Select Investigative Panel On Infant Lives | Media Matters for America

Select Investigative Panel On Infant Lives

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  • Fox News has a long history of pushing the Center for Medical Progress’ anti-abortion lies

    The network recently aired Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s repetition of CMP’s “baby body parts” lie

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    After Twitter briefly prevented Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN) Senate campaign from promoting an ad on the platform featuring an “inflammatory” and inaccurate claim about Planned Parenthood, Blackburn made the rounds on Fox News to push the ad’s anti-abortion talking point about “baby body parts,” which came from the discredited Center for Medical Progress (CMP). This isn’t anything new: Fox News has a long history of promoting anti-abortion lies from both Blackburn and CMP.

  • How one Republican used a tactic from the anti-abortion media playbook to bully Twitter

    Rep. Marsha Blackburn has a long history of taking cues from anti-abortion groups to gin up right-wing support -- and her latest attack on Twitter is no different

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Anti-abortion groups and media outlets have a habit of claiming censorship in order to boost fundraising by ginning up outrage and support. Now this media manipulation tactic is being employed by a staunch anti-choice ally: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

    On October 5, Blackburn announced a run for retiring Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) seat. As part of this announcement, Blackburn’s campaign tweeted a short video advertising her right-wing bonafides, including her work as chair of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, which was created to conduct a politically motivated investigation of Planned Parenthood on the basis of deceptive videos from a discredited anti-abortion organization. Although the panel was regarded by many as merely “an expensive witch hunt,” Blackburn touted her role during the campaign video, claiming that she had “fought Planned Parenthood” and “stopped the sale of baby body parts.”

    Although Blackburn's campaign wanted to pay to promote the video on Twitter as an ad, the social media site initially objected, drawing widespread outrage among anti-abortion and right-wing outlets. According to an October 10 Associated Press report, Twitter found that Blackburn’s statement about “baby body parts” violated platform rules because it was “‘deemed an inflammatory statement that is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction.’” Twitter allowed the video to remain up but not as promoted content, concluding that the campaign “would be allowed to run the rest of the video” as a paid ad if it ommitted the phrase.

    This stance did not last long, however. The next day, Twitter reversed its position and announced that it would allow Blackburn’s campaign to promote the ad, commenting to Politico, “While we initially determined that a small portion of the video used potentially inflammatory language, after reconsidering the ad in the context of the entire message, we believe that there is room to refine our policies around these issues.”

    Blackburn's campaign quickly seized on Twitter’s refusal as an act of censorship -- taking a page straight from the anti-abortion media playbook.

    As Media Matters has previously noted, anti-abortion extremists have increasingly employed the tactic of alleging “censorship” or claiming that inaccurate anti-choice content is being “shut down” to gin up fundraising support and rile up right-wing media allies. By reacting to perceived slights as instances of injustice or censorship, these groups can incite followers, increase fundraising, and appeal to an audience motivated by anti-elite sentiments but normally less attuned to the activities of the anti-abortion movement.

    In one example, anti-abortion extremist Lila Rose alleged that Twitter was censoring advertisements from her group Live Action by similarly prohibiting their promotion as sponsored content. After Rose appeared on the June 26 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight to discuss Twitter’s alleged bias, a banner was added to Live Action’s home page begging for donations to combat the act of censorship. By June 30, the organization had announced that it had reached its fundraising goal but nevertheless asked supporters to continue donating in order to “guarantee” Live Action could continue working “to expose the abortion industry.” Other anti-abortion organizations and right-wing outlets also came to Live Action’s defense, working to create even more support for claims of censorship and persecution.

    Emulating this tactic, the Blackburn campaign was quick to cry foul and turn the perceived slight into a fundraising opportunity. On October 9, the campaign’s Twitter account circulated a video inaccurately alleging that Blackburn was “banned by Twitter” and asking supporters to share the clip in order to “spread the word” that “Silicon Valley won’t stop our conservative movement with censorship.” The account also shared posts from anti-abortion groups and outlets alleging that Blackburn had been censored. The Blackburn campaign even sent an email to supporters asking for donations, warning that the “liberal elite wants to censor us at every opportunity.” Over the next 24 hours, Blackburn appeared multiple times on Fox News to repeat her claims of censorship and enjoyed a surge in media attention from outlets across the political spectrum. Twitter ultimately caved to the pressure and allowed the campaign to run Blackburn’s ad with the allegations against Planned Parenthood intact.

