An “informational hearing” on the use of fetal tissue research in Colorado, staged by the state’s Republican legislators Monday, turned into a one-sided condemnation of Planned Parenthood after Colorado universities, a state agency, and Planned Parenthood declined GOP requests to attend the hearing and answer questions.
Members of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, made up of 21 of the state’s most conservative lawmakers, maintained that they were simply trying to gather information after both Colorado’s Republican attorney general and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) refused to investigate Planned Parenthood, citing, respectively, a lack of jurisdiction and a lack of evidence.
“This is a ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ dollars and resources. [Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains] does not have a fetal tissue donation program, and the basis of the [committee’s] entire study is in sham videos that have been debunked repeatedly here and nationally,” Cathy Alderman, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told the Grand Junction newspaper the Daily Sentinel.
“This isn’t set up to be some sort of witch hunt,” Rep. Stephen Humphrey (R-Severance) said during the hearing, which attracted a standing-room-only crowd of 100 people. “We wouldn’t be here if CDPHE and the attorney general had looked into this issue.”
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At the hearing, GOP lawmakers, along with witnesses from anti-choice organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the Colorado Faith and Freedom Coalition (FFC), and pregnancy crisis centers, condemned Planned Parenthood.
A significant part of the hearing, which did not include a public comment period, focused on heavily edited videos released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-choice front group that has worked closely with GOP lawmakers on the state and federal level to smear the health-care organization.
CMP’s widely discredited undercover videos show Planned Parenthood officials discussing possible donation of fetal tissue for research purposes. Collecting, donating, and accepting reimbursement for the costs of transferring fetal tissue from clinics to labs is legal; profiting from such donations is not. The videos do not show any wrongdoing.
Speakers at Monday’s hearing insisted that a serious investigation by Colorado lawmakers should be undertaken.
“Costs are costs,” said Natalie Decker, an attorney for the anti-choice organization Alliance Defending Freedom. “That’s not something you negotiate. [The videos] suggest negotiating profit for Planned Parenthood.”
Myriad GOP investigations into Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation programs have turned up no violations.
Colorado State University (CSU) and the University of Colorado refused to answer questions for the committee, according to state Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud). CSU officials declined to attend because the university is facing an FFC lawsuit that claims the university violated state law by indirectly funding abortion through its purchases of fetal tissue for research, according to Lundberg. Anti-choice Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) has pressured both CSU and the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine and Denver campus to stop fetal tissue research altogether.
A representative of Colorado’s attorney general’s office told lawmakers that the office does not have jurisdiction in the matter.
In a radio interview last week, Lundberg expressed frustration that Planned Parenthood and state agencies declined to attend Monday’s hearing, and he said he may request the authority to subpoena witnesses for hearings during the legislative session beginning in January.
“I can go to the senate and seek permission to have that authority for any specific issue,” said Lundberg, who is the senate Republican assistant majority leader, said Thursday on KLZ 560-AM. “And this may rise to that occasion.”
“I have never seen a subpoena power granted to a [Colorado legislative] committee, but it’s within the rules,” Lundberg said on air, citing his position as chair of the Colorado Senate Health And Human Services Committee, which would have jurisdiction on this matter.