WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union and over 20 organizations sent a letter today to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) urging him to disband a select committee formed to investigate Planned Parenthood.
The letter was signed by a mix of groups concerned with the panel’s abuse of power, including violations of House rules and customs and disregard for legitimate safety concerns for others resulting from its actions. The letter details how the panel’s majority routinely refuses to share information or consult with some of its own members and has targeted health care providers and researchers in ways that threaten their safety and interfere with critical medical research.
“The panel has gone well beyond its scope and is engaging in a fishing expedition and smear campaign against doctors and researchers,” said Karin Johanson, ACLU national political director. “Congress does not have limitless powers — we urge the select panel to preserve the integrity of congressional investigations and oversight by bringing an end to this unfair investigation.”
The panel has issued 36 subpoenas and, in an unprecedented tactic, 30 of them have been issued without consulting minority members or first requesting that information be provided voluntarily. The chair has disseminated personal information of health care providers to the media, anti-abortion extremists, and the public.
In one case, 10 subpoenas were issued to investigate one doctor. The documents named family members and other doctors in the practice. Subpoenas were sent to two hospitals, two small businesses, and three local emergency response entities where the doctor worked. A statement from the chair condemned the doctor for performing legal abortions.
The ACLU-led coalition letter reads, “Such a standardless approach to congressional investigation harms those engaged in reproductive health work today, but tomorrow it could be environmentalists, free speech advocates, academicians, scientists, or indeed any group that happens to draw the ire of the majority.”
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the minority staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the parent committee of the select panel, have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing in its handling of fetal tissue donation. Thirteen different state investigations came to the same conclusion, and eight additional states declined to investigate.
The following groups signed the letter:
American Civil Liberties Union
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
Arab American Institute
Coalition of Labor Union Women
Communications Workers of America
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Environmental Working Group
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAAD)
Human Rights Campaign
National Association of Social Workers
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Immigration Law Center
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
National Partnership for Women and Families
National Women’s Health Network
National Women’s Law Center
The Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists
Transgender Law Center
The letter is here: https://www.aclu.org/letter/paul-ryan-disband-select-panel-letter