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House Begins Series Of Hearings On Defunding Planned Parenthood


House Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood, and that effort began today with the first in a series of hearings. This was all prompted by sting videos that sought to implicate the women's health group in various crimes related to the collection of fetal tissue for research. NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports that much of today's discussion focused on the morality of abortion itself.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Chairman Bob Goodlatte has billed the hearing as an investigation, but its very title made the majority position clear.


BOB GOODLATTE: We welcome everyone to this morning's hearing on Planned Parenthood Exposed - Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation's Largest Abortion Provider.

LUDDEN: Arizona Republican Trent Franks talked about his disgust while watching this summer's sting videos.


TRENT FRANKS: Corporate officers and employees of Planned Parenthood casually discussing their rampant practice of harvesting and selling the little body parts from many of the hundreds of thousands of innocent babies they are guilty of killing in their abortion clinics across this nation.

LUDDEN: Planned Parenthood denies any wrongdoing, and the videos show no evidence of it. But Planned Parenthood wasn't actually invited to testify. There were two women who survived botched abortions, including Gianna Jessen.


GIANNA JESSEN: My medical records state, born alive during saline abortion - 6 a.m. - ha, victory.

LUDDEN: For nearly four hours, Democrats and Republicans mostly talked past each other. They argued over the term fetus versus baby, whether a dilation and evacuation procedure is humane, the definition of infanticide. A witness from the National Right to Life committee suggested new restrictions are needed to address that. Exasperated, Democrat Steve Cohen of Tennessee said his Republican colleagues weren't really there to talk about the videos at all.


STEVE COHEN: They want to outlaw abortion, and they won't be happy until abortion is outlawed in the United States of America.

LUDDEN: And that was about the only point both sides agreed on. Federal law already bans spending taxpayer money on abortion. Yale law professor Priscilla Smith said the $500 million Planned Parenthood gets mostly through Medicaid pays for cancer screenings, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and contraception. Cutting that, she told Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner, would mean more unintended pregnancies.


PRISCILLA SMITH: It's really a no-brainer. It makes no sense not to fund those services if you want to reduce the number of abortions.

JIM SENSENBRENNER: Well, I don't think there's statistics that indicated that that's the case.

SMITH: There absolutely are.

SENSENBRENNER: And we're way out of time, so I'll yield back.

LUDDEN: In a statement, Planned Parenthood noted a long history of sting videos by abortion opponents dating back to 2000. They also prompted congressional hearings, but their accusations turned out to be false. Republican leaders have suggested they don't have the votes to defund the group, but House members say they plan more hearings soon. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.
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