    The symbiotic relationship between Blackburn and various anti-abortion groups or media is hardly a secret. During Blackburn’s time as select panel chair, the committee held three hearings that utilized evidence sourced directly from anti-abortion groups as so-called “evidence” of wrongdoing by abortion providers and related organizations. Indeed, several anti-abortion groups, including (but likely not limited to) New Mexico Alliance for Life, Protest ABQ, Operation Rescue, and the Center for Medical Progress provided “documentation and materials” to the select panel. A member of Protest ABQ even bragged about having influence over the panel's investigators, stating that their research "finally paid off and turned into the panel investigating.” In addition to leveraging connections to anti-abortion groups, Blackburn also leaked an advanced copy of allegations from the panel to Fox News -- before sharing it with minority members -- and provided an exclusive interview inaccurately alleging that Planned Parenthood had operated in “direct violation of federal law.”

    Blackburn’s deployment of the censorship tactic elides the more fundamental issue with the ad itself: the fact that it was based on a falsehood. Contrary to Blackburn's claim, multiple state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing, while the anti-choice activists responsible for the initial “baby parts” allegations are currently the subject of multiple lawsuits.

    Blackburn’s campaign took a page out of the anti-abortion playbook to garner a concession from Twitter. And as New York magazine's Margaret Hartmann noted, Blackburn’s success -- despite the falsity of her claims -- “has probably encouraged Republican midterm candidates to throw some unproven, inflammatory statements into the ads.” Indeed, Blackburn has already taken to calling Twitter's reversal "our first Senate conservative victory." 

  • Right-Wing Media Revive Local Anti-Choice Attack On New Mexico Abortion Providers

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    The Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives has used documents taken from the anti-choice group the New Mexico Alliance for Life (NMAFL) to allege wrongdoing by the University of New Mexico (UNM). After a push from NMAFL to revive the allegations, conservative media outlets have recently begun circulating the panel’s misinformed anti-choice attack against UNM and New Mexico abortion providers.

  • LA Times Editorial Board Joins Critics Of GOP Attack On Abortion Providers

    LA Times: Select Panel’s Interim Report is “Long on Innuendo but Remarkably Short on Revelation”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On July 14, the Republican members of Congress’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives released an interim report of its ongoing investigation of abortion providers and medical researchers, which, they allege, were involved in the sale of donated fetal tissue.

    In a July 25 editorial, the Los Angeles Times editorial board criticized the select panel’s interim report and called for the panel to be disbanded based on the complete lack of evidence the document contained. As the editorial board wrote, despite “months of investigation and subpoenas for staggering amounts of records … the chairman and Republican members of the panel released an 88-page interim report this month that is long on innuendo but remarkably short on revelations.”

    The select panel was formed in October 2015 after the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of deceptively edited videos targeting Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue procurement companies. In the past year, CMP’s deceptive videos have been consistently debunked while multiple state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, CMP and its founder David Daleiden have been indicted for fraud by a grand jury in Houston, TX, have been subject to several lawsuits, and have had their work soundly rejected by multiple judges and journalists.

    Undeterred, Republican members of the select panel have sourced numerous documents from CMP’s website and videos to use as “evidence” in their ongoing campaign against Planned Parenthood. Despite calls by congressional Democrats and 50 organizations to disband the panel, House Speaker Paul Ryan has reiterated his support for its work. Furthermore, the House Administration Committee has also approved supplemental funding for the panel’s continued operation.

    Although the select panel’s interim report made a variety of allegations against Planned Parenthood, tissue procurement firms, and universities engaged in medical research, the Los Angeles Times noted that the panel “has yet to find any proof that anyone is selling or buying fetal tissue.” In fact, as the editorial board explained: “One of the panel’s main findings” -- concerning allegations against the University of New Mexico (UNM) -- “is actually just speculation.”

    Prior to their release of the interim report, select panel Republicans sent a letter to the New Mexico attorney general arguing that UNM was improperly contracting with a nearby abortion clinic, Southwestern Women’s Options (SWWO). In an accompanying press release, select panel Chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) accused UNM of having a “symbiotic relationship” with SWWO that was in violation of federal and state law. In reality, the Times explained, UNM “has categorically denied both allegations” and also “contends that the panel is misreading state law.”

    In another section of the report, the panel’s Republican members recounted their recommendation to the Department of Health and Human Services that the tissue procurement company StemExpress be investigated for violating federal patient privacy laws. The panel alleged that StemExpress employees placed in abortion clinics were allowed too much access to patients’ private medical information in order to assess candidates for potential fetal tissue donation.

