Blackburn subpoenas bring ‘witch hunt’ claims

Medical researchers and abortion-rights groups accused a special investigative panel headed by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of conducting a “witch hunt” after the panel issued a dozen subpoenas Wednesday to compel medical supply companies and others involved in fetal tissue research to divulge information about their practices, reports Michael Collins.

The subpoenas seek documents related to fetal tissue research and the names and titles of current and former personnel involved in the procurement of fetal tissue.

Blackburn, a Brentwood Republican, said the information is needed to get a complete picture of what the organizations are doing.

But medical researchers and others argued the committee’s investigation could slow or halt important research into cures for diseases such as Ebola and the Zika virus. What’s more, they said, demanding the names of researchers, graduate students, laboratory technicians and others could potentially put their lives at risk.

“If heaven forbid an act of violence does occur as a result of this list being compiled, the chair of this committee and her GOP colleagues will be complicit in that violence,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The 14-member panel, known as the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, was formed last year after the firestorm over undercover videos that accused Planned Parenthood of breaking federal laws by selling tissues and organs of aborted fetuses.

Planned Parenthood and its supporters argued the videos had been deceptively edited, and a number of state investigations have cleared the organization of any wrongdoing. But Blackburn has pressed forward with the panel’s investigation.

The panel “is working in a thoughtful and thorough manner to find the facts about what exactly is going on at these abortion businesses and procurement organizations,” she said.

Blackburn said she issued the subpoenas because the organizations have failed to fully cooperate with requests for information and with previous subpoenas from the committee.

“Unfortunately, some of these organizations have so redacted documents — even after being subpoenaed — that it is impossible for us to get the complete picture of what is actually going on,” she said. “Others have refused to produce documents required under previous subpoenas and have threatened to withhold additional subpoenaed information.

“There should be no resistance to letting all the facts come out. But some abortion supporters seem to be clearly rattled with basic facts coming to light.”