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The Brief: July 30, 2015

The video filmed at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas is "consistent" with the other recent videos from an anti-abortion group, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Wednesday.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton testifies on July 29, 2015, before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on an investigation into Planned Parenthood's practices.

The Big Conversation

The Texas legislative committee hearing on fetal tissue donations was just one part of the nationwide debate Wednesday over Planned Parenthood. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Wednesday that a video filmed at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas is "consistent" with the other recent videos from an anti-abortion group. Those undercover videos show Planned Parenthood executives elsewhere in the country discussing fetal tissue donations.

Paxton, whose office obtained the video, testified Wednesday at the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The Tribune's Alexa Ura has more on the hearing:

Paxton said his office had “gained possession” of “hours of recordings” involving a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas as part of its inquiry into Planned Parenthood’s practices regarding fetal tissue donation in Texas. Paxton declined to go into specifics about the recordings and how they were obtained.

Instead, Paxton detailed a recent visit by AG investigators to a Planned Parenthood facility in Houston where they witnessed how the abortion provider handles fetal remains before they are sent to a contractor who disposes them.

"The true abomination in all this is the institution of abortion," Paxton told the committee. "Even the languages that they use — 'product of conception' — betrays a profound denial of humanity." ...

After they were unable to gain access to the video obtained by the AG’s office, Planned Parenthood representatives in Texas declined to testify in person before the committee and sent the committee written testimony instead.

Republicans slammed Planned Parenthood for not testifying in person. But Melany A. Linton, the CEO and president of the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast regional affiliate, wrote that the committee "has no desire to hold a responsible, fair fact-driven hearing."

Congress, meanwhile, is considering legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and send federal money to other women's health centers. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate majority whip who's among the lawmakers backing the bill, said a vote from the Senate could come Monday night, National Journal reported.

And on Wednesday, Planned Parenthood asked the National Institutes of Health to do a "thoughtful, careful review by leading medical and ethical experts" on the issue.

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2011. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: Deflection by Officials is Worth Noting, by Ross Ramsey — It's diversion season: Top state officials, not surprisingly, would rather talk about red meat political issues than indictments and legally contested budget vetoes.

Mental Health Jail Check Failed in Bland Case, by Terri Langford — The Waller County Jail failed to complete a two-part mental health screening process as required by law during Sandra Bland's booking process, according to the state jail commission and at least one public policy group.

Despite Early Optimism, Trade With Cuba Dipping, by Julián Aguilar — When the U.S. announced it would lift its embargo last winter, experts were excited about the prospect of increased trade with Cuba. But Texas' trade with the island nation has dropped, and when things might pick up isn't easy to predict.

Perry Launches Populist Offense Against Big Banks, by Patrick Svitek — Former Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday launched an offensive against banks that are too big to fail, making a pitch for Wall Street reform.


Rick Perry Challenges Hillary Clinton on Wall Street, and Donald Trump to Pull-Ups, The New York Times

Ted Cruz stands by calling President Obama a sponsor of terrorism, Politico

Ted Cruz Toys With Kerry, Carter, Moniz: "Sir, Do You Apologize Or Not?", RealClearPolitics

Trump’s presence in first GOP debate makes prep challenging for candidates, The Washington Post

Paxton remains mum on grand jury probe, Houston Chronicle

Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid takes root in Fort Worth, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Inmates find variety of methods, tools to end their lives, Houston Chronicle

As Congress mulls short-term deal on road funding, Texas isn’t worried, Austin American-Statesman

Dozens gather at Belo Garden to protest deaths of Sandra Bland, Sam DuBose, The Dallas Morning News

Trump reignites debate over sanctuary cities, Houston Chronicle

Lawmaker urges expansion of back-to-school tax holiday, Houston Chronicle

Texas kills 35 captive deer to test for chronic wasting disease, Austin American-Statesman

Quote to Note

"Richard Nixon's ghost must have been smiling. No politician has the right to use the machinery of the executive branch to target their political enemies."

— U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz at a hearing Wednesday with Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen, criticizing the IRS's targeting of conservative groups and the emails the agency lost from former IRS official Lois Lerner

Today in TribTalk

Bring Texas jails out of the shadows, by Michele Deitch — The tragic death of Sandra Bland is shining a spotlight on a world that for most Texans remains out of sight and out of mind: our state's jails.

News From Home

•      On this week's TribCast, Evan Smith talks with Ross Ramsey, Patrick Svitek and Morgan Smith about the politics of the Planned Parenthood videos and this week's Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing, the latest on Attorney General Ken Paxton and that Collin County grand jury, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's beef with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

•      In this week's edition of the Trib+Water newsletter: 21 applicants win financing in first round of SWIFT loans, new California desalination plant creates controversy and an interview with Sheila Olmstead of UT-Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•      A Conversation with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor on Sept. 4 in Austin

•      A Conversation on The Road from Hurricane Rita on Sept. 22 in Beaumont

•      The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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