Friday, October 9, 2015

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member Full Committee Hearing on “Planned Parenthood Exposed"

 " Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider”

§  “In the weeks or months prior to their public release, Mr. Franks and others in the Majority—including, we have learned, his subcommittee staff—received and previewed these surreptitiously recorded videos.

§  “On July 15, 2015, the first video was released to the public.  Others were posted online over the August break.

§  “Three different House committees then launched simultaneous congressional investigations.

§  “On September 9, this Committee held its first hearing on the topic—at which the Majority’s witnesses refused to discuss the videos at the heart of the matter. 

§  “There have since been two other hearings on this topic, making this hearing the fourth in the House in less than a month.

§  “And, finally, the Majority has announced that it will create a new, taxpayer-funded select committee to extend this so-called ‘investigation’ indefinitely.

“As I reflect on these events, I think we are able to draw a few conclusions.

“First, there is no evidence in the record whatsoever of illegal activity at Planned Parenthood. 

“On behalf of its 59 affiliates, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has provided this committee with hundreds of pages of documents.  The organization is cooperating fully with all three investigations in the House. 

“The documents we have reviewed so far allow us to go point-by-point to correct the false impressions created by the highly edited, highly misleading videos that nominally inspired these investigations. 

“Chairman Chaffetz, who sits on this Committee and is running his own investigation into these matters in the Oversight Committee next door, has agreed with this conclusion.

“Last week, Wolf Blitzer asked the gentleman from Utah: ‘Is there any evidence . . . that Planned Parenthood has broken any law?’  Mr. Chaffetz answered with the truth: ‘No, I’m not suggesting that they broke the law.’

“Second, I am led to conclude that this hearing—much like the Majority’s broader attack on Planned Parenthood—is largely political theater, designed to rally the conservative base and roll back the constitutional right to choose wherever possible. 

“In practice, these investigations have had little to do with the videos—which the Majority went to great lengths not to discuss at our last hearing.  They have everything to do with appeasing the most extreme elements of the Republican Party during an intraparty leadership crisis and a fractious presidential primary.

“We may have a legitimate difference of opinion on Roe v. Wade, but it remains the law of the land—and the Majority’s attempt to re-litigate a forty-year-old decision places thousands of lives at risk.

“Many women enter the health care system through a family-planning provider.  In fact, 6 in 10 women who receive services at a publicly funded family-planning center consider it their primary source of medical care.

“Planned Parenthood alone serves 2.7 million Americans every year.  Abortion procedures make up an incredibly small amount of the services it provides—only 3 percent. 

“For example, in 2013, Planned Parenthood provided 900,000 cancer screenings to women across the country.  88,000 of those tests detected cancer early or identified abnormalities that might signal a greater risk of cancer.  In short, in this way and so many others, Planned Parenthood saves lives. 

“The attempt to defund Planned Parenthood places each of those lives at risk.  We should be grateful that the effort has been almost entirely unsuccessful, at least at the federal level.

“Finally, it is important to observe all of the good work this Committee might be doing instead of meeting for the second time on this subject in thirty days.

“As we head into our second election season since Shelby County v. Holder, this Committee has done very little to restore the enforcement mechanisms of the Voting Rights Act. 

“We have done nothing to advance comprehensive immigration reform, even though the proposal remains overwhelmingly popular and would easily pass the House. 

“11 million men and women are waiting to come out of the shadows and contribute to our economy and communities.  At this pace, I fear they will wait much longer.

“Although the scourge of gun violence has touched every one of our districts—including yours, Mr. Chairman—we have all but ignored calls to strengthen background checks and close the gun show loophole.  All of these solutions would save lives; and all of them are consistent with our constitutional rights.

“The list of missed opportunities is long, Mr. Chairman, and our time is short.  We should not spend one more minute—or one more taxpayer dollar—vilifying Planned Parenthood without a speck of evidence to back these claims. 

“This Committee simply has too much important work to do.  I urge my colleagues to put this moment of political theater behind us.  We can do better. I thank the Chairman, and yield the balance of my time.”

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Click HERE to read the testimony of Democratic witness, Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society for Law and Poverty.

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