The first congressional hearing about the undercover Planned Parenthood videos grew fiery Wednesday as two survivors of late-term abortions spoke out against federal tax dollars going to fund the nation’s largest abortion provider.
“Do not tell me these are not children. A heartbeat proves that. So do I," Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor from Franklin, Tennessee, who said her biological mother tried to abort her at seven months, told the House Judiciary Committee.
Melissa Ohden, another abortion survivor from Gladstone, Missouri, told the committee, “A bucket of formaldehyde in a utility closet was meant to be my fate after I survived my abortion attempt.”
She added, "I deserved the same equal protection under the law as all of you.”
This summer, the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress released a series of undercover videos that seem to show Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood gets $500 million in federal funds each year, and though that money legally can’t be used directly for abortions, critics charge that the money is fungible.
“History shows us that as soon as you strip humans of their rights, they become commodities,” National Right to Life Committee general counsel James Bopp told the committee, referring to the sale of body parts.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) argued for maintaining funding, stressing federal money doesn’t go directly to abortions.
“When people say they want to take back our country, what they mean is they want the country of Dwight Eisenhower,” Cohen said. “It’s a new America. We are not going to go back to that America. This hearing is about eliminating and overruling Roe v. Wade. It’s about abortion, period. For me, Planned Parenthood is part of my DNA. It is one of the finest organizations in this country. It helps women, women of color, poor women, and it gives them choice.”
A Planned Parenthood representative did not accept an invitation to speak at the hearing. The organization is under investigation in several states since the release of the videos.
Only one person testifying on the panel defended Planned Parenthood: Priscilla Smith, the director of Yale Law School’s Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) questioned her about a procedure known as dilation and evacuation, or D&E.
“Justice [Anthony] Kennedy said the fetus dies in many ways just as a human adult or child would,” Goodlatte said. “It bleeds to death as it is torn from limb from limb. Ms. Smith, do you believe this practice represents a humane way to die?”
Smith responded, “What you are talking about is pre-viability procedures performed on a fetus that cannot survive outside the womb.”
Goodlatte jumped in, “Maybe, maybe not. Justice Kennedy was talking about a child that was born alive with one arm because the other had been pulled off already. Is this a humane way to die?”
Smith finally answered.
“I believe for a fetus, pre-viable fetus, yes, a D&E procedure is a very humane procedure and it protects the woman and her health and safety more than any other procedure,” Smith said.
A somewhat astonished Goodlatte replied, “Ms. Smith, I’m going to reclaim my time and just say, your view of humanity and mine are different.”
Jessen, one of the abortion survivors testifying to the committee, was also taken aback by Smith’s comment.
“I’m speechless with Ms. Smith’s reply that she thinks that’s a humane way to die,” Jessen said.
Earlier in the hearing, Smith described the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood personnel as “misleading” and “smears,” but when pressed, she had difficulty pinpointing what was misleading.
“It is hard for me to tell you exactly what on the video was correct or incorrect,” Smith said.
Another member of Congress brought up the fiscal case against spending taxpayer money for Planned Parenthood amid so much controversy over the group.
“We are borrowing a half a billion from China and funneling it to Planned Parenthood,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said.