House Democrats Finally Made to See the Undercover Planned Parenthood Videos in Hearing

Outrage in a congressional hearing over Planned Parenthood and undercover video.

By Anika Smith Published on September 18, 2015

The Subcommittee on Health of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce presented the undercover Planned Parenthood videos Thursday, which were discussed at length by Republican members and dismissed in outrage by Democrats. It was the first time many of the Democrats had seen the videos.

The hearing, titled “Protecting Infants: Ending Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Providers Who Violate the Law,” was the second of several congressional hearings on Planned Parenthood. The House Subcommittee on Health discussed two proposed bills that would strengthen enforcement against health care providers who violate the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002 and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

Expert witness Casey Mattox of the Alliance Defending Freedom noted the timeliness of the hearing, given the most recent undercover video, which showed a Planned Parenthood official telling a Planned Parenthood executive that she didn’t think they should “consent to be bullied by ridiculous laws” such as the federal ban on partial-birth abortions.

Attendees lined up against the wall on both sides of the cramped hearing room as pleas for the unborn went up against accusations of fraud.

Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) opened by saying, “Abortion is not just about an unborn child, it is about each of us. We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life — whether born or unborn — without diminishing the value of all human life. When we talk about abortion, we are talking about two lives — the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child.”

“It’s a real shame that we are here today to continue what is nothing more than a Republican assault on women’s rights,” said Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). “This concerted effort by Republicans, under the guise of falsified videos, is not about strengthening current law, it’s about restricting access to women’s health care and if Republicans continue down this path, it will lead to a government shutdown.”

Democrat Lois Capps (CA) claimed the committee was “now succumbing to the political theater” over what she described as “heavily altered, deceptive videos.”

House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) responded to Democrats by saying, “These videos challenge all of us as legislators and as human beings, to reflect and to work towards better protections for women, children and families. Today, the president promised he would veto a bill that says babies that survive an abortion deserve life-saving care. It is absolutely unthinkable to me that we live in a country where we let living, breathing babies die simply because they were born during an abortive procedure, rather than by more conventional methods. … This is a radical, extreme departure from what we know to be right.”

Draft Legislation to Protect the Unborn

Speaking about her draft legislation, Full Committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said, “At the time the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act was being debated on the Senate floor, Senator Barbara Boxer said ‘all people deserve protection, from the very tiniest infant to the most elderly among us.’ I could not agree more. It is clear more must be done to protect the lives of these most vulnerable. It is why I have authored the Protecting Infants Born Alive Act, which strengthens current law by giving states the authority to exclude providers from Medicaid when they are suspected of violating the law. Furthermore, if convicted, these providers will be excluded from all federal programs including Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP.”

The Planned Parenthood Videos Are Finally Shown to Democrats

Given the Democratic take on the videos they’d never bothered watching, it should come as no surprise that the minority were outraged when Rep. Pitts showed clips from the videos and discussed them as evidence of Planned Parenthood’s practices, first warning the room that the images and discussions were graphic.

Rep. Pitts, quoting StemExpress worker Holly O’Donnell’s narration of her experience harvesting an infant’s brain in the video, said “It had a face. It wasn’t completely torn up. It had a nose. It had eyelids.” Pitts also showed the first video with Planned Parenthood executive Deborah Nucatola discussing how to procure “intact” organs. Democrats on the committee objected.

“These clips have shown the gruesome reality we’re talking about,” Pitts said. “They’re available in the public domain. None of us can forget the images and words that we see when we look at these. And the blatant disregard for human life. And no organization, especially one that receives millions of dollars from the federal government, should be able to participate in such horrific actions. That’s why we’re here today, and that’s why we’re going to act.”

“This is unprecedented what you’ve done,” said Rep. Green (D-TX), who responded by reading from the minority report that claimed there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. “I think this is a new low for our committee.”

Where Does the Investigation Stand?

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigation into Planned Parenthood is ongoing.

Alluding to the committee’s work and Planned Parenthood’s refusal to comply with the investigation, committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) said, “The investigation itself is far from complete. We’ve asked a number of questions we don’t have the answers to yet. We’ve asked to speak to a number of witnesses, even a good number of weeks ago. We’ve not yet had access to those particular individuals. Many are asking for legal counsel.”

Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee Chair Tim Murphy (R-PA) clarified, “The Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee is in the preliminary stages – preliminary stages – of its investigation into the practice of procuring and selling the tissue and parts from babies who have been aborted. A few witnesses have been interviewed, and many have not. Some documents have been obtained. Others will be sought and reviewed, and these will be shared.”

“The videotapes of these practices put very important issues into the public domain,” Murphy continued. “It is our shared responsibility to collect the facts and present sound information to the American people. … It is going to take a thorough investigation to get to the bottom of this practice, and at this point, we simply cannot conclude that there has been no wrongdoing.”

The House of Representatives voted Friday to defund Planned Parenthood and invest $235 million in women’s health care. The 241-187 vote came a day after a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill over the abortion organization and broke mostly along party lines. President Obama has threatened to veto any such bill that reaches his desk.

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