WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior Democratic lawmakers spoke out in defense of Planned Parenthood on Thursday after attacks by Republicans seeking to investigate and defund the non-profit women’s health group in a dispute over aborted fetal tissue.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Republicans were creating “a controversy that doesn’t exist” by objecting to two secretly recorded videos that critics say show Planned Parenthood illegally selling aborted fetal tissue.
“They’ve been out to get Planned Parenthood for as long as I can remember,” she said in a press conference. “But women’s health is what’s at stake, and Planned Parenthood is a very important part of promoting women’s health in our country.”
On the Senate floor, Democratic Leader Harry Reid criticized Republicans for using a bipartisan veterans’ health bill to attack the organization. The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Patty Murray, subsequently set aside the legislation.
“This episode says a lot about today’s Republican party,” Reid said. “This is an attack on families. This is an attack on the health of women. And this is an attack on veterans.”
Criticism from Republican lawmakers has been swift since the first video was released on the Internet early last week by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress.
Two committees in the Republican-controlled Congress announced inquiries into the videos and whether fetal body parts were illegally sold for profit. Some Republicans have called on the Department of Justice to review how it enforces abortion regulations.
Before the videos were released, House Republicans had already moved to eliminate about $3 million in federal funding for a family-planning program involving Planned Parenthood. The budget cut was approved by a House committee late last month and is awaiting a House vote.
Asked about the issue at a press conference on Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, did not say whether measures to defund the organization will be part of a final spending bill.
“There is an investigation underway, and I expect that there will be hearings,” he said. “As that process develops, we’ll make decisions based on the facts. But let’s get the facts first.”
The comments from congressional leaders came after White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday he had “significant concerns about the way in which those videos were selectively edited to distort the ... position of Planned Parenthood.”
Reporting by Megan Cassella; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Bernard Orr