DENVER – Colorado Republicans on Monday held a listening session at the state Capitol that quickly turned into a trial of Planned Parenthood.
The Republican lawmakers who spearheaded the six-hour packed listening session said the purpose of the event was strictly “informational” in an effort to guide future policy decisions. It followed similar hearings on the congressional level.
Republicans are considering legislation for next year in an effort to crackdown on Planned Parenthood, though such measures would face a tough climb in a Legislature split between Republicans and Democrats.
The political optics are difficult to ignore, as Republicans have grown louder in their criticism of Planned Parenthood following allegations that the abortion provider trafficked fetal body parts. The issue has already trickled into the 2016 election.
Republican state lawmakers in August sent a letter to state health officials calling for an investigation. Meanwhile, Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said separately that her office would not join other states in investigating Planned Parenthood.
The controversy stems from pro-life group Center for Medical Progress, which released videos that the group says shows Planned Parenthood profiting from fetal-tissue programs. The secretly recorded videos were heavily edited, according to forensic experts who submitted their findings to congressional panels. Portions of the videos were shown at the meeting Monday.
“I find looking at these videos ... that it’s so horrific that someone who claims to provide medical care engages in such a behavior of selling human body parts,” said Rep. Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs, a retired physician who attended the meeting.
Even though the meeting was held at the Capitol, it was not considered an official legislative hearing, as it was organized by the Republican Study Committee of Colorado.
The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Legal Services declined to attend the informational session, so there were no opinions from in-house counsel.
Chief Deputy Attorney General David Blake made a last-minute appearance to explain why his office would not join an investigation, pointing out that the jurisdiction rests with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The state health department also did not attend.
Also absent from the session was Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which declined to attend what it described as an “extreme right-wing, ultra-conservative” event.
“These out-of-touch politicians should be ashamed of their relentless attacks on women’s health and their unending waste of taxpayer resources for their anti-women’s health political agenda,” said Cathy Alderman, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.
Reviews in other states have been unable to document evidence of wrongdoing. Fetal-tissue donations are legal with the consent of the patient. Compensation for costs is allowed, but profit is prohibited.
Universities and research facilities – such as Colorado State University – accept fetal-tissue donations, but Planned Parenthood in Colorado does not currently contract with any of them.
“I find it curious – and somewhat humorous – that Republican lawmakers are holding this ‘hearing’ when no wrongdoing has been found after numerous investigations, and that our state’s Republican Attorney General herself opted to not investigate Planned Parenthood,” said Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver.
But Natalie Decker, an attorney with faith-based organization Alliance Defending Freedom, said the videos show that Planned Parenthood sought “compensation specific to the specimen,” outlining how per-item pricing would work better for the organization and how to skirt laws and public perception.
“From these videos we can clearly see that Planned Parenthood cares more about profit than it does for the health and safety of women and children,” Decker said.