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For Planned Parenthood, Videos Take a Toll on Hill

Lankford is one of the Republicans expected to headline an anti-abortion rally at the Capitol Saturday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats have rallied to defend Planned Parenthood in the wake of the recent releases of two graphic undercover videos by an anti-abortion group, but the women's health group is already feeling plenty of heat on Capitol Hill.  

On Thursday, Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn, introduced the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, which would place a moratorium on federal funding for Planned Parenthood while it is under investigation. More than 100 members have joined her as co-sponsors on the bill.  

A day earlier, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., pulled a bill from the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee which would have provided for fertility treatments and counseling for women veterans after an amendment related to Planned Parenthood was attached by Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz tried a similar tactic when he attached an amendment to the Senate's long-term highway projects bill that targeted Planned Parenthood. The move was eventually unsuccessful as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., only allowed two amendments to the must-pass bill — legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank and another symbolic repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  

Cruz told CQ Roll Call on Thursday, after he had introduced his own doomed-to-defeat amendment, that "at the very minimum Congress should impose a moratorium on Planned Parenthood taxpayer funding while they are under investigation for being in effect, a criminal enterprise."  

On Tuesday, some of the most prominent pro-life voices on Capitol Hill plan to join anti-abortion rallies around the country in nearly 50 cities, including one in front of the Capitol to protest Planned Parenthood.  

The pro-life community has been energized by the release of two videos recorded by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress that show Planned Parenthood executives discussing fetal tissue donation and abortion procedures.  

A spokesperson for the D.C. chapter of Students for Life, the anti-abortion group organizing the rallies, confirmed Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford and Reps. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Andy Harris of Maryland will appear at the Capitol event.  

Lankford is spearheading a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in the Senate. Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson will also speak at the Tuesday rally.  

"We're hoping that this rally will get Congress moving," said Students for Life president Kristan Hawkins. "We don't want taxpayer dollars going to Planned Parenthood anymore."  

CMP claims the videos show negotiations over the sale of fetal organs, which spurred Republican lawmakers to launch two congressional committee investigations.  

Planned Parenthood has ardently defended its tissue donation operations, insisting the program complies with all federal regulations and that clinics only recoup expenses for their services and do not profit from the sale of fetal tissue to medical research organizations.  

Democrats are rallying around Planned Parenthood, asking the Department of Justice to investigate CMP's methods in producing the videos and its validity as an organization.

Republican members of the House and Senate, in turn, have called for the DOJ to investigate Planned Parenthood. Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed this week her office is reviewing the clips.

On the campaign trail, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton defended Planned Parenthood in a speech Thursday in South Carolina.  

She said the organization provides a broad range of health services for women and dismissed the recent videos as part of a years-long attack on "a woman's right to choose, to make the most personal, difficult decisions that any woman would face."  

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