Editorials

As if nation needs another show trial

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards testified on Capitol Hill last month.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards testified on Capitol Hill last month. The Associated Press

On the heels of the political farce that is the House Select Committee on Benghazi, outgoing Speaker John Boehner has begun casting the cringe-worthy sequel, a House select “investigative” panel on Planned Parenthood.

Do they never learn? The committee is a sop to abortion foes, who weeks ago came close to shutting down the government over the abortion provider’s federal funding. But as in Benghazi, the House Republicans’ zeal to beat a political hobby horse into submission only underscores the disconnect between the far right and the rest of the country.

This Planned Parenthood campaign stems from claims that the group – which mainly provides cheap contraception to poor and uninsured women – illegally sold fetal body parts for research. The organization has denied wrongdoing, charging that activists doctored the “sting” videos that prompted the charges.

If there is evidence of illegality, it has yet to surface. Abortion, while a last resort for most women, is legal. So is the donation of fetal tissue for scientific research. The latter, in fact, has paved the way for new treatments for Alzheimer’s, diabetes and other diseases.

Only a handful of Planned Parenthood clinics in two states have facilitated fetal tissue donations, and only one, in California, took advantage of the law that allows nominal reimbursement for processing and storage. Planned Parenthood announced that it has stopped accepting that small, also legal, compensation.

Conservatives should think twice about continuing this tactic. If Democrats retake Congress, it would not be hard to imagine a wave of similar “investigations” into, say, the National Rifle Association.

None of this has deterred multiple red state and congressional investigations into this non-issue. In the House alone, three other committees already are conducting Planned Parenthood witch hunts. Last month, one panel spent so much time browbeating Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards that their interruptions became an Internet meme.

Now comes this new panel, headed by Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a partisan so far to the right that she earlier this year told BBC Radio that she doesn’t accept the theory of evolution. Democrats must be tempted to boycott this charade, but they shouldn’t. Voices like those of California Reps. Adam Schiff and Linda Sanchez countered the right-wing narrative in the Benghazi committee, and restored a modicum of Congress’ lost credibility as a watchdog.

But conservatives should think twice about continuing this tactic; should Democrats retake Congress, it would not be hard to imagine similar “investigations” into, say, the National Rifle Association. Sequels do have a way of begetting themselves.

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