- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Two women who survived abortions told a congressional hearing that Planned Parenthood, which is being investigated over its abortion and fetal tissue activities, already misleads people about what it does.

Planned Parenthood says it is for women’s rights, said Gianna Jessen, who showed pictures of a burned fetus around the same age as her, when she was born at 7½ months after a failed saline abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic in 1977.

“If abortion is about women’s rights, then what were mine?” she said.

“I have to say, as a woman who survived an abortion survivor, there is something wrong when health care and women’s empowerment is based on someone’s life ending,” said Melissa Ohden, founder of the Abortion Survivors Network. Ms. Ohden was also almost killed in a 1977 saline abortion, but she lived, thanks to two nurses who made sure she got medical care instead of being dumped “into a bucket of formaldehyde.”

The House Judiciary Committee is probing Planned Parenthood’s activities regarding the harvesting and distributing of fetal body parts, based on nine undercover videos released over the summer by the Center for Medical Progress.

Planned Parenthood is granted “huge amounts of federal funds,” which makes it Congress’ business to ensure that federal taxpayers are “not contributing to the sorts of horrors reflected in the undercover videos,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican.

The Democratic committee members lambasted the hearing as a “show trial,” called the videos “bogus” and defended Planned Parenthood as the target of multiple smear campaigns aimed at defunding it and ending legal abortion.

“The people who made these videos are liars in a long line of liars,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, New York Democrat.

This hearing is “one-sided,” said Rep. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat, who chided the majority for not inviting Planned Parenthood — “the target of today’s attacks” — or the Center for Medical Progress to the hearing.

These “doctored videos” offer “no credible evidence” that Planned Parenthood — one of the most popular organizations for 100 years — violated federal law, said Mr. Conyers.

Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican, said the Center for Medical Progress videos show people “haggling” over price of fetal parts, and using painful, dismemberment methods to destroy the lives of “these little babies.”

The congressman recalled how in one video a woman testified that she was shown an aborted baby boy’s heart that was still beating and told to harvest his brain.

The only time this baby was held was by people “who cut his face open and took his brain,” said Mr. Franks.

“Do not tell me these are not children” being aborted, Ms. Jessen said to Planned Parenthood and its supporters. “A heartbeat proves that … and so does the fact that they are selling human organs for profit,” she said.

The Democrats’ witness was Priscilla J. Smith, a senior fellow for the Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice at Yale Law School who said she was testifying in her personal capacity. She dismissed the undercover videos as edited and unreliable, and she defended Planned Parenthood as a worthy organization. Committee members grilled her about the humane treatment of fetuses, viability and other details about abortion practices and law.

James Bopp Jr., general counsel for National Right to Life, testified that banning the use of fetal tissue from aborted children in research — if not abortion itself — would end abusive activities. He too was questioned pointedly, especially about the Center for Medical Progress videos and previous video campaigns against Planned Parenthood.

The House committee said its hearings should reveal whether laws have been violated and whether “there are gaps in the law that should be filled to prevent the types of horrors described in the videos.”

Mr. Goodlatte added that if Congress and President Obama enacted the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act — which would disallow most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy — it would “help ensure that the body parts of late-abortion babies cannot be sold because late-term abortions would be generally prohibited.”

Separately, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a report Wednesday saying they had interviewed Planned Parenthood and biotech officials and found no evidence of wrongdoing regarding fetal tissue activities.

Updated: This story has been updated to reflect that Ms. Jessen showed a photo of a saline-damaged fetus, not a photo of herself.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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