Blackburn, Black testify to legislators on Planned Parenthood

U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Diane Black, both former state lawmakers, made an unusual appearance at the state legislature to testify about their separate efforts to investigate and defund Planned Parenthood nationally and to urge Tennessee lawmakers to investigate the state’s three Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Further from The Tennessean’s report:

“You need to aggressively pursue this investigation,” Black told members of the Joint Government Operations Committee at the specially convened meeting. Black and Blackburn outlined their next steps for when they return to Congress in September.

Black has introduced a bill placing an immediate one-year moratorium on funding for Planned Parenthood that has more than 160 co-sponsors, she said. Blackburn, who sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, outlined the steps she had taken to launch an investigation into how Planned Parenthood disposes of aborted fetuses and whether the national family planning organization has broken any laws.

After state (Sen.) Mike Bell, R-Riceville, informed lawmakers they would have to talk to the members of Congress privately after the meeting because there was no time for questions, Democrats on the Republican-dominated committee complained about the lack of transparency.

“I think it was an affront to the public process,” said Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville.

Department of Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner testified that his department is not responsible for enforcing a Tennessee law that bars the sale of fetal tissues from abortion clinics. That responsibility falls to local law enforcement, he said.

That prompted Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, to ask: “There’s really no proof of what they do with those aborted babies, right? You have no follow-up with vendors or anyone … so you just take their (clinics’) word for it, so if they were selling body parts, you would not necessarily know this?”

Dreyzehner responded: “If they were breaking the law, we would not necessarily know this. That’s correct.”

Dreyzehner also said inspectors with the Department of Health perform surprise inspections on abortion clinics every 12 months, and had access to their records on fetal disposal.