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Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) is chair of the anti-choice select panel and a member of Donald Trump's transition team. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Anti-Choice GOP Doubles Budget for 'Witch-Hunt' Panel

'It is appalling that the House of Representatives just gave the dangerous Select Investigative Panel an $800,000 pat on the back for its work to peddle lies'

Deirdre Fulton

In yet another sign that the war on women will ramp up under a Republican-controlled Congress and Trump administration, the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday doubled the budget for an anti-choice subcommittee that reproductive rights advocates have denounced as a "taxpayer-funded witch hunt."

With a vote largely along party lines, the House approved an additional $800,000 for the so-called "Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives," created last October to look into fetal tissue research in the wake of 2015's video smear campaign by anti-abortion activists that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials admitting to selling fetal body parts. In January, a grand jury empaneled to investigate those charges indicted the anti-abortion activists for fraud instead.

According to The Hill:

The panel is now likely to spend nearly $1.6 million in total over the course of just under a year after the House previously approved a $790,000 budget. It is expected to issue a report before it disbands at the end of this year.

Women's rights groups, healthcare professionals, and Democratic lawmakers have called for the subcommittee to be shut down; on Thursday they reiterated those calls.

"Republicans are wasting no time in pursuing their promise to roll back women's health care," Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) added in a statement. "The panel has already endangered doctors' lives and life-saving research. Studies and clinical trials on diseases and conditions like multiple sclerosis that impact millions of Americans have been delayed or halted. And panel Republicans have released the names of doctors knowing that doing so threatens their safety."

"This investigation—built on the lies perpetuated by anti-abortion extremists—has never been nor will it ever be a fact-based investigation," she continued. "Despite Republicans' failure to find any evidence of wrongdoing, they continue to make inflammatory allegations to justify the panel's existence."

Indeed, just Thursday it was revealed that the panel had referred Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast for criminal prosecution by the Texas Attorney General.

Rewire reported:

Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives as Republicans railroaded another $800,000 for their $1.59 million investigation to a vote. Love cited Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast among the panel's eight criminal and regulatory referrals, including previously reported targets, the University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women's Options. Other instances of referrals may not have been formerly disclosed and gone unreported.

By Love's admission, three congressional committee investigations found no basis in [the Center for Medical Progress]'s claims that Planned Parenthood, or other targeted entities, profited from fetal tissue donations. Nor did 13 states and a Texas grand jury. Nevertheless, Love said the referrals stand as "proof of potential criminal activity in the fetal tissue industry" and "justify the existence of the panel and their investigations."

"The work of the select panel is not over," she said. "And more referrals are to come."

"It is appalling that the House of Representatives just gave the dangerous Select Investigative Panel an $800,000 pat on the back for its work to peddle lies, waste taxpayer dollars, and put students, researchers, and doctors in harms way with its partisan witch hunts," said Sasha Bruce, senior vice president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "We're repulsed by the latest action to keep this panel alive, and urge the anti-choice GOP to consider that the priorities of the American people are in direct opposition with the work of this panel."

Rewire added: "The radical anti-choice group Operation Rescue has called on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to extend the investigation into the 115th Congress. Doing so would require the House to vote on a new resolution reestablishing the investigation when the new Congress begins in January 2017."

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