Not one representative from Planned Parenthood has been invited to attend the first Capitol Hill hearing on a series of controversial, secretly-recorded videos released by an anti-choice group over the summer—even as conservative lawmakers use the occasion to demand the organization answer for their alleged remarks in the footage.
The meeting will be held Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee, which will hear testimony from "expert witnesses," including the general counsel of the National Right to Life group, as well as two women who are described as "abortion survivors."
According to a statement from the committee released last week, the hearing will focus on late-term abortions and the procedures involved in harvesting fetal tissue for medical research. The videos, released by the Center for Medical Progress, allege to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing profiting off the sale of fetal organs and other donations.
But at a hearing titled, 'Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation's Largest Abortion Provider,' Planned Parenthood itself will not be heard.
"We know very little about this hearing, aside from its provocative title and that the three witnesses called by the Republican majority are longtime activists who advocate for banning abortion completely," said Planned Parenthood vice president of communications Eric Ferrero. "While all of these congressional investigations are based on false claims and videos that have been completely discredited, we continue to be fully transparent and cooperate with all of the committees."
Ferrero continued, "Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading provider of reproductive health care and sex education, we follow all laws and have extremely high medical and professional standards. Our focus is on providing high-quality preventive health care and accurate sex education to millions of people who rely on us every year."
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The hearing is part of a larger effort to defund the organization, in what some say is simply the latest incarnation of an ongoing battle for women's rights. As Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens said Wednesday, "For 15 years anti-abortion activists have been trying to manufacture public outrage, and for 15 years their attacks have fallen apart upon closer inspection."
"There’s a reason those who oppose women’s access to health care have had to resort to lying and inventing false claims to make their case: the vast majority of the American public wants to ensure women have access to safe, legal abortion," Laguens said. "The Center for Medical Progress may have a different name, but this is the same cast of characters and follows the same script."
The 'cast of characters' also includes certain lawmakers who are using the controversy to push a renewed call for defunding the organization. Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas and Republican presidential candidate, issued a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urging him to oppose "any legislation that authorizes or appropriates federal dollars for Planned Parenthood."
Also among the group's longstanding opponents is House Judiciary Committee chairperson Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who previously co-sponsored a bill to prohibit federal funding of Planned Parenthood. And dozens of Republican lawmakers have said they were willing to stage a government shutdown in order to block subsidies from being released to the organization.
But McConnell has urged his colleagues to temper their expectations, noting in an interview last week, "We just don't have the votes to get the outcome that we’d like.... The president’s made it very clear he's not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood so that’s another issue that awaits a new president hopefully with a different point of view."
According to a new study published Tuesday, defunding Planned Parenthood could cut off access to the only contraceptive healthcare provider available to millions of women around the country, particularly minority and low-income women.