The latest congressional hearing investigating Planned Parenthood switched focus from the health care provider’s abortion practices to the morality and constitutionality of the issue Thursday afternoon.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), held up a miniature diaper intended for an extremely premature baby, asking about what’s happened to the nation’s conscience. One question remains, he said: “Does abortion kill a little baby?”
Supported by a majority of pro-life witnesses, Republicans of the House Judiciary Committee continued to build momentum for their campaign against the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, while Democrats asked their colleagues to back off from their agenda.
“We should not spend one more minute or one more taxpayer dollar vilifying Planned Parenthood,” Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Michigan) said, citing opportunities to work on gun violence, immigration reform or voting rights. “We can do better.”
With the House’s latest act to create a new panel to join the investigation on Planned Parenthood Wednesday, there are now five congressional groups working to uncover the truth behind the undercover videos prepared by abortion opponents. The videos show Planned Parenthood employees negotiating in a matter-of-fact manner over fetal tissue donations. The video’s validity and their possible manipulation is under investigation.
“These videos indicate that abortion practitioners may have adopted new procedures,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He said the purpose of Thursday’s hearing was to better understand what truth the videos have, praising the House’s recent work to protect babies who might be born alive after an abortion attempt.
“The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act imposes criminal penalties at the federal level to prevent the killing of innocent human babies born alive,” Goddlatte said.
Three weeks ago, the House passed that act and the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, which would halt federal funding for the reproductive health organization for at least a year. The Senate has not yet voted on these acts. The measure is unlikely to pass the senate and will almost certainly be vetoed by the president, if it should pass both houses of Congress.
After Goodlatte opened the hearing by going into great detail on the growth of a baby from conception—the eyes, ears, heart, lungs—gynecologist Dr. Anthony Levatino testified about how he used to perform late-term abortions, even showing the medical tools.
“Every abortion involves the destruction of human life,” Levatino said, who changed his philosophy after performing about 1,200 abortions. “I think it’s absolutely gruesome.”
Former Planned Parenthood employee Susan Thayer and Luana Stoltenberg, who has been negatively affected by her three abortions, echoed that sentiment in their testimonies. Thayer said that in her experience with the company, their focus was always on profiting as opposed to women’s health.
The president of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy Caroline Fredrickson was the sole defender of Planned Parenthood—and abortion.
“It’s imperative that abortion remain safe and legal in this country,” Fredrickson said.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) supported Fredrickson and decried the hypocrisy of the debate on abortion, when Republicans never attack gun rights—both of which are constitutionally protected, he said.
However, Rep. Steve King said that often receiving an abortion is actually easier in many states and regions around the U.S. than buying or carrying a gun.
“(Thursday’s hearing), much like the majority’s broader attack on Planned Parenthood, is largely a political theater,” Conyers said, referencing the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which confirmed a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. “It remains the law of the land.”