Witnesses clash on whether Planned Parenthood broke laws

Lawmakers on Wednesday heard drastically different interpretations of what is shown in the controversial Planned Parenthood videos.

In Congress’s first hearing on the videos, two expert witnesses sharply disagreed on whether Planned Parenthood and its donation of fetal tissue violated any laws.

{mosads}“The evidence now is clear,” James Bopp, general counsel for National Right to Life, told the House Judiciary Committee. “Current practices employed by Planned Parenthood and various tissue procurement companies, not only violate federal law when applicable, but also many ethical and moral principle.”

Minutes later, lawmakers heard a rebuttal from Priscilla Smith, the director of Yale Law School’s Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice.

“There is simply no evidence in these misleadingly edited videos of a violation of either of these laws,” Smith said. “There’s certainly nothing in the tapes that violates the fetal tissue law.”

Both experts detailed federal laws on fetal tissue donations and partial-birth abortions and argued their point with their own interpretations of the videos.

Planned Parenthood has been a target of nine undercover videos that total more than an hour of footage. Each clip shows secretly recorded meetings with officials from Planned Parenthood and its partners in which the activists, posing as medical buyers, ask about fetal tissue donation.

The group’s president, Cecile Richards, has apologized for the “tone” of one of her top officials, who was recorded in a blunt discussion of fetal tissue over bites of salad and sips of wine. But Richards has strongly denied any illegal activity in the program.

The authenticity of the footage, which is edited into 10-minute videos, has been called into question. Last month, Planned Parenthood hired a team of experts to study the video, and they reported that the footage was manipulated to advance the group’s message.

For nearly two hours, lawmakers sparred with the opposite party’s witness as they debated federal law and claims made in the videos. In on intense round of questioning, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) sparred with Smith about the definition of infanticide.

The committee also heard emotional testimony from two women who survived abortion attempts as babies and have since become anti-abortion activists.

No one from Planned Parenthood, or the anti-abortion group behind the videos, was invited to the hearing.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) argued that the decision not to invite the Center for Medical Progress proved that the committee didn’t have “a shred” of evidence that Planned Parenthood broke the law.

“Mr. Chairman, if you had any evidence, you would have brought [the Center for Medical Progress] to testify before the committee. You didn’t and you don’t have that confidence,” Nadler said.

Facing flak from Planned Parenthood and its supporters about the witness list, Chairman Bob Goodlatte announced at the start that the hearing would be part one of a two-part hearing, though he did not elaborate.

Tags Bob Goodlatte Jim Sensenbrenner

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