Any American familiar with the criminal justice system, or the justice system in general, are aware that in any hearing or court proceeding it is mandatory that the accused is present and that there are experts to verify any evidence presented. Republicans in Congress holding hearings do not subscribe to that process and not only forbid the accused from being present, they do not use ‘experts’ in the appropriate field as witnesses in their “prosecutorial” proceedings; they use religious fanatics.
It is possible that some Americans recall a that couple of years ago when Republicans in the House convened a hearing to convince other legislators that part and parcel of their duty was denying women contraception, only men testified. Instead of even one woman, or one woman’s reproductive health expert, at the hearing, Republicans summoned a group of male preachers and priests to testify as “medical experts” about the dangers of ever allowing a woman to decide whether or not to use contraceptives. This week they repeated the process in holding a hearing on why Congress should eliminate Planned Parenthood.
The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee held what they touted was a “very reasonable” hearing on the evils of Planned Parenthood. The title of the evangelical hearing was, “Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider.” If the title belied any sense that the hearing was anything but neutral, the expert witness list should convince anyone that the hearing was a well-conceived evangelical diatribe on the illegality of abortion and why every law enforcement agency in America is duty-bound to file criminal complaints against Planned Parenthood.
Of course, there were no representatives of the accused, Planned Parenthood, invited to testify, but there was the director of the Study of Reproductive Justice at Yale Law, Priscilla J. Smith, who was not the evangelical expert witness Republicans expected. She made the mistake of testifying that the phony videos produced by the equally-phony named Center for Medical Progress were unreliable and deceptively edited. She also attempted to explain that wiping out Planned Parenthood would lead to more unplanned pregnancies, but all that accomplished was exciting the numerous evangelical experts to wet themselves when they heard the words unplanned pregnancies.
The Republicans’ witness list was “a veritable who’s who” of evangelical anti-women’s choice experts including a Christian fanatic, James Bopp, who serves as the National Right to Life general counsel and several other anti-women church groups such as Focus on the Family and the Susan B. Anthony List. A noted anti-choice activist, Melissa Ohden, who claims she miraculously survived a successful abortion and Gianna Jessen who also claimed she was aborted and survived testified as “experts” on Planned Parenthood’s criminality. Obviously, none of the anti-choice expert witnesses were remotely qualified to testify as anything other than dysfunctional evangelicals giving their religious testimonials on why Planned Parenthood has to go.
The crux of the religious hearing was expressing outrage that Planned Parenthood participates in a fetal tissue donation program that is completely legal according to a 1993 law passed by some of the same religious Republicans attending the hearing. Although not in attendance for the House version of the Planned Parenthood trial, one of those screaming loudest the organization is doing something illegal includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who voted for the legislation. There were no experts from Planned Parenthood, Health and Human Services (HHS), or medical experts that have all emphasized very recently that there is absolutely no federal funding supporting abortions, or any health benefit coverage that includes abortion; except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is endangered that religious Republicans still claim is an abomination. This week, HHS officials once again informed Republicans and the religious zealots that the only federal funds provided to Planned Parenthood cover “services such as annual wellness exams, cancer screenings, contraception, and the testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.”
One of the Democrats on the committee, David Cicilline (D-RI) asked evangelical lawyer Bopp whether or not he was counseled by Republicans not to discuss ongoing investigations into the criminal activity of the Center for Medical Progress who are “accused of a variety of legal and IRS infractions” in creating the phony videos. The National Right to Life attorney replied to the congressman “That’s not what this hearing is about;” Congressman Cicilline replied that “I’m still not entirely sure what this hearing is about.” Of course Cicilline did know what the hearing was about; allowing religious witnesses to pose as medical experts expressing their hatred of women choosing when they give birth, and nothing else.
Planned Parenthood responded to not being allowed to attend its own trial by releasing a detailed report of the smear tactics and failed attempt to ban a legal medical procedure in Jesus’ name. The vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Dawn Laguens, released a statement labeling the religious Republicans’ expert witnesses as “extremists.”
Laguens’ statement said,
“This hearing was political theater at its very worst. From the provocative title to the slate of life-long anti-abortion activists invited to testify, it’s clear this hearing was not about Planned Parenthood —- it was a chance for anti-abortion extremists and members of Congress to promote their political agenda of banning abortion in this country.
Millions of people across the country depend on Planned Parenthood for basic, reproductive health care. More than half of Planned Parenthood’s health centers are in rural or medically underserved areas, meaning that quite literally, without us, many of our patients would have nowhere else to go. These attacks against Planned Parenthood are fraudulent, have been widely discredited, and are intended to deceive the public in order to further an anti-abortion agenda. The public overwhelmingly rejects these baseless attacks and overwhelmingly supports federal funding for Planned Parenthood’s preventive services. This is not what people want to see Congress spending its time doing.”
Regardless what evangelical anti-women Republicans claim, the purpose of the phony “hearing” was not to listen to expert testimony or gather relevant facts about Planned Parenthood because there were no expert witnesses or relevant facts presented. Instead it was to show religious extremists that along with the Koch brothers and foreigners, Republicans work solely for religious extremists and they summoned those extremists to convince other anti-women’s rights fanatics that Planned Parenthood only exists to sell “ripped-out baby parts” for Satan’s entertainment.
The chair of the Judiciary Committee, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), praised the Center for Medical Progress for the fine editing and fictional acumen in their phony videos that he claimed “showed horrors that called for new laws to help protect innocent life nationwide.” For the 239th time, according to the god of the Christian bible’s own utterance on precisely what “life” is and when it begins according to his alleged godly wisdom, when a fetus exits the woman’s womb and breathes air under its own power, it becomes a living being.
Republicans have little interest in protecting real innocent American lives; especially the lives of low-income men and women who are able to get cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood, but this hearing was not about protecting lives. It is about controlling women, making them birth machines, and disallowing them from having what religious Republicans claim is “consequence free sexual relations,” and they have a very long list of “religious experts” ready and willing to testify why Congress should punish women.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.