David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress release the first of many deceptively-edited videos alleging Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue for profit.
Prior House investigations launched in the wake of the deceptively-edited videos alleging the unlawful sale of fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood have been decidedly one-sided and marred by procedural irregularities. This Select Panel is following the same path.
Far from conducting an objective, balanced, or fact-based investigation, Republicans are using the power of Congress and taxpayer funds to advance the work of anti-abortion extremists.
Led by Republicans, three committees in the U.S. House of Representatives investigate and found no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.
Despite numerous previous investigations finding no wrongdoing, House Republicans create the new select panel to continue investigating the deceptive, discredited video allegations:
"Recent videos exposing the abortion-for-baby parts business have shocked the nation, and demanded action.
Republicans use a closed-door process to transfer $300,000 taxpayer dollars to the Select Panel without any amendments or debate. Democrats object:
“On the substance, we believe spending 1 cent on this investigative panel would constitute an indefensible use of public funds, if not a deliberate betrayal of public trust."
Panel Organizational Meeting Promised
Chair Blackburn tells Ranking Member Schakowsky that the Select Panel will hold an organizational meeting in January.
Dec. 17-18, 2015: Before holding any initial meeting or consulting with Democrats, Chair Blackburn sends document requests to nine separate entities, giving them only seven business days over the holiday season to respond.
Jan. 6, 2016: Chair Blackburn sends additional document requests over objection of Democrats. These dangerous and sweeping requests ask for the names of researchers, students, residents, doctors, and some patients.
Democrats continued to object to the Chair’s unilateral, dangerous document demands, asking for rules to protect individual privacy and security and an investigative plan to guide the Panel’s work.
Nothing justifies such a dangerous and sweeping invasion of privacy, particularly in an atmosphere where doctors, patients, and researchers face ongoing threats that have put them and their families in fear for their safety.
David Daleiden – creator of the deceptively-edited videos relied upon by Republican lawmakers – is indicted by a Texas grand jury for breaking the law in his effort to entrap Planned Parenthood and others.
By adhering to the facts, prosecutors and grand jurors set a model of behavior that puts them at odds with the politicians — in Congress, in statehouses and on the Republican presidential campaign trail — who have tried to advance their agendas by falsely demonizing an organization that provides critical health care to women. In their evidence-free crusade, they have put vital health services at risk and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars.
Our country faces serious challenges when it comes to issues like supporting working families, creating good jobs, and boosting wages. The families and communities we represent rightly want us focused on efforts like these--not political attempts to undermine women's access to health care and investigate their personal health care decisions. We urge you to listen to them.
Chair Blackburn notifies Ranking Member Schakowsky on the House floor before votes that she is issuing subpoenas. Republicans refuse to consult with Democrats and issue a press release announcing that they are “mov[ing] forward with subpoenas.”
Democrats object to the Chair’s unilateral and abusive issuance of subpoenas that could put people’s lives at risk. Democrats also contest the Chair’s false claim that the entities had failed to cooperate.
- All three entities voluntarily produced documents on the dates agreed to by the Republicans before the subpoenas were issued. One produced approximately 1,300 pages; the second produced over 1,000 pages; the third produced roughly 3,000 pages of documents.
- These entities only raised concerns about the Chair’s demand for the names of their researchers, students, clinic personnel, and doctors.
Chair Blackburn serves the subpoenas on the three entities with a production deadline of the following day. Ranking Member Schakowsky condemns issuance of the subpoenas.
“Even more troubling than the considerable time and money that will be wasted is the potential damage to health care and medical research.”
Select Panel holds its first hearing. Democrats object to the Republican’s dangerous “database” of names and ask the Chair to explain why she needs this information. She refuses to answer:
“Madam Chair, will you explain how the names of individual medical or graduate students, researchers, health care providers, and clinic personnel are pertinent to this investigation?”
“No, sir, I am not going to do that.”
“There is a wide range of feelings about abortion in this country. There are policy debates and moral conversations to be had about the procedure. But elected leaders should not be using the powers of their offices to intimidate citizens who hold different points of view.”
“Since the panel’s goals are so broad, its future direction is unclear. What is clear is that by pursuing their baseless investigation into “baby body parts,” Republicans are continuing the campaign against fetal tissue research and reproductive rights that the Center for Medical Progress began.”
In response to the Panel’s March 2 hearing, the world’s largest general scientific society raised concerns about the demand for names.
““[W]e at AAS are troubled by the practice of issuing subpoenas that would risk making public the names of researchers, students and others involved in fetal tissue research. Fetal tissue research is legal and governed by strict ethical guidelines. Unfortunately, releasing the names of researchers is not just an issue of privacy, but safety.” ”
Chair Blackburn tells Ranking Member Schakowsky on the House floor that she intends to issue more subpoenas. Republicans refuse even to explain who their secret subpoenas are going to or why.