    As the Times noted, however, this allegation, too, was unproven. Quoting a lawyer for StemExpress, the editorial board explained that StemExpress did not violate any privacy laws because “its technicians did not review medical files,” and “the panel would have known this had it interviewed any of the witnesses ‘repeatedly offered by StemExpress.’”

    Since the select panel’s inception, media have criticized its actions as a politically motivated “witch hunt” against abortion providers and medical researchers. The Times endorsed this critique and added that the panel’s Republican members have “made no secret of their mission” to advance an anti-choice agenda, regardless of its veracity:

    Having found no smoking guns in the University of New Mexico and StemExpress cases, the panel has passed its allegations to other authorities to settle while it continues to search for criminality. Beyond that, the report does little more than serve the panel’s antiabortion narrative in which clinics are desperate to get more business, fetal tissue companies are intent on getting more product, and the technicians who collect these specimens send out emails blithely discussing fetal organs and limbs. Even if this portrait were accurate — and the panel offers little evidence to back that up — it establishes no wrongdoing.

    Even if the panel’s allegations are baseless, there are still costs associated with attacks on fetal tissue research. Since the start of CMP’s smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, there has been a “chilling effect” on fetal tissue donation and research. As the Times editorial board wrote, “The real danger here is that the panel’s work will chill the activities of fetal tissue suppliers and the researchers who use it to study retinal degeneration, fetal development, the Zika virus and illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

  • Right-Wing Media Are Still Helping Anti-Choice Extremists Funnel Their Lies Straight To Congress

    Select Panel Uses Anniversary Of Anti-Choice Smear Videos To Preview The Next Act In The “Benghazi Treatment” of Planned Parenthood

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Today, the Republican members of Congress’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives released an interim update to House leadership and held a press conference to update the media on its investigation of abortion providers and medical researchers across the country.

    In the interim update, the select panel alleged that its investigation had revealed potential violations of federal law by abortion providers and tissue procurement companies. At the press briefing, select panel Chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said the mid-year report’s findings included “documentation that shows abortion clinics and middlemen who are exploiting women and selling baby body parts as part of business plan to make more money.”

    In reality, these allegations are actually recycled misinformation from anti-choice groups that right-wing media have spent the better part of the past year attempting to misrepresent as truth. With this latest release, the select panel Republicans have confirmed the long-held suspicion that they are also merely carrying water for the unfounded allegations of anti-choice extremists.

    Since the select panel’s inception, the media have criticized its actions as a politically motivated “witch hunt” -- a “Benghazi treatment” of Planned Parenthood. In its 10 months of operation, the select panel has found no substantiated evidence of wrongdoing, prompting one publication to call its efforts “a wild goose chase” and numerous lawmakers to call for its disbandment. Instead, the select panel has continued to function merely as a conduit through which anti-choice groups have consistently funneled information in order to give their otherwise baseless attacks a thin veneer of legitimacy.

    As the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), explained, Blackburn and her colleagues have long been suspected of “relying on information from anti-abortion extremists” in order to substantiate their otherwise unfounded attacks. Media Matters has previously reported that numerous documents from the select panel’s submitted evidence could be sourced to the website of the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP.) The panel’s interim update confirms this pattern -- including citations from numerous anti-choice groups such as CMP, Life News, the Charlotte Lozier Institute, and the Radiance Foundation.

    The select panel was formed in October 2015, several months after CMP began releasing deceptively edited videos in an attempt to smear Planned Parenthood. Although these videos purported to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the illicit sale of donated fetal tissue, they have been repeatedly discredited and multiple states investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.

    Today marks exactly one year since CMP began its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood.

    Since then, CMP has earned the title of Media Matters’ 2015 Misinformer of the Year, been indicted for fraud by a grand jury in Houston, TX, been subject to lawsuits, and had its work soundly rejected by multiple judges and journalists alike. Undeterred, CMP founder David Daleiden has openly voiced his lack of concern about the severity of these charges:

     

     

    In contrast, for the abortion providers and researchers targeted by CMP and the select panel, the past year has been marked by increased harassment, threats, and violence.

