OLYMPIA — A politically contentious investigation by Congressional Republicans into the practices of Planned Parenthood and procuring of fetal tissue for research quietly concluded this week.
It’s almost certain the fight isn’t over.
The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives filed its final report Tuesday, ending a 15-month, $1.59 million undertaking that appears to have been a futile search for damning evidence to hamstring Planned Parenthood operations and halt scientists’ use of fetal tissue in researching cures for a host of illnesses.
GOP leaders submitted the 471-page opus in the waning moments before the 114th Congress adjourned and the new 115th Congress convened.
There was no press release nor news conference, simply a link on the House Energy and Commerce Committee web site. If you didn’t know it was coming, you’d have missed it.
Rep. Suzan DelBenecq JC of Washington, one of the panel’s six Democratic members, knew and didn’t.
“This Panel has been a brazenly partisan and ideological witch-hunt and it should never have been created in the first place,” she said in a statement. DelBene represents the 1st Congressional District, which includes east Snohomish and King counties.
“I have seen firsthand how this so-called investigation has repeatedly shown contempt for the facts and disdain for the truth,” she said. “At a time when fake news is inciting real violence and intimidation, Congress shouldn’t be adding fuel to the fire by spreading extreme anti-choice falsehoods and fabrications in this report.”
The GOP’s silence this week stands in contrast to the impassioned speeches and statements accompanying creation of the panel in October 2015. It was a big deal then as conservative Republicans got the go-ahead and money to carry out a no holds-barred investigation of the nation’s best known provider of family planning and abortion services.
The panel convened hearings and issued subpoenas for mounds of records from colleges, including the University of Washington, and private companies. Its Republican members also sought names of individuals involved in obtaining fetal tissue and performing abortions.
Hidden camera videos alleged to capture Planned Parenthood execs negotiating payments for harvested fetal tissue incited the furor preceding the panel’s creation.
And it didn’t dissipate even after those videos were found to be doctored. However, it did prompt the panel’s Republican majority to add a disclaimer in the report stating : “The Panel did not design its investigation to prove or disprove the credibility of tapes released by the Center for Medical Progress.”
Among the report’s recommendations are a call to ban abortions after 20 weeks, defund Planned Parenthood and give states “greater flexibility” to ban abortion providers from receiving federal funds. They also want to stop donation of fetal tissue from elective terminations and additional federal guidelines for use of human fetal tissue.
What’s next is unclear. Though Republicans aren’t making much of the findings yet, Democrats are bracing for legislation intended to carry many of them out. They worry the House GOP could find allies within the administration of the incoming Republican president.
“While I welcome the conclusion of the Panel, I remain gravely concerned,” DelBene said. “Women, and our country, cannot afford any more of these taxpayer-funded crusades against women’s health.”