Democrats blast issuance of additional threatening and needless subpoenas
“Once again, Chair Blackburn is using congressional authority to pursue baseless, inflammatory claims generated by anti-abortion extremists. Not one of the entities contacted by the Panel has expressed concern about ‘letting all the facts come out.’ Their – and the Democrats’ – concern is the safety of their researchers, students, doctors, and clinic personnel. Chair Blackburn has refused to explain why she needs a database of names. It is time for this witch hunt to come to an end.”
After the Chair announced another round of unilateral subpoenas, the nation’s medical colleges and universities registered their concern over the Republicans’ continued demand for the names of researchers, students, clinic personnel, and health care providers.
“Many scientists and physicians are deeply concerned for their safety and that of their patients, colleagues, and students in light of inflammatory statements and reports surrounding fetal tissue donation.”
In the letter the members write, “We are increasingly concerned that, rather than following the fact-based standard that you set for this investigation, you are basing your investigation on allegations of anti-abortion extremists…. [T]he anti-abortion group Protest ABQ advertises on their website that it ‘submitted documentation, compiled over 5 years of research, to the panel…’ Yet this information has not been shared with Democratic Members.”
Democratic Members of the Select Investigative Panel sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan calling on him to end Chair Blackburn’s abusive investigation. Ranking Member Schakowsky said:
“Chair Blackburn’s action yesterday goes beyond the pale, by issuing a press release naming a health care provider – whom the Panel has never reached out to – and making inflammatory accusations with no evidence of wrongdoing. This reckless panel is acting as judge, jury, and executioner and endangering lives. This goes beyond McCarthyism because now lives, not simply livelihoods are at risk.”
“The Republican’s clear disdain for the facts – and for women and their doctors – has also been starkly evident in the Panel’s depositions, held out of public view where Republicans have violated clear rules designed to ensure that witnesses and their counsel are treated in a fair and civil manner,” said Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky. “These witnesses have been berated, demeaned, and threatened with contempt of Congress. Because I am concerned that the written transcript of these proceedings will not capture the full interaction between witnesses, Members, and counsel, I sent a letter this morning asking the Clerk of the House to ensure that audio recordings of these depositions are preserved.”
The Select Panel Democratic staff issued a memo to Democratic Members giving a status update on the Panel’s work. The memo shows that, nearly eight months and thousands of pages later, there still is no evidence of wrongdoing related to fetal tissue donation and research. Despite this, Republicans continue to chase the inflammatory allegations of anti-abortion extremists at great risk to women, doctors, scientists, and the life-saving research and health care that they provide.
“There is no legitimate reason for this inquiry. Individuals and organizations are being unfairly targeted and placed at risk. Mr. Ryan, who took office with talk of wanting to change how the House does business, should put an end to these sordid proceedings.”
Ranking Member Schakowsky sent a letter to Chair Blackburn objecting to her reckless unilateral release of documents that put the privacy and security of doctors and researchers at risk:
“You have proven the risk of having this information in the hands of Panel Republicans: there is nothing to stop you from publicly releasing any of the information that you collect.”
Select Panel Democratic Members sent a letter to Chair Blackburn calling for an investigation into the troubling possibility that information being provided to the Select Panel is being leaked to anti-abortion extremists and for steps to prevent any future leaks:
“This Panel has shown a reckless disregard for protecting private information and now a troubling possibility has come to light. Inexplicably, anti-abortion activists have learned of confidential information provided to the Panel – raising the specter that the Republicans may be funneling confidential information back to those individuals and groups.”
Republicans' Secretive Funding Process Seeking $500,000 for Partisan Political Panel That Puts Lives at Risk
“This has not been – nor will it ever be - a fact-based investigation. Instead the Panel is being run as a taxpayer-funded arm of anti-abortion groups, in pursuit of a partisan, anti-science, and anti-health care agenda. Enough is enough. Instead of sanctioning secretive special funding, Speaker Ryan should heed the request of 181 of his Democratic colleagues and disband this dangerous witch hunt.” - Ranking Member Schakowsky
“The Democratic Members of the Select panel have a markedly different understanding of the facts and law regarding the relationship between the University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women's Options. We have seen no evidence of wrongdoing and do not support the Chair's "criminal referral" to your office.” - Select Panel Democratic Members
“The Republican interim update consists largely of material and allegations available on websites maintained by CMP or other anti-abortion extremists. Their claimed “documentation” of wrongdoing includes statements taken directly from David Daleiden’s discredited video clips, unsourced staff-created charts and tables, and speculative interpretations of documents produced to the Panel. As a result, the Republican interim update reveals a reckless disregard for actual facts and the truth.” – Minority Staff for the Select Panel Democratic Members