FIFTEEN MONTHS and nearly $1.6 million later, a Republican-run House panel investigating Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue research ended up where it started: with no evidence of wrongdoing. That has not deterred the Republicans from proposing a political agenda so extreme it should scare not only those who care about women’s health care but also anyone who values science and its contributions.
The GOP majority on the cynically named Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives summed up its work in a 471-page document issued Tuesday that was highlighted by its call to strip all federal funding from Planned Parenthood. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) wasted no time in embracing the recommendation without foundation, announcing Thursday that defunding the women’s health organization would be included in the process of dismantling Obamacare.
To call the committee’s work a report is to give it undue respect. It was drafted in secret with no input from Democrats and released without a public vote. A one-sided tunnel vision has marked the committee since its formation in the aftermath of a controversy over sting videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. The videos since have been completely discredited, and previous investigations by other House committees and a dozen states found no wrongdoing. No matter. The committee, led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), relied on lurid and suspect testimony (one witness likened lifesaving fetal research to Nazi medical experiments), unverified accusations and misleading information in reaching its conclusions.
Consider, for example, the startling assertion in the introduction that “not a single responding institution provided substantive evidence for the value of fetal tissue research.” In fact, a great deal of evidence was provided on the importance of fetal tissue in studying Down syndrome, eye disease and other medical challenges. Either Republicans on the committee think they know more about medicine than scientists from some of the country’s leading institutions, or their distrust of academia is such that they think these authorities are lying.
It is of small comfort that the select committee was disbanded with the start of the new Congress because — as Mr. Ryan’s announcement makes clear — the assault on Planned Parenthood is just gaining steam. The 100-year-old organization is one of the nation’s leading providers of affordable health care and information, with nearly 5 million people each year being served worldwide. Abortions, which make up just 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s provided health services, cannot, with rare exception, be funded with federal dollars , so what is endangered is the group’s vital work in preventing unintended pregnancies as well as health care that includes breast exams and Pap tests. However, Republicans in the House will not let themselves be distracted by mere facts.
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