The Tennessee representative is no friend to reproductive rights.
President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team reads as the upside-down universe’s version of a government. He’s chosen a white supremacist as his chief strategist, a climate-change denier as the head of the EPA, and now he’s called in Marsha Blackburn, who has made it her career’s mission to make abortion inaccessible, to be on his executive committee.
Blackburn, a representative from Tennessee, holds a lot of destructive views. She denies climate change and the scientific theory of evolution, and she co-sponsored a “birther” bill inspired by rumors that President Obama was not born in America. But she is best known for her “witch hunt” against Planned Parenthood.
She led the accusation against Planned Parenthood—formally called the “Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives”—that the women’s health organization was selling aborted fetuses to medical professionals for fetal tissue researchers. That idea was sparked by a video campaign, which has now been widely discredited. Not only was the video found to be heavily edited by an anti-abortion extremist, but Planned Parenthood is also allowed by federal law to donate organs of aborted fetuses to research organizations with permission of patients. However, last year, the group stopped taking reimbursements (which was also allowed under federal law) in order to appease critics.
Though, at this point, the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives should have little to stand on, it is up for an additional $800,000 in funding, as the House Administration Committee considers a resolution later today. According to Rewire, that would bring spending on the investigation into fetal tissue donations to $1.59 million.
The panel was also criticized for releasing the names of doctors and researchers involved in fetal tissue research, though a spokesperson said it was a “staff error.”
This comes on the heels of Trump saying that, while the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage is “settled,” the 43-year-old ruling on Roe v. Wade is not. He told Leslie Stahl during a 60 Minutes interview that he hopes to appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court, who will leave the question of abortion up to the states. When asked if that decision would mean some women wouldn’t be able to access abortions, he said, “Well, perhaps they have to go to another state.”
Women already have to travel across state lines to obtain abortions, whether it’s because their state enforces a 72-hour abortion wait period, or because they can’t get parental consent, or because they are refused service for so long that they pass the 20-week limit and must travel to a state where late-term abortions are performed. A 1992 ruling said that restrictions could not “unduly burden” a woman’s ability to get an abortion, but the government has been slowly eroding access to abortions through TRAP laws, making it de-facto unobtainable in many parts of the country.
Blackburn has made it clear she’d be happy if nobody had access to abortions. Her proximity to the presidency, and a vice president who shares her views, is concerning for anyone who believes abortions should be safely obtainable.