    According to the National Abortion Federation, in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” of abortion providers -- likely inspired by CMP’s incendiary allegations and rhetoric. Since the release of CMP’s first video in July 2015, at least five Planned Parenthood facilities have been attacked. In September 2015, the FBI released an intelligence assessment that warned of an uptick in violence against abortion providers and clinics. This prediction was borne out tragically in November 2015 when suspected shooter Robert Dear killed three people and injured several more at a Colorado Planned Parenthood health care center.

    Nevertheless, the select panel has recklessly issued countless subpoenas demanding the names not only of abortion providers, but also of the “researchers, graduate students, laboratory technicians and administrative personnel” who may have participated in fetal tissue research.

    Right-wing media have also spent the past year giving CMP a platform and capitalizing on the opportunity to push misinformation about Planned Parenthood and agitate for the organization to be defunded. In a recent study, Media Matters found that during a 14-month period from January 1, 2015, through March 6, 2016, Fox News’ evening news programs routinely relied on extreme anti-choice figures and information to help propagate CMP’s false allegations against Planned Parenthood.

    For example, in a single day Fox News devoted 10 segments to hyping CMP’s videos and false claims about Planned Parenthood. Similarly, Fox host Bill O'Reilly called for an FBI investigation into Planned Parenthood, while network correspondent Peter Doocy claimed that he “searched the Planned Parenthood website for fetal baby part prices” but didn’t get any results because the practice is a “well-kept secret.” Other conservative media figures used CMP's videos to compare Planned Parenthood to Nazis, and used the videos to call for completely defunding the women's health care provider -- even going so far as to demand a government shutdown to do so.

    These calls have made their way to anti-choice legislators across the United States and prompted 10 states to attempt to defund Planned Parenthood -- despite the detrimental impact this move would have on health care access in many communities.

    Since its creation, the select panel has cost taxpayers $790,000 -- with an additional $490,000 recently authorized by the House in order to sustain the investigation through the end of the year. The costs for abortion providers -- in terms of their loss of safety -- has already become incalculable. Ranking member Schakowsky has been resolute: “This has not been -- nor will it ever be -- a fact-based investigation.” In response to the Republicans’ July 14 report, Schakowsky reiterated the danger of allowing a congressional body to act as mouthpiece for anti-choice extremists:

    Once again Republicans are making inflammatory claims that they cannot substantiate and relying on manufactured documents and fraudulent videos that have been thoroughly discredited. Never before have I witnessed such a disconnect between allegations and the facts.

    If the Panel were just a waste of taxpayer money and congressional time, it would be bad enough. But this has serious and devastating effects on real people. If you rely on Planned Parenthood provided health care, they want to close women's clinics. If you think women should make their own health decisions, they want politicians to dictate your choices and limit your right to decide when and whether to have children based on your own situation. If you support medical research, their attacks on fetal tissue research are already stalling work on diseases like MS.

    And if you believe that congressional Republicans care about individual privacy and safety, you would have learned otherwise today. Despite public promises to “act responsibly with each and every name” that they are collecting -- Republicans today publicly named names without regard to the consequences.

    Their interim report, which Democrats learned about through a press advisory, proves that this Panel needs to be disbanded now, before more lives are put at risk.

  • The Tennessean: Rep. Blackburn’s Panel Investigating Fetal Tissue Donation “Is Embroiled In A Wild Goose Chase”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On June 12, The Tennessean’s editorial board wrote that the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) had so far failed to find a “smoking gun” proving the existence of “an illicit market for fetal tissue or parts.” Thus the board argued that “the panel would do best to wrap up its work quickly.”

    The select panel was formed after the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress released a series of deceptively edited videos, which baselessly alleged that Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue. But 13 states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have investigated the allegations and cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing while a Texas grand jury indicted CMP’s founder and an associate for the fraudulent actions they took in making the videos. Nevertheless, the panel’s Republican members have repeatedly relied upon material taken from the discredited group as “evidence” of supposed wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. While Blackburn told The Tennessean that the panel wants to “get to the truth” about fetal tissue donation policies, the editorial board wrote, “Right now, the panel is creating the perception that it is embroiled in a wild goose chase.”

    From The Tennessean’s June 12 editorial:

    The origin of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives chaired by Congressman Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, emanated from a false narrative.

    The 14-member bipartisan panel has pivoted since doctored video claimed dishonestly that Planned Parenthood trafficked in fetal parts and organs — the reason the panel was approved by Congress in the first place in October.

    Over the past few months, the panel has fallen into mission creep and it needs to regain its focus if it is going to be taken seriously.

    The panel has:

    • Issued subpoenas to nearly a dozen companies, medical professionals or health organizations.

