In a renewed effort to slash federal funding from Planned Parenthood, House Republicans plan to launch a new congressional panel to investigate abortion services by the embattled women’s reproductive health organization.
Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn unveiled in a YouTube video on Saturday the party’s three-part plan to limit abortion rights, a move she said would “defend our unborn children.” Her announcement comes after the release of highly edited videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation. The videos have triggered backlash throughout Republican and conservative circles.
“These videos show abortion being altered. It is really sickening,” Blackburn said. “We will establish a new select subcommittee that will focus its full attention, resources and subpoena power on getting to the bottom of these horrific practices."
Blackburn said that GOP lawmakers will pass additional pro-life measures and “redouble our efforts so that you are not forced to fund this organization.” She added that Republican leaders will activate the “reconciliation process,” a procedural tool that prevent bills from being filibustered and pass with a simple majority in the Senate.
"Twice now, Senate Democrats have blocked our efforts to restrict funding to Planned Parenthood," Blackburn said. "They defend the organization and its practices even though they freely admit they haven't watched the videos.”
She later invoked Pope Francis’ visit to Congress this week, when he said human life should be defended at “every state of its development.”
The GOP’s strategy is similar to move they made last year to establish a committee to probe former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's handling of the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi that left four Americans dead.
It also comes as federal lawmakers continue to spar over whether Planned Parenthood should get federal funds. Democrats had repeatedly vowed to block any legislation to defund the group. President Barack Obama promised to veto any spending bill that would strip funds from the reproductive health service group, a move that could trigger a government shutdown on Oct. 1.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the GOP’s latest strategy an “attack on women’s health,” and saying that stripping funds from the group would affect disadvantaged women who don’t have access to affordable health services.
“The Speaker’s [John Boehner] resignation has not yet broken Republicans’ fevered obsession with shutting down government at the expense of women’s health,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Make no mistake: House Republicans have renewed their war on women’s health. Hard-working families deserve better than a taxpayer-funded Republican Committee fixated on dismantling women’s health.”
The Planned Parenthood funding fight has also become a key issue on the campaign trail for Republican presidential candidates. Firebrand Texas Republican senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz is leading the charge for a government shutdown for the second time in two years. Carly Fiorina, the only woman seeking the Republican nomination, was confronted during an event in Iowa City on Saturday by more than 20 Planned Parenthood protesters.
During the second Republican debate, Fiorina described a nonexistent Planned Parenthood video showing “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’" Fiorina has refused to back down from the description, despite there being no such video.