GOP request for Planned Parenthood data raises privacy, security concerns

By Lindsey McPherson, CQ-Roll Call

Six Democrats serving on a select panel investigating Planned Parenthood are accusing their Republican counterparts of issuing document requests that “pose grave privacy and security concerns.”

In a letter sent Thursday to the panel’s Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., the Democratic members of the select committee cite a recent request to a health care provider in which Republicans ask for “a list of any students, residents, or other medical personnel” who have participated in an abortion, prenatal or postnatal infant care, as well as all communications between the provider and any government officials.

The requests “appear to be a completely unjustified attack on women’s health care,” wrote the Democrats, who said they were not consulted about the queries. “Whether intended or not, these requests would require a health care provider to turn over to Congress the personal medical information of any patient who happens to work for the federal government or any state.”

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The letter is signed by Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Diana DeGette of Colorado, Suzan DelBene of Washington, Jerrold Nadler of New York, Jackie Speier of California and Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey.

They said that some of the individuals and organizations that have received the Republican document requests have raised concerns about their privacy and security.

“Since abortion became legal in this country, doctors and patients have been murdered, clinics have been vandalized, and ongoing threats have put doctors, scientists and their families in fear for their safety,” the Democrats wrote. “No body of Congress should target individuals or organizations as possible subjects of investigation — and demand information that has grave privacy and security implications — without a legitimate basis for doing so.”

Republicans formed the select committee, which falls under the jurisdiction of Energy and Commerce, to investigate whether Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue. Democrats have argued the investigation is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars because three standing congressional committees have found no evidence of wrongdoing and that the undercover videos that sparked the investigations were manipulated.

According to the letter, Schakowsky, the ranking member of the panel, met with Blackburn in December to discuss the panel’s goals and Blackburn said she had not yet developed an investigative plan but expected to start by examining fetal tissue research.

The Democrats say Blackburn issued document requests without consulting them and before even holding an organizational meeting of the panel.

“These document requests raise troubling questions about the direction of the panel’s investigation,” they wrote, noting that all prior congressional investigations into Planned Parenthood have been “overwhelmingly one-sided and marred by inflammatory rhetoric and procedural irregularities.”

The panel’s majority staff confirmed receipt of the letter and said they are reviewing it.

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