Contempt and a walkout on Blackburn’s abortion panel

Republicans on a House panel investigating the practices of abortion providers voted Wednesday to recommend that a biomedical company and its CEO be held in contempt of Congress, reports Michael Collins.

The vote came after Democrats stormed out of the meeting in protest.

All eight GOP members of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives voted to proceed with contempt charges against California-based StemExpress and CEO Catherine Spears Dyer, saying they defied congressional subpoenas to turn over accounting records and other documents.

“A subpoena is not a suggestion,” said the panel’s chairwoman, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. “It is a lawful order, and a subpoena must be complied with.”

Democrats argued the panel had no authority to bring contempt charges and accused Blackburn and the other Republicans of a political “McCarthyesque witch hunt” intended to drive fetal tissue providers out of business.

“We would not participate in what we view as a very illegitimate process,” the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, said after all six Democrats walked out of the meeting just before the contempt vote.

The contempt charges now go to the House Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration and then onto the full House.
The House is expected to adjourn soon for its October recess, so it’s unlikely the full committee will take up the charges until after the November election, Blackburn said.

Wednesday’s chaotic meeting was the latest display of partisan warfare splitting the 14-member investigative panel. It was formed last year after videos surfaced that showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue and organs. Planned Parenthood said the videos were deceptively edited, and a number of state investigations cleared the organization of any wrongdoing.

Regardless, the investigative panel has plowed ahead with its probe of companies involved in fetal tissue procurement, including StemExpress, which provides research labs with cells, fluids, blood and tissue. The company collected fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood and sent it to researchers before ending its association with the abortion provider in August 2015.