Health

GOP Lawmakers Ignore Evidence, Keep Using Discredited Videos Against Planned Parenthood

CREDIT: AP Photo, Eric Gay

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, left, with his chief of staff Bernie McNamee, waits to testify during a committee hearing on Planned Parenthood videos targeting the abortion provider in July 2015.

For state governments strongly against abortion access, official court rulings seem to hold no power over lawmaking.

After months of investigations, every state looking into Planned Parenthood’s involvement in selling fetal tissue has come up with nothing. Eight of the 20 states that have led investigations didn’t even have enough evidence to start one. And on Tuesday, a Houston grand jury indicted the anti-abortion activists behind the highly-edited videos misleading viewers to believe Planned Parenthood profited off fetal tissue — concluding that they tampered with government evidence and illegally purchased human organs. The jury cleared the local Planned Parenthood staff of any illegal involvement.

However, state officials appear unfazed by these serious allegations — and continue to use the now-discredited videos as their reasoning for pressing ahead with their plans to go after Planned Parenthood.

“The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life in the abortion industry,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the Houston Press on Monday. “The state’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is ongoing.”

In October, the state announced its plan to halt all state Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood due to the organization being “no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner.” Again, this major decision was solely based on the activists’ videos. State officials have yet to say if the indictments will impact this plan.

Texas isn’t the only state ignoring the indictment. On Wednesday, the Ohio state Senate will vote on a bill that would effectively defund Planned Parenthood by redirecting state-administered grants — about $1.3 million last year — away from groups that “promote abortion.” The bill was created after the attack videos aired last summer, and used them as the main evidence for defunding the organization, even after Ohio’s attorney general cleared the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics of any unlawful acts.

Women’s health advocates say the bill’s vague wording could unintentionally prevent major health departments in Ohio’s most populated areas from accessing these funds for all forms of care — not just abortions. The bill could ban major Ohio insurers, like Blue Cross Blue Shield, from covering any other health services simply based on the fact that they also cover abortion.

“We know Gov. Kasich and his allies in the legislature have a clear agenda to stop safe and legal abortion in Ohio,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland in a Wednesday press release. “This legislation shoots past that terrible goal and creates unthinkable collateral damage. Their crusade to punish Planned Parenthood for no good reason will impact thousands of Ohioans who go to city and county health departments for HIV tests, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and medical care to have a healthy pregnancy.”

In a testimony before the state Government Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday, NARAL Ohio’s Deputy Director Jaime Miracle questioned the members’ trust in the attack videos — especially after news of the Texas indictment.

“Not one indictment was filed against Planned Parenthood. But here we are, back in this hearing room once again for more hearings on defunding a trusted provider of medical care in our state,” she said.

“When did it become OK to base our public policy on false accusations made by people who broke the law? Why are we here discussing a bill based on ideas promoted by extremists who have spent time in federal prison for attempted fire bombings of abortion clinics?”

The New York Times editorial board echoed Miracle’s statement in a Wednesday column calling for Ohio, Texas, and all other states to “back away from an anti-abortion group that will stop at nothing to attack Planned Parenthood” and drop all legislation against the nonprofit.

“This is a purely political campaign of intimidation and persecution meant to destroy an organization whose mission to serve women’s health care needs the governor abhors,” the board wrote.

This piece initially suggested that the grand jury convicted the two anti-abortion activists. In fact, the jury only indicted them.