Roll Call reported yesterday on some interesting behind-the-scenes wrangling that’s going on as House leaders convene a panel to investigate Planned Parenthood. The staunchly anti-abortion Rep. Trent Franks, Roll Call reports, is “serving as an informal liaison” between GOP leaders and outside anti-choice groups that are seeking to influence which members are picked for the select subcommittee.
There’s also one GOP congresswoman whom the anti-abortion movement really does not want the Planned Parenthood committee: Rep. Renee Ellmers.
Ellmers, who opposes abortion rights and wants to defund Planned Parenthood, has reportedly been trying to get on the investigative committee, which was created under the guise of investigating the organization’s fetal tissue donation practices.
But Ellmers got on the wrong side of the anti-choice movement earlier this year when she led a group of Republicans who objected to a 20-week abortion ban because its rape exception was too harsh on rape survivors, which she warned could turn off young voters. The House had planned to vote on the bill during the annual March for Life on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. When Ellmers’ objections led the vote to be cancelled at the last minute, anti-choice leaders were furious, and Sen. Lindsey Graham memorably pleaded that he needed “help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape.”
It later came out that anti-choice groups including the Susan B. Anthony List and Concerned Women for America had lobbied for the tightened rape exception, which would have only exempted rape survivors if they first filed a report with law enforcement. After the 20-week-ban debacle, the National Right to Life Committee threatened to go after Ellmers “at the polls.”
In the end, House Republicans settled on a rape exception that was only slightly less severe, omitting the reporting requirement but adding a waiting period for rape survivors.
Now, CWA’s Penny Nance is saying that Ellmers “could potentially distract from the overall mission” of the Planned Parenthood committee and Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee is saying that to “reward her with a seat on the special panel would be inappropriate, to put it mildly.”
As we noted earlier this week, the House GOP’s supposed “investigations” of Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation program — the ostensible target of a series of anti-choice smear videos — have quickly turned into an all-out assault on Planned Parenthood and legal abortion in general. The fact that Ellmers — who committed one minor infraction against anti-choice orthodoxy — is now deemed to moderate to be in the panel just underscores that point.