When members of the U.S. Congress form a "fact-finding" select committee, they often spend their time in other ways. Grandstanding, point scoring, and political theater can take precedence over any actual investigation. And that's especially true when the focus is a hot button issue like abortion rights.
This is the situation in which U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) says she’ll likely find herself in coming months, as part of a new Select Investigative Panel organized by House Republicans. Announcing it in late October, then House Speaker John Boehner said the committee's investigation would focus on "the grisly practices of big abortion providers.” In response, minority leader Nancy Pelosi announced she was putting DelBene and five fellow House Democrats on the committee to "be in the room to fight for the truth."
“I’m on the judiciary committee, and we’ve already had to sit through hearings with titles like ‘Planned Parenthood Exposed’” says DelBene, who has a strong pro-choice record. “There’s already a bias and an opinion before we even have a hearing. That’s how this started. As I’ve said before, there’s no reason we should be having this select committee.”
DelBene hasn’t received any specifics about the committee’s agenda, but in a preview of how both parties will attempt to leverage the committee for their own purposes, House Democrats, in official communications, already call it the Select Committee to Attack Women's Health. This has led to such unfortunately ambiguous press release titles as “DelBene to Serve on GOP's Select Committee to Attack Women’s Health."
Drew Atkins is a journalist and writer in Seattle, and the recipient of numerous national and regional awards. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Seattle Times, The Oregonian, InvestigateWest, Geekwire, Seattle Magazine, and others. He also previously served as the managing editor of Crosscut. He can be contacted at email@example.com.