Three Ways the Planned Parenthood Hearing Was a Ridiculous Show Trial
By Nathalie Baptiste | Sep 10, 2015
Yesterday, a mostly male group of GOP lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee made good on their promise to “investigate” Planned Parenthood, by holding a hearing on the heavily edited and widely debunked “sting” videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, which, despite its misleading name, is not a medical organization.
But the hearing was clearly not designed to seek the truth.
First, it ignored the fact that Planned Parenthood provides basic health care to millions of women. The hearing happened amid threats of another government shutdown over funding for the organization. Gianna Jessen, an anti-choice activist who was invited to testify as an “abortion survivor,” said, “Planned Parenthood receives $500 million of taxpayer money a year to primarily destroy and dismember babies.” Of course, the Hyde Amendment stipulates that no federal funds go toward abortions, and only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services involve abortion procedures (which, as a reminder, is a woman’s right).
That fact is also something Jessen doesn’t seem to understand, but the Republicans let her testify anyway. “We often hear that if Planned Parenthood were defunded, there would be a health crisis among women without the services they provide, “she said. “This is absolutely false.”
No, that is absolutely true. Women’s lives are put at risk without abortion access and the other services that Planned Parenthood provides. In Texas, where it was effectively defunded, fewer women have access to the health care they need. In El Salvador—where abortion is outlawed—the cause of death for 57 percent of pregnant females between the ages of 10 and 19 is suicide.
Second, the hearing was centered on misleading videos being evidence of illegal activity. Despite the fact that the videos were released by the Center for Medical Progress, no one from CMP was at the hearing and Representative Trent Franks even admitted to having not seen the unedited videos. This did not stop him from continuing to push the false narrative that seemed to be the theme of the show trial. “Numerous video recordings have been recently released that incontrovertibly document corporate officers and employees of Planned Parenthood,” he said, “casually discussing their rampant practice of harvesting and selling the little body parts.”
In reality, the Planned Parenthood officials were discussing the perfectly legal practice of tissue donation. But the videos were edited to remove the portions where they repeatedly said that tissue donation is not for profit. And when hearing witness James Bopp, the lawyer for the National Right to Life Committee was asked to comment on the legality of the videos, Bopp declined, saying, “I was advised that that’s not the purpose of the hearing.” Of course, the videos are what spurred the hearing in the first place, but being under oath is likely a powerful inducement to not speak about videos that are deliberately misleading.
Third, the hearing was glaringly one-sided. Not only was no one from CMP present, neither was anyone from Planned Parenthood. In fact, Priscilla Smith was the only pro-abortion witness present and though she is not a doctor, Franks continually asked her questions that should be posed to someone in the profession. “How do you know it’s viable, without a medical professional?” Franks asked about fetuses. “I’m not a doctor,” Smith promptly responded.
The hearing lacked legitimacy, reality, and truth. Republicans can claim to care about the unborn as much as they would like, but the purpose of this hearing was to find even more ways to restrict a woman’s right to abortion, and her control over her own reproductive health.