Dems warn of 'dangerous' Planned Parenthood probe

Dems warn of 'dangerous' Planned Parenthood probe
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House Democratic leaders this week are amplifying their attacks on the GOP's Planned Parenthood investigation, warning that the politically charged language surrounding the probe could incite acts of violence against clinics nationwide.

"This is a dangerous investigation that's going on," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

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Led by Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnWeek ahead in tech: FCC privacy rules on the ropes Trump meets with broadband CEO, Texas gov on infrastructure GOP rep: ObamaCare debate like trying get kids 'through bathtime' MORE (R-Tenn.), the Republicans’ special investigative panel was formed last year to examine claims that Planned Parenthood profited illegally from the sale of fetal tissue used for research — a charge the group refutes.

The committee's website says its mission is to "get the facts about medical practices of abortion service providers and the business practices of the procurement organizations who sell baby body parts." 

Schakowsky, the top Democrat on the select committee, noted that the alleged shooter in November's deadly attack on a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado, had reportedly used similar "baby parts" language after his arrest. 

"These dangerous attacks against women — these tactics of intimidation [against] women who try to exercise their right to have decent healthcare — have consequences," said Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCalif. gov: 'We're not going to bring stupid lawsuits' over border wall Eye on 2018: Five special elections worth watching Blue states rush to block Trump’s emissions rollback MORE (Calif.), head of the House Democratic Caucus.

The Democrats are also hammering the Republicans' move this month to subpoena dozens of groups — including leading research organizations — as part of the Planned Parenthood probe.

Blackburn has said the subpoenas are necessary because the groups have failed to cooperate voluntarily. The Democrats maintain that the motives are more sinister.

"They are creating a database … and asking for names," Schakowsky said. "I would equate this to the McCarthy era when [the request was], 'Give us the names of people who are communists.'"

The abortion debate is sure to be prominent in Washington this week. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a case challenging a Texas law that puts new requirements on doctors and facilities that provide abortions in the state.  

Also on Wednesday, Blackburn's committee has scheduled its first hearing, entitled "bioethics and fetal tissue." 

Blackburn said the hearing is designed to help lawmakers "become informed about the ethical implications and issues for the women who terminate a pregnancy, for the researcher, for the person who needs a cure and for the baby."

But Becerra accused the Republicans of conducting "a witch hunt" by assembling "a sham committee" designed solely for "political scapegoating." And Rep. Suzan DelBeneSuzan DelBeneLawmakers team up with Mathletes and SXSW A guide to the committees: House 16 people to watch in tech MORE (D-Wash.), a member of the select committee, accused Republicans of using the panel "as a political weapon to intimidate healthcare providers and patients across our country."

The controversy over Planned Parenthood escalated last summer following the public release of several undercover videos, filmed by an anti-abortion activist, suggesting the group was selling fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal under federal law. 

The videos infuriated Republicans on Capitol Hill, fueled a conservative push to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood and led to the formation of Blackburn's committee.

The politics surrounding the issue could force GOP leaders, especially those in the House, to walk a difficult line later in the year. 

On one hand, they'll want to appease their conservative base by pushing hard for anti-abortion riders in government spending bills — a push that will only grow stronger with the headlines surrounding the Supreme Court case and the GOP's investigation.

On the other, they know any effort to defund Planned Parenthood would never win President Obama's signature, and they won't want to risk a government shutdown just a month before a high-stakes presidential election.

Complicating the Republicans' case, a grand jury in Texas investigating the charges against Planned Parenthood reversed course in January and instead indicted the anti-abortion activists behind the videos.

The Democrats, citing polls indicating popular support for Planned Parenthood, think they have a political edge heading into the elections. 

"The women of this country are watching," Schakowsky said. "And they don't like what they're seeing."