Outgoing House speaker John Boehner appointed eight Republican leaders to his new select committee on Friday to investigate the practices of the embattled women’s reproductive health group, Planned Parenthood.
The speaker’s move came a day after another GOP-led special committee he authorized had a contentious 11-hour long hearing with former secretary of state and Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, where it had trouble uncovering new information with her handling of the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi that left four Americans dead.
“At my request, three House committees have been investigating the abortion business, but we still don’t have the full truth,” said Boehner in a statement.
The subcommittee is under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee and will be chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who has been critical of the Planned Parenthood. In a statement, the Tennessee Republican said the panel's task is to protect “the dignity of human life.”
“This will be a broad based – information gathering – fact finding mission - to answer questions about how we treat and protect life in this country,” she said in a statement. “This is a discussion that this country must have. This is a discussion that we should not shy away from.”
The panel will investigate medical procedures and business practices used by entities involved in fetal tissue procurement. It will also examine federal funding and support for abortion providers.
The GOP’s most direct effort to slash federal funds from Planned Parenthood comes in response to the release of highly edited videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group, which showed officials from the organization discussing the sales of fetal tissue for research. The videos have triggered backlash throughout Republican and conservative circles.
The Republican leadership attempted to defund the group last month as they tried to prevent the Oct. 1 government shutdown, amid tense opposition from Democrats and President Barack Obama. With just hours before the deadline, Congress passed a short-term federal funding bill to avert a government shutdown—at least until December 11.
Planned Parenthood has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing – including accusations that it illegally altered abortion procedures to obtain better samples – saying it only accepts small sums to cover necessary costs.
The group plans to maintain programs at some of its clinics that make fetal tissue available for research, but will not accept any sort of payment to cover the costs. Even though the selling of fetal tissue for profit is illegal, a 1993 law allows women who undergo abortions to donate fetal tissue for use in scientific research.
Democrats have likened the special committee investigating the Benghazi attacks, saying both committees are politically-motivated and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“You would have thought Republicans would have learned their lesson from their 17-month political debacle called the Select Committee on Benghazi,” said Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra in statement. “It’s really past time for this Republican Congress to get to work for the sake of all Americans who don’t have the same luxury to play games while on the job.”
The House voted to create the 13-member special committee early this month. Democrats have not decided yet who would serve on panel. According to the Huffington Post, House Democratic leadership is considering boycotting the committee.
Speaking at the Democratic National Committee Women's Leadership Forum on Friday, Clinton blasted GOP leaders, saying “I think we all know by now that is just code for a partisan witch hunt.”
In another defunding effort, House Republicans passed a reconciliation bill on Friday that would block federal funds from Planned Parenthood for one tear and divert it to other women's health programs. The measure also seeks to repeal key sections of the Affordable Care Act. This bill is a procedural tool that prevent bills from being filibustered and pass with a simple majority in the Senate.