    • Targeted biomedical company StemExpress, which purchases fetal tissue from abortion clinics and sells it to medical research organizations.

    • Announced it was investigating a Maryland late-term abortion doctor, potentially putting him in danger by naming him and his clinic.

    […]

    Blackburn downplayed the Planned Parenthood connection saying she had requested no documents from or issued subpoenas to the health organization.

    That tone was in stark contrast to an op-ed she penned in U.S. News and World Report on Nov. 10 when emotions were still running high from the scandal over the doctored videos. She started her op-ed, writing:

    “The abhorrent videos released over the last several months detailing abortion practices and treatment of infant lives have shaken and startled compassionate Americans across the country. These videos raise serious questions that deserve a thorough examination, as people have reacted with disgust as they have seen the video footage.”

    […]

    Anyone — pro-choice or pro-life — should be horrified at the thought of an illicit market for fetal parts.

    However, if it does not exist, the panel would do best to wrap up its work quickly.

    Right now, the panel is creating the perception that it is embroiled in a wild goose chase.

  • GOP Chair Of Select Panel Pushes CMP-Linked Material To Attack Fetal Tissue Donation

    Chairman Blackburn Continues Panel GOP Members’ Habit Of Using Discredited Anti-Choice Group’s Material As Evidence

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In a June 10 speech at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference, the chairman of the Congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), used documents taken from the discredited anti-choice group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) to attack the fetal tissue donation process. Since its inception in response to deceptively edited CMP videos, the select panel has utilized a number of CMP documents to allege wrongdoing by abortion providers and tissue procurement companies.

  • Congressional GOP Issue Letters That Rely On "Evidence" From Discredited Anti-Choice Group

    The Select Investigative Panel On Infant Lives Again Tries To Use Documents From CMP To Attack Fetal Tissue Research

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On June 1, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chairman of the Congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, released two letters and a press release calling for an investigation into “potential violations of federal law” by the tissue procurement company, StemExpress, and several abortion providers. Like previous claims made by Republicans on the select panel, the letters relied heavily on documents taken directly from the discredited work of the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP).

  • Washington Post: “It’s Time To Shut Down The Special Panel On Fetal Tissue Research”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Posts editorial board wrote that the congressional investigative panel created in the wake of the smear campaign against Planned Parenthood should be “shut down” because there is “no legitimate reason” for the panel’s existence. The Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives was established by Republicans in Congress following the release of videos made by the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress which baselessly allege fetal tissue was being illegally sold. The Washington Post's editorial board noted “as we now know, those videos are bunk, neither accurate nor reliable,” and multiple investigations have found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. However, the Republican-led select panel has continued to rely upon so-called evidence collected by anti-choice activists and has “issued indiscriminate subpoenas [and] intimidated witnesses” as well as potentially put individuals at risk for targeting by anti-choice extremists by not safeguarding their names. Without a “legitimate reason” for the panel’s work, the Post wrote, Speaker Paul Ryan should “should put an end to these sordid proceedings.”

    From The Washington Post’s May 27 editorial:

    Any doubt about the kind of investigation into fetal tissue research that would be conducted by a special House panel was erased at its first hearing, when one of the witnesses called by Republicans drew comparisons between this life-saving medical work and the experiments of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele. And the panel has gone downhill since.

    The committee has issued indiscriminate subpoenas, intimidated witnesses and relied on misleading information. It is abusing power at taxpayer expense, and Democrats are right to demand its shutdown.

    […]

    There is no legitimate reason for this inquiry. Individuals and organizations are being unfairly targeted and placed at risk. [House Speaker Paul] Ryan, who took office with talk of wanting to change how the House does business, should put an end to these sordid proceedings.

  • Vox Explains How The House Panel Investigating Abortion Intimidates Scientists And Hurts Medical Research

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Vox’s Emily Crockett blasted the “Benghazi-style” House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, which “rests on top of a giant powder keg of anti-abortion extremism,” for “recklessly intimidating scientists and researchers.” Crockett explained how the special committee, tasked with investigating fetal tissue donation by abortion providers, is targeting “anyone the committee can find who has a tangential connection to the issue” with subpoenas and putting them at risk of “violence from anti-abortion extremists.”

