June 24, 2016

Congressional Planned Parenthood “witch hunt” turns focus to New Mexico

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One of Tennessee’s most conservative Republican Congresswomen is spending a lot of time focussed on women living 1,200 miles from her Volunteer State district.

After the series of doctored anti-Planned Parenthood videos were launched last year, Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) launched an investigation into women’s healthcare providers through an obscure Congressional panel created by House Republican leadership.

Her first target: New Mexico women.

Her latest attack came in a request for New Mexico’s attorney general’s office to investigate abortions in New Mexico. That isn’t likely to go far, experts say. But it is generating headlines for the Republican Congresswoman behind them.

News outlets – notably including the Washington Post – have dismissed her quest as a “witch hunt,” but the Albuquerque Journal  and a handful of conservative news outlets have put her quixotic quest on their front pages.

First, a review from the Washington Post:

TWELVE STATES that undertook investigations of Planned Parenthood found no wrongdoing. An additional eight states refused even to investigate, citing lack of credible evidence. A grand jury in Texas and a federal judge in California exonerated the organization after each conducted extensive reviews. Three congressional committees failed to turn up any improprieties. In short, the hidden-camera videos purporting to show illegal selling of fetal tissue show no such thing.

Despite all that, a Republican-led House panel is undeterred in conducting its own investigation, or, more accurately, witch hunt.

In the 6 months since Blackburn launched her mini-committee investigation, she has raised more than $699,000 for her campaign, providing her with more than $2.3 million in the bank, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

That has helped her live a great lifestyle in Congress. Reports show she spent more than $14k on meals and catering in Washington and Miami, $1,454 on a Miami Beach h0tel and more on private chartered flights and private car services.

Read more: Who is Marsha Blackburn?  The hypocrisy behind the Tenn. Congresswoman behind the “witch hunt” into NM abortion providers

Behind the “witch hunt” into New Mexico abortion providers

In one of her first efforts, she attempted to create a publicly available list of UNM medical students studying women’s healthcare.

Read more: GOP Witch-Hunt Targets UNM Med Students & Staff

Then she asked for thousands of pages of documents detailing individual healthcare decisions of women in New Mexico clinics.

Read more: National GOP’s new anti-abortion tactic targets New Mexico docs first

In the meantime, Blackburn shared news stories of her subpoenas, letters and questions posted on her campaign social media pages urging her voters to support her efforts.  Those “support me” messages lead to fundraising pitches (good insight into the political agenda behind all the attempts to generate new news around the bogus inquiry).

Unable to get anyone in Congress to take her inquiry very seriously, Blackburn has now turned her attention to New Mexico.

Now, the Journal reports, the Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee is asking New Mexico’s attorney general to investigate the clinics where those women study and New Mexico women receive reproductive health services, including abortions.

To its credit, the Attorney General’s Office doesn’t seem to have given much weight to Blackburn’s request. A spokesman for the office said only that they had “received a public referral and this matter is under review.”

And that seems to be for good reason.

Blackburn is a federal legislator from the state of Tennessee, but that didn’t stop her from trying to analyze state law in New Mexico; unsurprisingly, her “analysis” uncovered malfeasance no actual New Mexico legal experts else had, apparently, ever noticed before.

Again, from the Journal:

But UNMHSC spokesman Billy Sparks said the very section of the law the Select Panel cites actually provides for the fetal tissue transfer. Sparks said UNM was “profoundly disappointed” by Blackburn’s assertion.

In other words, she got it totally backwards.

How the ABQ Journal covers this matters

While other New Mexico news outlets have barely mentioned Blackburn’s quixotic crusade, the Albuquerque Journal has made it front page news more times than not, and that choice matters.

Even when news outlets choose to cover a story, the choice on where to feature it (front page or in less prominent places like news summaries in inside pages) comes down to editors who what the paper wants their readers to see most.

Increasingly, the Journal’s coverage of this issue (including today’s story) gives more credence to the story than any other paper in the region.  But don’t take our word for it: see what former Journal reporters and non-partisan media watchdogs have to say about the way the Journal has elevated the anti-Planned Parenthood agenda:

JOURNAL WATCH: ‘Hotly Disputed,’ Outright Misleading: More on the Journal’s Anti-Planned Parenthood Campaign

As the Journal misleads about reproductive health, these watchdogs are pushing back

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