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Report refutes allegations made by congressional panel targeting abortion providers

Liberal members of a congressional panel targeting abortion providers issued a report on Monday that refutes allegations made by conservative members and criticizes how conservative lawmakers have conducted the investigation, the Washington Examiner reports (Winfield Cunningham, Washington Examiner, 12/5).

In the report, the liberal lawmakers wrote, "We agreed to participate in this Panel because facts matter, and we were determined to be in the room to defend the truth." They continued, "As the Panel increasingly abused congressional authority and put doctors and researchers at risk, we called on the Panel to disband but continued in our efforts to make this investigation as fair, balanced, and fact-based as possible. To that end, we are releasing this report to set the record straight for the American people" (Select investigative panel minority press release, 12/5).

Background

The subcommittee is the fourth House committee to investigate Planned Parenthood following the release of misleading videos targeting the organization. The subcommittee is allowed to probe, among other topics, federal funding for health care providers who also provide abortion services and providers' practices for abortions later in pregnancy.

The subcommittee has issued several subpoenas requesting the names of fetal tissue researchers, spurring criticism from medical groups and liberal lawmakers who are concerned that the subpoenas could put researchers, students and medical professionals at risk of antiabortion-rights violence.

Liberal lawmakers in the House have repeatedly criticized the investigation and called for the subcommittee's disbandment.

The House last week voted 234-181 to approve a resolution that authorizes an additional $800,000 in funding for the panel, doubling its budget (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/2).

Key findings

The report contends that the panel is using "McCarthy-era tactics to demand names and bully witnesses" as part of "an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women's health care." The liberal lawmakers continued, "Operating largely out of public view, [conservative members of the panel] have abused congressional authority and made repeated inflammatory claims of criminal misconduct in continued reliance on the discredited … videos and without any actual evidence of wrongdoing."

Specifically, liberal panel members in the report listed 14 findings that they say discredit conservative lawmakers' allegations (Washington Examiner, 12/5).

For instance, the report found that abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, do not profit and in fact lose money when they facilitate tissue donation. Moreover, the report said there is no evidence that biomedical organizations profit from charging for fetal tissue beyond the costs incurred for their services. In addition, according to the liberal lawmakers, providers always prioritize patient safety and do not alter abortion care to facilitate fetal tissue donation. The report added that 17 other federal and state investigations into the videos found no evidence of wronging by providers, researchers or biomedical companies.

The report also noted that fetal tissue is an "irreplaceable resource" in understanding human development and in finding treatments and cures for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

In addition, the report said conservative panel members have abused their power during the investigation. For example, according to the report, conservative lawmakers did not adopt an investigative plan or rules to govern panel work. Further, conservative lawmakers issued 42 subpoenas that liberal members said were issued in violation of House rules. The report also said conservative lawmakers reneged on promises to protect individual safety by publicly identifying and condemning targets of the investigation. In addition, the report contends that conservative members of the panel excluded liberal members from certain meetings and briefings, and restricted their access to the panel's records (Select investigative panel minority press release, 12/5).

Recommendations

In the report, liberal lawmakers outlined five recommendations based on the report findings.

Specifically, the lawmakers advised Congress to "continue its broad bipartisan support of fetal tissue research" and "pass legislation and provide funding to protect reproductive health care providers and their patients from illegal anti-abortion violence." The lawmakers also said Congress "should reject efforts to 'defund Planned Parenthood' from federal programs and ensure that Medicaid beneficiaries can continue to receive quality preventive care -- including, counseling and education, contraception, and an assortment of health and infectious disease screenings -- that the organization provides."

Further, the report said, "Congress should pass legislation that enhances the health and wellbeing of women and their families by ensuring access to reproductive health care services and providing other protections against improper discrimination and employer-mandated disclosures." Lastly, the liberal lawmakers said Congress should implement "procedures that ensure bipartisan cooperation and participation in any future select investigations" (Select investigative panel minority report, 12/5).

Comments

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the panel's ranking member, said, "When Congress spends well over a million taxpayer dollars, hardworking Americans should expect that something good will result -- that their lives will be made better."

She continued, "Here, the results are the exact opposite. This purely partisan witch-hunt against researchers and doctors has caused affirmative harm" (Select investigative panel minority press release, 12/5).