Democrats in Congress are using the recent shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado to once again put pressure on Republicans to disband a select committee tasked with investigating the women's health organization. Returning to Washington after Thanksgiving break on Monday, some Democrats more forcefully called for ending the committee, which was formed by House Republicans after the release of a series of undercover videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling aborted fetuses' organs and tissues. Democrats also referred to the shooting on Friday, which killed three people, as an act of terror -- language that abortion rights supporters have pushed lawmakers to use to suggest that a network of anti-abortion groups and advocates have helped fuel violence.
Dec. 1, 201507:11
There was just one nagging detail: there's literally no evidence Planned Parenthood did anything illegal. It didn't sell fetal tissue for a profit; it didn't misuse public resources, and it didn't violate any laws. The Republican plan was based on a foundation of quicksand.
GOP lawmakers, however, wouldn't let these pesky facts get in the way. They proceeded to launch hearings, investigations, and a new select subcommittee anyway, without much regard for whether the anti-Planned Parenthood campaign made any substantive sense.
For Democrats, this seemed like an annoying distraction from Congress' real-world priorities. But after a series of attacks on Planned Parenthood facilities, including last week's deadly mass shooting in Colorado Springs, BuzzFeed reports that congressional Dems are starting to see the Republican campaign as less of an aggravation and more of a danger that needs to end.
Among the lawmakers calling for Congress to scale back its anti-Planned Parenthood crusade are Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who also happens to be a member of the new select committee.
Remember, the panel, which is currently hiring taxpayer-financed staffers and which has held no hearings, has not yet explained its purpose for existence. Writing in the Washington Post yesterday, Paul Waldman noted, "The idea, as it seems to be in most congressional investigations Republicans launch, is that while they don't really know what they're looking for, if they look hard enough then they'll find something that can be used against Planned Parenthood."
And while such a shamelessly partisan fishing expedition seemed exasperating before, the question now is whether congressional Republicans are contributing to a dangerous, toxic political climate for no substantive reason.
Roll Call, meanwhile, reported late yesterday that the odds of GOP leaders scaling back its anti-Planned Parenthood efforts are roughly zero.
Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this report, and her work is unrelated to the organization's Colorado affiliate.