Panel members clash over fetal tissue subpoenas

Members of a House committee investigating Planned Parenthood clashed Wednesday during their first hearing on subpoenas issued to abortion clinics and medical researchers over the use of fetal tissue.

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Democrats on the panel argued that Republicans are on a “witch hunt” akin to former Sen. Joe McCarthy’s (R-Wis.) investigation of communists in the 1950s and are endangering researchers by requesting their names in the subpoenas.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the committee could be “complicit” in murders of those researchers if their names became public and they are then killed. Democrats pointed to the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado to illustrate the danger.

Nadler asked the committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGrowth of red tape outpaces economy IRS chief refers GOP allegations against Clinton Foundation to internal office Five ways Trump’s convention was a success MORE (R-Tenn.), why the names of medical researchers are needed by the committee.

“No, sir, I am not going to answer that,” Blackburn replied.

Democrats also moved to quash the subpoenas, a motion that failed on a party line vote of 8-6.

The subpoenas went to Stem Express, a fetal tissue procurement firm; the University of New Mexico, which conducts medical research using fetal tissue; and Southwestern Women’s Options, an abortion clinic in New Mexico. 

The hearing came on the same day that the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a pivotal case on abortion restrictions across the street from the Capitol.

Nadler also argued that Republicans are violating the committee’s rules by failing to give required notification to Democrats about the subpoenas.

He said Blackburn had notified ranking member Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) on the House floor that subpoenas would be issued but that further details have not been provided to Democrats, despite their requests.

Blackburn denied Nadler's allegation, saying that copies of all the document requests have been made available to Democrats.

Blackburn tried to focus the hearing on the ethics surrounding fetal tissue research during the hearing, when several professors were scheduled to testify.

“I ask my colleagues to join me in focusing on bioethics,” she told Democrats, who argue that fetal tissue is an important element in disease research.

Blackburn did refer to the undercover videos that set off the furor over Planned Parenthood last summer.

“Last summer’s videos revealed that something very troubling is going on,” she said.