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California members among congressional Democrats seeking to disband Planned Parenthood panel

California members among congressional Democrats seeking to disband Planned Parenthood panel
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, center, with from left, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Diana DeGette, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Rep. Suzan DelBene. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, called on House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisc.) Tuesday to disband the select committee investigating Planned Parenthood.

The organization has been a focus of heated criticism by conservatives since the release last summer of several videos in which Planned Parenthood officials in California and Colorado appeared to discuss using tissue from aborted fetuses in medical research. The videos were filmed by anti-abortion activists posing as biotechnology workers.

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Congressional Democrats contend that inflammatory rhetoric about the videos, including a comment by the chairwoman of the select committee, Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), about the sale of "baby body parts," has contributed to a hostile atmosphere toward abortion providers.

Since the videos were made public in July, there has been a string of arsons at abortion clinics across the country, including one in Thousand Oaks. On Friday, a gunman killed three people in a rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Both California senators called for cooler rhetoric Monday, and Sen. Barbara Boxer asked Ryan to disband the committee.

House Democrats seconded that demand on Tuesday.

"The incendiary language and rhetoric being used associated with this committee is disgusting," Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) told reporters. "It is time for us to take down this committee and take down the vitriolic comments being made by so many against what is a legally provided service."

Speier and the five other Democrats serving on the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives sent Ryan a letter saying the barbed rhetoric has endangered women and their access to healthcare.

Ryan's office said there is no plan to dismantle the committee. In a news conference early in the day, the speaker talked about Friday's shootings and said the country needs to do more to address mental health issues.

"What happened is appalling and justice should be swift," he said.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) dismissed the idea that rhetoric played a role in Friday’s shooting.

"The thing that drove him most was he was a very evil, crazy man. If you want to talk rhetoric, I see rhetoric from all different issues if they want to make that argument," he said Monday.

McCarthy also told reporters the select committee was necessary to "get to the bottom" of the statements captured on the videos.

"You've got a bipartisan [committee], so you can get the truth out and everybody will have the ability to put their ideas in, but at the end you'll be able to get the truth," McCarthy said.

The highest ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), said Democrats would continue to participate on the panel if it is not disbanded.

"We're going to be in the room to protect American women, their access to healthcare, their right to abortion, their right to birth control and their right to choose the provider they want and to do it in safety," she said.

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Pelosi noted that during the moment of silence on the House floor for the shooting victims, Republican leaders didn't acknowledge where the shooting had occurred.

"Why couldn't they utter the words Planned Parenthood?" she said.

The videos show Planned Parenthood employees negotiating the amount the organization would be paid for removing and storing fetal tissue. The anti-abortion group that made the videos, the Center for Medical Progress, says they are evidence that the abortion provider sells human tissue, which is banned under federal law.

Planned Parenthood says it was reimbursed for the cost of storing and preparing fetal tissue for medical research, which is legal.

Follow @sarahdwire on Twitter

Read more about the 55 members of California's delegation at latimes.com/politics

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