    Since July the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has released a series of deceptively edited videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood illicitly sells fetal tissue. Despite the fact that a growing number of states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have found no wrongdoing on the part of the women’s health organization, right-wing media and lawmakers have used the videos to target Planned Parenthood. Additionally, since the release of the videos, at least four Planned Parenthood clinics have been attacked in what law enforcement authorities consider possible acts of domestic terrorism, and an anti-choice activist has admitted that “over-heated rhetoric” and smears could be partially to blame for anti-choice violence.

    The April 29 Vox article noted how researchers using fetal tissue research to try to cure disease are "being terrorized” as a result of the House panel investigating CMP’s claims, and explained that “Being dragged into the limelight by Congress to talk about fetuses, or being forced to have their name entered into a public record because they work with fetuses, could be legitimately dangerous for scientists and researchers”:

    House Republicans have made a public enemy out of Planned Parenthood, of course, but they're not stopping there. They also have their eye on companies that handle fetal tissue, medical researchers, and even medical students — essentially, anyone the committee can find who has a tangential connection to the issue, except those who brought the spurious allegations about "selling baby parts" in the first place.

    Meanwhile, the scrutiny is interfering with the jobs of scientists and medical providers. At best, they live in fear of a subpoena; at worst, there's a target on their back for violence from anti-abortion extremists.

    Doctors who provide safe, legal abortion already live this nightmare every day. Public witch hunts like this House panel certainly aren't helping that. But they are helping to make sure that scientists and researchers will get to experience the same treatment.

    This panel shouldn't exist in the first place

    How did we get here? Last summer, a series of anti-abortion videos, produced by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and its founder David Daleiden, came out claiming that "Planned Parenthood sells baby parts."

    Since then, it's become clear that the videos are blatant propaganda. That's not just my conclusion, but the conclusion that most credible media organizations couldn't ignore after learning the facts.

    […]

    Fetal tissue research is incredibly important. It brought us the vaccines against polio and chicken pox, and it could one day bring us the cure to Alzheimer's or diabetes.

    But because of the videos, this entire field is now under attack. Some states have started passing or proposing laws against fetal tissue research, including Indiana's bizarre new "bury your miscarriage" law that effectively bans tissue donation. And now the attack has moved to the federal level.

     […]

    It's bad enough to risk intimidating scientists and young researchers out of entering an important field. But it gets even worse. The House's "Panel on Infant Lives" also rests on top of a giant powder keg of anti-abortion extremism, which has already exploded once in 2015's shocking escalation of violence against abortion providers.

    Whole books have been written about the systematic terrorism that abortion providers, clinic staff, and volunteers are threatened with every day — from stalking and threats, to "Wanted" posters that feature doctors' photos and addresses, to vandalism and firebombs at clinics.

    It's bad enough that the videos and the endless political outrage around them undoubtedly caused more of this violence. But now, the people who use fetal tissue research to try to cure disease are also being terrorized.

    One university researcher spoke to the New York Times on condition of anonymity because the threats he's received have led his institution to post a guard outside his laboratory.

    Congressional investigations aren't supposed to work like trials. They're supposed to work like investigations.

    Being dragged into the limelight by Congress to talk about fetuses, or being forced to have their name entered into a public record because they work with fetuses, could be legitimately dangerous for scientists and researchers like these.

    […]

    It doesn't matter how many times CMP's claims have been proven wrong, or how often Daleiden's years-long history with other dubious smear campaigns gets pointed out. To some anti-abortion Republicans in Congress, these videos will always be indisputable evidence that Planned Parenthood was caught on tape doing something both immoral and illegal, and that these claims deserve serious investigation.

    It doesn't matter how much time or money all of this costs lawmakers or taxpayers. It doesn't matter that violent threats against abortion providers skyrocketed in 2015, and that a gunman ranting about "baby parts" shot up a Planned Parenthood in November in the deadliest-ever attack on a US abortion clinic.

    It doesn't matter how many investigations there have already been, and it never will. For the anti-abortion movement and their supporters in Congress, there will always be more investigating to do. There's always the chance that this time, they'll finally expose Planned Parenthood's evil deeds for all the world to see.

     

  • Media Highlight The “Misleading” Evidence Used During Congressional Panel’s Attack On Planned Parenthood

    Second Select Panel Hearing Was Just Like “A Bad House Of Cards Plotline”

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Following the Congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives’ second hearing, multiple media outlets heavily criticized the Republican members’ continued lack of objectivity. The select panel was established by Republicans in October 2015 based on discredited allegations against Planned Parenthood from the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Despite claiming to be “impartial,” Republican members during both hearings have relied on CMP’s deceptive work as evidence.

