More than 20 organizations on Monday called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to end the congressional witch-hunt targeting Planned Parenthood, saying the effort is "setting a dangerous precedent for the ways in which Congress investigates individuals and organizations."
The so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, which has been roundly condemned by women's health and civil liberties advocates as well as close to 180 House Democrats, was created to look into fetal tissue research in the wake of last summer's video exposé by anti-abortion activists that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials admitting to selling fetal body parts.
"Such a standardless approach to congressional investigation harms those engaged in reproductive health work today, but tomorrow it could be environmentalists, free speech advocates, academicians, scientists, or indeed any group that happens to draw the ire of the majority."
However, the ACLU-led letter says the panel's Republican majority "has gone well beyond that scope and engaged in a fishing expedition in an apparent attempt to ratify a discredited smear campaign against Planned Parenthood and those associated with it."
The letter's signatories, who include Communications Workers of America, the NAACP, National Women's Law Center, and Sierra Club, further charge that the panel "routinely refuses to share information or consult with some of its own members and has targeted health care providers and researchers in ways that threaten their safety and interfere with critical medical research."
"Such a standardless approach to congressional investigation harms those engaged in reproductive health work today, but tomorrow it could be environmentalists, free speech advocates, academicians, scientists, or indeed any group that happens to draw the ire of the majority," the letter reads. "We urge you to preserve the prestige of congressional investigations and oversight by bringing an end to this unfair charade."
The ACLU press statement notes that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the minority staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the parent committee of the select panel, have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing in its handling of fetal tissue donation. Thirteen different state investigations came to the same conclusion, and eight additional states declined to investigate. In January, a grand jury empaneled to investigate the allegations against Planned Parenthood indicted the anti-abortion filmmakers instead.
Still, Rewire reported earlier this month that the investigation "is well on its way to totaling $790,000," leading Charles Pierce to declare at Esquire that the panel, led by anti-choice Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) was "the second biggest waste of time and money in the House of Representatives this year behind only Trey Gowdy's masterful pursuit of The Truth—which is Out There—behind Benghazi, Benghazi, BENGHAZI!"