Arizona Congressman Trent Franks got a little frustrated with Attorney General Loretta Lynch during this week's House Judiciary Committee meeting.
During their exchange, Franks asked her about Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and, of course, “born-alive abortion survivors.”
Franks has made a name for himself as a tireless advocate for “abortion victims,” particularly the many he says often survive the procedure, and his interaction with Lynch was no exception.
He began by describing the controversial undercover videos made by anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress:
“Several videos, as you know, have been talked about quite a bit that show [a] corporate officer and employees of Planned Parenthood casually discussing their practice of harvesting little baby parts from the many hundreds of thousands of innocent babies they kill in their clinics across this nation every year.
“And the videos reveal that some babies are born intact, which I understand is the most desirably and marketable state of the baby's body for people in that business because the body parts haven't been damaged by the abortion procedure.”
(For the record, Planned Parenthood disputes many of these assertions and argues that the videos were deceptively edited to distort the truth and take the officials' comments out of context.)
Franks continues: “Because of that incentive, some of these little babies are born alive. I'm wondering: Has the department investigated or enforced any cases of born-alive children being killed from their abortion survivors?”
A confused-looking Lynch pauses for a moment before answering: “Um, Congressman, with respect to the issue that you raised, you're asking about born” — she pauses again and furrows her brow — “alive?”
“Yes, born alive,” Franks responds. “These are born-alive abortion survivors; in other words, victims of abortion who were born alive.”
He then asks if the Department of Justice has “ever enforced that or had any investigations into protecting born-alive abortion survivors?”
“Congressman, it's my understanding that since the relevant statute was passed some time ago that there have been few cases; I’d have to get the facts for you — I don't believe they fit the factual scenario you just outlined,” she responds, “but I can provide that information to you.”
“Right, okay, let’s shift gears here slightly,” he responds. “There’s legislation that has passed here in the House that would give definitive protection to born alive – now I'm not talking about unborn children – but born-alive babies that have survived the abortion process. Would you support that legislation and would you enforce it if it were in statute?
A diplomatic Lynch replies: “Congressman, I have not seen those drafts. Certainly with respect to any legislation proposed by this body, the Department of Justice will review it and provide the relevant input to you for your help and for your use.”
The first tinges of frustration become apparent in Franks’ voice as he shoots back: “But generally, would you support legislation supporting born-alive abortion survivors?”
“Having not seen the drafts I'm not able to comment . . .”
Talking over her, he reiterates: “Just generally?”
“ . . . on the specifics,” she finishes.
“Born alive!” he insists.
“We would look at whatever proposals you have.”
“Born alive! Born alive!” he repeats.
“We will look at whatever proposals you have, Congressman,” she says.
Franks, now visibly frustrated, says with a touch of snark in his voice: “Oh, well, it's too bad you can't answer a question like that.”
Throughout the video, Franks seems incredulous that Lynch is unaware of the “born-alive” phenomenon, but according to Jodi Liggett, director of policy for Planned Parenthood Arizona, her confusion probably can be excused.
“'Born alive’ is incredibly rare. When you think about it, most abortions are in the first trimester so there aren't many late-term abortions at all, let alone those that could even conceivably result in a live birth,” she says, adding that in Arizona, Planned Parenthood does not perform abortions beyond 16 weeks, which is “pre-viability — so this really isn't an issue here at all.”
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, made a similar point when she testified in front of Congress in late September. She was asked, “if a child survives an abortion attempt, should it be given nourishment and medical care?” and responded:
“I have never heard of such a circumstance happening . . . I can say at Planned Parenthood, I'm aware of no instance where — we don't provide abortions after viability so, in my experience at Planned Parenthood, we haven’t ever had that kind of circumstance.”
Ironically, even anti-abortion advocate and born-alive abortion survivor Melissa Ohden told a Congressional panel earlier this year: “I have long believed that if my birth mother's abortion would have taken place at a Planned Parenthood, I would not be here today. Completing over 300,000 abortions a year provides them with the experience to make sure failures like me don't exist.”
As for Franks’ statement about the undercover videos showing born-alive babies, Liggett calls his bluff.
“I am not aware of any of the videos showing ‘born-alive’ fetuses,” she tells New Times. “This is a myth perpetuated in part by Carly Fiorina's diatribe in the Republican debate, which was quickly debunked. In fact, the late-term fetus shown was actually a stillborn infant that had nothing to do with planned parenthood at all. The mother confirmed this.”
Franks asked Lynch a few more questions — has she seen the undercover CMP videos? Is the DOJ investigating Planned Parenthood based on the CMP footage? Is the DOJ doing anything about the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group he alleges “is implicated in a domestic-terrorism conviction"?
By the end of his time on the floor, it’s hard to say whether he learned much, if anything, from Lynch.
(His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
As for Liggett’s take on the interaction: “There are real, pressing problems Congress could deal with, like funding Title X family planning services, which actually reduce the need for abortions.
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“Congressman Franks would do well to focus more on solutions and less on rhetoric.”
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