Tuesday, is the final salvo for the panel, which was not reestablished under the 115th Congress.

Citing the work of the deceptive video campaign, as well as subpoenas the group sent to dozens of clinics, procurement firms, and research institutions, the Republicans accuse Planned Parenthood of "violating federal laws by altering abortion procedures to obtain fetal tissue, disclosing patients' private information to firms that procure the tissue, and 'a general disinterest in clinical integrity,'" AP reported.

The panel's top Democrat, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), panned the report as "illegitimate," declaring in a press statement: "History will not look kindly upon this Panel."

"This Select Investigative Panel leaves behind a legacy of lies, intimidation, and procedural misconduct," Schakowsky continued. "It will be remembered, like the House Un-American Activities Committee and McCarthy hearings for its excesses and abuses of power."

"This Select Investigative Panel leaves behind a legacy of lies, intimidation, and procedural misconduct."
—Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)

Noting that separate investigations found no wrongdoing, Planned Parenthood vice president for public policy and government affairs Dana Singiser similarly said the report was "nothing more than a partisan attack on Planned Parenthood and women's access to safe and legal abortion."

Singiser added that the organization "has never profited while facilitating its patients' choice to donate fetal tissue for use in important medical research."

Nonetheless, the panel recommends cutting federal funding to the reproductive health care provider, something incoming President Donald Trump has also vowed to do.

Equally worrisome, noted Slate writer Christina Cauterucci, is how the report "lays out House Republicans' plans for continuing their attack on reproductive health care in the 115th Congress."

The panel calls for "enacting a law to protect unborn infants after 20 weeks gestation," which amounts to "an unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban," as Rewire's Christine Grimaldi put it.

Further, Grimaldi reported, the Republicans "sought to defund Planned Parenthood and give states 'greater flexibility' to defund family planning services writ large, effectively thwarting the Obama administration's recently finalized Title X rule. Such measures are already in the running for the coming congressional onslaught against reproductive justice, though such efforts will face marked Democratic resistance," she noted.

Further recommendations amounted to an anti-choice "wish list," though Grimaldi observed they "may be more difficult to achieve, even under GOP control in the legislative and executive branches."

"Planned Parenthood patients are immigrants, they're Muslims, they're LGBT folks, they're single parents, they're students. And all of the attacks that folks are anticipating going forward are ones that are already engaging our activists as well." —Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood

"Provisions such as creating an office within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to ensure enforcement of the so-called Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, and other anti-choice measures would presumably require new spending, whereas restrictions like a 20-week ban presumably wouldn't," she wrote.

Last month, Democrats on the panel issued their own report entitled "Setting the Record Straight: The Unjustifiable Attack on Women's Health Care and Life-Saving Research." (pdf), which "challenged the Republicans' key claims," according to the Washington Post, and accused the GOP of employing "McCarthy-era tactics," relying on "unsourced, unverified documents," and providing "no legitimate basis" for the calls to defund Planned Parenthood.

In an expansive interview with Rolling Stone also published Tuesday, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards acknowledged the "serious threat" posed by the Trump administration, but vowed "we will not go without a fight."

This month, she said, the group is launching the "largest 'Stand with Planned Parenthood' campaign in our history to agitate and engage our millions of supporters around the country to make sure we're telling the story of what people are poised to lose."

Speaking to the widespread resistance the administration is expected to face, Richards continued: "If there is one thing that [Trump's] election did for the progressive community, it served as an enormous bonding experience."

"Folks recognize that our issues, our organizations and frankly our activists are all connected," she said. "Planned Parenthood patients are immigrants, they're Muslims, they're LGBT folks, they're single parents, they're students. And all of the attacks that folks are anticipating going forward are ones that are already engaging our activists as well."

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