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House GOP's 'witch hunt' takes an alarming turn

The congressional Republicans' witch hunt against Planned Parenthood looked bad before. Yesterday, it got much worse.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 5, 2013.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 5, 2013.
About six weeks ago, the "controversy" surrounding Planned Parenthood and fetal-tissue research effectively came to an end. Despite the far-right uproar surrounding "undercover" videos targeting the health organization, a Texas grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing, and instead indicted the conservatives responsible for the "sting" operation against the group.
This followed word from 11 states, which had launched official investigations into Planned Parenthood's work, and each of which reached the same conclusion: the organization did not illegally sell fetal tissue.
It prompted the editorial board of the Washington Post to argue that it's time for the GOP to "give up its crusade" against Planned Parenthood. Congressional Republicans, which created a special committee to investigate the controversy that doesn't exist, have refused.
In fact, as The Hill reported yesterday, the GOP investigation appears to have taken an alarming turn.

Members of a House committee investigating Planned Parenthood clashed Wednesday during their first hearing on subpoenas issued to abortion clinics and medical researchers over the use of fetal tissue. [...] Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the committee could be "complicit" in murders of those researchers if their names became public and they are then killed. Democrats pointed to the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado to illustrate the danger.

When Nadler asked Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the panel's chair, why the committee needs the names of individual medical researchers, the Tennessee Republican reportedly responded, "No, sir, I am not going to answer that."
The Associated Press report added that the committee has no rules in place to protect the names of those subpoenaed -- raising the possibility of Congress effectively painting targets on the backs of scientists and researchers for no particular reason other than the Republicans' desire for a culture war.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the top Democrat on the panel, described the investigation as a "partisan and dangerous witch hunt, and added, in reference to Blackburn, "The chair's abuse of her position as chair to compel this information is reminiscent of Senator Joe McCarthy's abusive tactics."
Democrats pushed a measure to quash the unnecessary subpoenas. Republicans defeated it on a party-line vote.
Disclosure: My wife works at Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece and her work is unrelated to fetal-tissue research and the congressional investigation.