Rep. Marsha Blackburn found herself at the center of an emotionally charged debate over abortion Tuesday, as she led Republican efforts to pass a bill prohibiting the procedure more than 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
Blackburn, of Brentwood, was appointed to lead the floor debate for the GOP after the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee passed the bill last week. There are no Republican women on the committee.
She called the legislation, which passed 228-196, an “appropriate response to Kermit Gosnell’s house of horrors.”
President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill.
Blackburn’s reference was to the Philadelphia doctor recently convicted of first-degree murder of three babies in botched abortions. Gosnell ran a clinic described as blood-stained and filthy and was accused of barbaric practices, including cutting the spinal cords of babies after they were born alive.
At first the bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, had no exceptions for cases of rape, incest or threats to the life of the mother, but House Republican leaders made sure such language was added.
“These late-term abortions are incredibly painful (to babies),” Blackburn said.
But Democratic lawmakers described it as an unconstitutional violation of a woman’s right to an abortion under the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
The Supreme Court has upheld abortions occurring past 20 weeks, and an Arizona law banning abortions after 20 weeks was recently struck down by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The bill is yet another assault on a woman’s right to choose and is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md.
Democrats also criticized the bill as a waste of the House’s time, given the unlikelihood of it passing in the Democratically controlled Senate.
“Everyone knows the Senate is not going to take this up,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. “This is purely window dressing.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., called it “conservatism gone wild.”
Blackburn and Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, have both been outspoken on abortion issues this year and both have introduced bills that would prohibit federal funding of any groups that perform abortions, legislation targeted specifically at Planned Parenthood.
“When I became a nurse more than 40 years ago, I took a vow to devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care,” Black said.
Black said the assertion that a fetus experiences pain in a post-20 week abortion is supported by “indisputable scientific evidence.”
Blackburn also cited scientific evidence and said “a majority of public opinion” supports prohibiting abortions past that time.
In an opinion piece for Politico this week, Blackburn wrote:
“Let’s stop the violence against babies who we know feel excruciating pain. With science and public opinion on our side, Congress has an obligation to stand up. Protecting late-term abortions isn’t sacred ground anymore and it never was to begin with.”Follow this link to read more.