Health Care

Dems ramp up calls to disband Planned Parenthood panel

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Democrats are ramping up their calls for GOP House leaders to disband the committee set up to investigate Planned Parenthood, saying it is endangering doctors and violating chamber rules. 

{mosads}Opponents of the special panel have been drawing attention to their effort, releasing a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) this week and holding a press conference on Friday. 

“What’s going on in the Congress today is, to borrow a phrase, unAmerican,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) on Friday, adding that the committee is acting in ways “not seen on Capitol Hill since the days of Joseph McCarthy.”

Democrats say that Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) has violated rules by failing to notify them in advance of subpoenas to medical researchers, fetal tissue procurement companies and others. 

{mosads}“Chair Blackburn’s ‘secret’ subpoenas — issued without the required notice or consultation, and without any effort to obtain voluntary cooperation first — do not reflect the values you have laid out or the accepted rules and practices of the House,” the Democrats wrote to Ryan. 

Mike Reynard, a spokesman for Blackburn, said she has in fact notified the Democrats of subpoenas 72 hours in advance, per the rules. 

Democrats said that one person deposed by the committee, whom they did not identify, wrote letters to Ryan and Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) objecting to being called. 

“Those requests have been refused or met with deafening silence,” the Democrats wrote to Ryan. “Facing the threat of contempt, that person appeared before the Panel last week. During eight hours of questioning, she was asked to ‘name names’ by Republican staff who refused to explain how their requests bore any relation to a legitimate investigative aim.”

Reynard said that the deposition “lasted much longer than it needed to solely because of the Democrats and the witnesses’ attorneys” putting forward “baseless” objections. 

He said that the deposition began at 10 a.m., but the questioning did not begin until 11:23 because of objections.  

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the committee’s ranking member, said Democrats are “definitely now ratcheting it up” on their calls to disband the committee. 

“We have to get an answer from the Speaker to see if this is something that is driven by leadership and they understand exactly what is going on,” Schakowsky said. “I’m not sure he’s been following what the chair has been doing, what the Republicans have been doing, but he needs to become aware.”

Asked about the Democrats’ letter, Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said, “Speaker Ryan supports the Select Committee’s continued efforts to protect infant lives.”

Democrats also say that Republicans are endangering the lives of doctors and researchers by asking for their names, and point in particular to a press release naming Leroy Carhart, a prominent abortion doctor who was a party in a 2007 Supreme Court case over the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. 

The committee subpoenaed Carhart over accusations that babies at his clinic are dying after they are born. 

“The only purpose of that is to endanger that person’s life further,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) “That person travels with security. He has been firebombed. He has been threatened, and if you look at everything they say they want to investigate, they are criminal allegations, no business of Congress. If they have evidence of any of this, they should refer it to the U.S. attorney.”

Reynard countered, “DOJ has not prosecuted a single person for violating the federal Born Alive Infant Protection Act.”

He added: “So Congress needs to figure out what’s going on.”

Tags Marsha Blackburn Paul Ryan Planned Parenthood

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