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Abortion survivor will testify at House hearing on Planned Parenthood

Patients entering the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis are often greeted by a line of protesters.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Congressional hearings on Planned Parenthood will deal with abortion in general, as well as funding for that specific organization.

Melissa Ohden, of Gladstone, Mo., says she wasn’t supposed to be alive today. Instead, she says she was supposed to have been aborted 38 years ago this month. Ohden is scheduled to tell members of the House Judiciary Committee today that her biological mother, then a teenager, was “forced" to undergo a saline infusion abortion.

“For days, I soaked in that toxic salt solution, and on the fifth day of the procedure, my biological mother, a 19-year-old college student, delivered me, after her labor was induced. I should have been dead,” Ohden says in comments prepared for today’s hearing.

Ohden is the founder of The Abortion Survivors Network and although she says her “botched abortion” was not done by Planned Parenthood, she’s an active opponent of abortion and Planned Parenthood. “I’m here today to share my story to not only highlight the horror of abortion taking place at Planned Parenthood, but to give notice to other survivors like me, and most importantly, to give a name, a face, and a voice to the hundreds of thousands of children who will have their lives ended by Planned Parenthood this year alone.”

A summer campaign of undercover video releases purportedly showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissues set the stage for congressional hearings. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, was one of the first lawmakers to call for hearings into the group’s activities.

In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio, Wagner said that she firmly believes all federal funding for the group should be cut off. “Because at the end of the day, we don’t know what’s going toward abortion, what’s going toward trafficking of human baby parts, what may be going toward women’s health,” Wagner told St. Louis Public Radio.

Both Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Wagner support shifting the more than $500 million Planned Parenthood receives to Federally Qualified Health Centers across the country. Wagner said, “I’m all for women’s health care and taking care of any of the needs that women have, but there are a number of outlets” other than Planned Parenthood facilities “where women can go to get the kinds of women’s health needs that are available.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told a Kentucky news organization a few weeks ago that Republicans just do not have the votes to cut off funding from Planned Parenthood and overcome a threatened veto by President Obama. Wagner said she’d “be very saddened that our leadership in the Republican Senate would throw in the towel on this because I don’t think that’s the case at all.”

On Tuesday, The Hill newspaper reported that 28 House Republicans are saying that they will not support a federal budget plan if it includes funding for Planned Parenthood. “That’s the maximum number of Republicans that GOP leaders can lose in a vote without help from Democrats.” That means that if any more Republican members withhold their votes on a funding bill that includes money for Planned Parenthood, Republican leaders will need votes from House Democrats to pass a budget by the end of the month.

Asked whether she believes the funding debate over Planned Parenthood will trigger a government shutdown Wagner said, “absolutely not.” While she says she does not know how many votes the Senate has to defund the group, she says she believes there are enough votes in the House to cut funding. “I think that this is an issue that transcends the issue of abortion. I think that the hearings and the investigations will lay out facts that will lead any reasonable person to believe that we should not have taxpayer dollars going toward this kind of activity, but I do not believe that you will see any government shutdown for any reason this fall.”

Wagner says she believe the hearings on Capitol Hill will last though much of the fall and will cover a wide range of concerns to “get to the bottom of what’s going on at Planned Parenthood, whether laws have been broken vis a vie partial birth abortion or the harvesting of and trafficking of human baby parts.” Wagner also says the hearing will help determine whether other laws are insufficient and need to be strengthened.

For its part, Planned Parenthood says it has done nothing wrong and it says the string of videos released this summer were heavily edited and presented out of context.

Busy month for Congress

Other issues before Congress this month.

Congress has until next week to act on the president’s proposed agreement with Iran over lifting sanctions concerning Tehran’s nuclear program. U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Roy Blunt a Republican, are on opposite sides of that debate, with McCaskill saying she will support the plan and Blunt opposed to it.  Illinois’ two U.S. senators are also split along party lines over the deal. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., supports the president while Republican Mark Kirk is one of the Senate’s more vocal critics of the plan.

In the middle of an already tight and contentious month, lawmakers are set to welcome Pope Francis to deliver comments to a joint session of Congress. Following his comments, the pontiff is scheduled to make a public appearance  from the speaker’s balcony on the west side of the Capitol. 

Capitol police and other Washington. D.C., area law-enforcement agencies used the congressional break to rehearse for just about any contingency during the pope’s visit. Federal employees are also being encourage to work from home for the days the pope is in town. 

Efforts to craft a budget, a multi-year highway bill and a cyber security bill are also possible this month, but it is the budget that poses the greatest potential for political peril for Republicans leaders in the House and Senate as the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, meaning a compromise will have to be worked out by then to avoid a shutdown. 

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