Anti-abortion activist Daleiden called out to testify on Planned Parenthood
WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Monday called for the chief of the anti-abortion group responsible for undercover videos slamming Planned Parenthood to testify alongside officials from the women's health care organization in a hearing next week.
The hearing, set for Sept. 29 in the House of Representatives, is expected to draw a lot of attention because it will occur a day before the end of the federal fiscal year, when the government may run out of money.
Conservative Republicans are threatening to shut down the government if Planned Parenthood's federal funding is not cut off, a demand they base on what they say are revelations from the videos made and released by the Center for Medical Progress.
David Daleiden, 26, an anti-abortion activist who founded the center and produced the videos, should appear at the hearing, 18 Democratic representatives said in a letter to Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz.
If Republicans do not add Daleiden to the hearing testimony list, Democrats said in the letter that they will invite Daleiden to appear at a separate Democratic hearing on the same day.
“It is fundamentally unfair to hold a public hearing to essentially indict Planned Parenthood in the court of public opinion without hearing directly from their accuser, David Daleiden,” the Democrats wrote in the letter.
They said Daleiden had “deceptively edited secretly recorded videos in an ultimately unsuccessful three-year crusade to entrap Planned Parenthood.”
A representative for the chairman's office declined to comment on the letter. The Center for Medical Progress did not respond to phone calls requesting comment.
Planned Parenthood has come under fire since the release of the secretly recorded videos that critics say show officials for the women's healthcare organization discussing the illegal sale of tissue from aborted fetuses. The issue has become a focus for both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.
Planned Parenthood has said it has done nothing wrong. It has fought back by suing in several states to oppose funding cuts and commissioning an analysis that it says showed the videos were deceptively edited.
In the letter, Democrats said Planned Parenthood has tried to comply with the demands of the committee, which has been investigating the organization since August. Planned Parenthood has supplied more than 20,000 pages of documents on its funding, federal tax status and highest-paid employees, according to the letter.
Democrats requested a response to their letter by Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the leader of the House of Representatives' most conservative Republicans vowed to oppose any stop-gap funding bill that keeps federal money flowing to Planned Parenthood.
In a showdown that threatens to jolt financial markets and the economy, Republican leaders were struggling to craft a government funding extension that meets anti-abortion conservatives' demands to cut off the women's healthcare group.
Congress has five legislative days left before the fiscal year ends. On Oct. 1. If no action is taken, funding will run out for “non-essential” agencies and personnel. Republican House Speaker John Boehner has yet to articulate a plan.
“Our position is, we're not going to vote for something that allows money to continue to go to Planned Parenthood,” Representative Jim Jordan said from his Ohio district. He chairs the Freedom Caucus, a splinter group of the House's most conservative Republicans.
Though they number only about three dozen, they have managed to exert outsized influence over the House and Boehner.
Jordan said there would be plenty of House votes for a plan to extend current levels of agency funding but shift Planned Parenthood's funds to other women's healthcare groups.