Updated: 3:16 p.m. | Fueled by the emergence of a new undercover video showing a high-ranking Planned Parenthood official discussing logistics for donating organs and tissues of aborted fetuses, House Republicans are preparing to re-enter the fray of the abortion debate.
Referring to the practices of the nation's leading abortion provider as "gruesome" and "grisly," Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, on Wednesday released a statement calling for hearings on allegations Planned Parenthood seeks to profit financially from terminating pregnancies in such a way as to preserve the fetuses for use in medical research. "Nothing is more precious than life, especially an unborn child," Boehner said. "When anyone diminishes an unborn child, we are all hurt, irreversibly so. When an organization monetizes an unborn child — and with a cavalier attitude portrayed by this horrific video — we all must act."
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Boehner also demanded that President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell "denounce, and stop, these gruesome practices."
On the heels of Boehner's statement, senior House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee announced the panel has already begun a formal investigation.
"This video is abhorrent and rips at the heart. The committee will get to the bottom of this appalling situation," said full committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.; committee Vice Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy, R-Pa.; and Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts, R-Pa., in a joint statement.
Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., the vice-chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, has written to Attorney General Loretta Lynch to request criminal charges be brought against Planned Parenthood.
And Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., called cutting off federal funding once and for all for abortion providers, Planned Parenthood among them.
The video released Tuesday was filmed secretly by two anti-abortion activists posing as representatives from a biotech firm. Wearing hidden cameras, they captured Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical research, Deborah Nucatola, discussing over lunch, in graphic language, what appears to be the terms of a sale of human fetal tissue.
Officials at Planned Parenthood contend the video was edited to create the appearance of the start of a financial transaction, and indeed nowhere in the footage does Nucatola talk about a sale, saying only there might be costs associated with shipment of the fetal issue (which Planned Parenthood says is standard practice across medical fields) and that her organization is "very sensitive" to appearances of profiting from such arrangements.
Planned Parenthood also said it only donates fetal organs and tissue when the mother has explicitly given consent, in accordance with the law.
Abortion bills on Capitol Hill have been touch-and-go in recent times, with disagreements within the GOP about how far measures should go in banning the practice and whether it's worth it at all for the party to wade into matters so politically and socially loaded.
But the effect of the video was already being felt in the House as early as Tuesday, when Republican leaders canceled a vote on "the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act."
That bill would have directed the Treasury to sell commemorative coins and give the proceeds to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization, a nonprofit organization focused on breast cancer research and health services that has also historically supported Planned Parenthood.
Heritage Action for America, a conservative advocacy group, did not mention the undercover video in its announcement to "key vote" the Komen bill as written on Tuesday, but the timing was significant.
Upon learning about Susan G. Komen's connections to Planned Parenthood, dozens of Republicans lined up on the floor to ask their names be removed as co-sponsors, even after leaders had pulled the measure from consideration.
On Wednesday, the House quietly amended the bill by unanimous consent to remove Susan G. Komen as a recipient of funds.
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