  • Congressional Hearing On Fetal Tissue Again Relies On Discredited Anti-Choice Propaganda As Evidence

    How The Select Investigative Panel Recycled More Of CMP’s Deceptive Work To Attack Planned Parenthood

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On April 20, Congress’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives held its second hearing: “The Pricing of Fetal Tissue.” Republicans in Congress established the panel following baseless allegations from the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) against Planned Parenthood. During the second hearing, the panel again relied on evidence taken directly from CMP’s videos and website to attack abortion providers and fetal tissue research.

  • Washington Post’s Dana Milbank Explains How The GOP Have Discredited Their Own Anti-Planned Parenthood Investigation

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank pointed out Republicans discredited their own investigation into Planned Parenthood after Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) attended an anti-Planned Parenthood protest while leading the congressional investigation into whether the organization illegally profited from the sale of fetal tissue, a claim created and pushed by the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress (CMP) in deceptively edited videos. Congressional Republicans convened the first hearing of Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives on March 2 to investigate the ethics and morality of using fetal tissue for research. During that hearing the majority GOP panel relied on research and materials stemming from the baseless allegations from Center For Medical Progress. Panel members have also been fed information from the radical anti-abortion group Protest ABQ, a group with a history of harassing abortion providers and has connections to Operation Rescue, another radical anti-abortion group with a history of extreme rhetoric. Rep. Blackburn claimed the videos released by CMP “revealed that something very troubling is going on related to fetal tissues research.” In an April 20 Washington Post op-ed, columnist Dana Milbank highlighted how congressional Republicans undermined their own investigation and the appearance of impartiality after Rep. Blackburn appeared in a protest against Planned Parenthood, “the very entity she is supposed to be investigating. Milbank wrote that whatever “legitimacy” the panel had left, had been “undermined by Blackburn”:

    Marsha Blackburn isn’t one to worry about appearances.

    The Tennessee Republican didn’t make any pretense this week of being impartial with the committee she chairs, the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, commonly known as the Planned Parenthood committee.

    On the eve of her panel’s Wednesday’s hearing, Blackburn went over to Georgetown University to participate in a protest against Planned Parenthood, the very entity she is supposed to be investigating. According to the Right to Life organization, she gave a speech at a gathering called “Life-Affirming Alternatives to Planned Parenthood,” part of a series of events in opposition to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards’s speech at Georgetown on Wednesday.

    Then Blackburn showed up at her committee hearing the next morning and proclaimed, “My hope is that both parties can work together.”

    That was probably never going to happen — and it certainly isn’t now that the secret videos that justified the committee’s creation have been discredited as doctored.

    [...]

    GOP leaders, in naming Blackburn to lead the Planned Parenthood panel, had hopes of defusing the Democrats’ complaint that the probe was another offensive in the Republicans’ “war on women.” That charge has been easier to make with Donald Trump leading the Republican presidential race — and with several House Republicans on Monday making the extraordinary gesture of voting against a ceremonial bill honoring the first woman to be elected to Congress.

    But whatever legitimacy the select panel had left after the videos were discredited has been undermined by Blackburn.

    [...]

    GOP leaders, in naming Blackburn to lead the Planned Parenthood panel, had hopes of defusing the Democrats’ complaint that the probe was another offensive in the Republicans’ “war on women.” That charge has been easier to make with Donald Trump leading the Republican presidential race — and with several House Republicans on Monday making the extraordinary gesture of voting against a ceremonial bill honoring the first woman to be elected to Congress.

    But whatever legitimacy the select panel had left after the videos were discredited has been undermined by Blackburn.

    Despite a Texas grand jury clearing Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing and indicting 2 CMP employees based on the fraudulent nature of the smear videos, House Republicans moved forward with their special committee to investigate abortion service providers and fetal tissue donations.

     

  • What Media Should Know About The Anti-Choice Group Protest ABQ

    Meet The Group That Has A History Of Targeting Abortion Providers, Has Connections To Violent Anti-Choice Groups, And Is Now Feeding Misinformation To A Congressional Panel 

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Following in the footsteps of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), Protest ABQ is the latest anti-choice group feeding misinformation to Republicans on the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. Protest ABQ is a radical anti-abortion group with connections to Operation Rescue, an extremist group with a history of ties to anti-choice violence. Here is what the media should know about these groups, their efforts to mobilize violence against abortion providers, and their connections to Congress’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.