Category Archives: abortion

Disposal of fetal tissue now being documented in TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A letter to lawmakers from Gov. Bill Haslam says the state Health Department is now requiring physicians who perform abortions to document how the fetal tissue is disposed of.

The change comes after lawmakers in August said they wanted the department to have more authority to track fetal tissue. The hearing was in response to hidden-camera videos that raised the question of whether Planned Parenthood officials in other states were profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has said it did nothing illegal.

The sale of fetal tissue already was illegal in Tennessee, but lawmakers were concerned that sales could be happening anyway.

Haslam’s letter says the Health Department also has made it easier for the public to file a complaint against a surgery center.

MTSU Poll, Part 2: Most Tennesseans oppose gay marriage

News release from Middle Tennessee State University:
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Most Tennessee voters remain opposed to letting gay couples marry legally, according to the first MTSU Poll taken since this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right.

Meanwhile, about half of Tennessee voters think abortion should be against the law in most or all cases, and attitudes on both issues break sharply along religious and political party lines.

“Reflecting patterns in previous MTSU Polls, opposition to the legality of both same-sex marriage and abortion runs highest among Tennessee’s evangelical Christian and Republican voters,” said Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “In both groups, sizable majorities think it should be unlawful for same-sex couples to marry and think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.”

The poll randomly surveyed 603 registered voters statewide by telephone Oct. 25-27 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
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Blackburn to lead GOP abortion provider investigation

Tennessee’s two women members of the U.S. House, Diane Black and Marsha Blackburn, have both been named to a committee of eight Republican congressmen that will investigate abortion providers and their practices. Blackburn will chair the panel.

Below are the news releases from both noting the appointments.

News release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Washington, DC – Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today has been chosen by Speaker John Boehner to lead the new Select Investigative Panel at the Committee on Energy and Commerce to review medical procedures and abortion business practices.

“No issue is more deserving of our undivided attention than protecting the dignity of human life,” said Chairman Blackburn. “This will be a broad based – information gathering – fact finding mission – to answer questions about how we treat and protect life in this country. This is a discussion that this country must have. This is a discussion that we should not shy away from.”

Specifically, the Select Investigative Panel of the Committee on Energy and Commerce will have jurisdiction to review the following:

• Medical procedures and business practices used by entities involved in fetal tissue procurement;
• Any other matters with respect to fetal tissue procurement;
• Federal funding and support for abortion providers;
• The practices of providers of second and third trimester abortions, including partial birth abortion procedures that may lead to a child born alive as a result of an attempted abortion;
• Medical procedures for the care of a child born alive as a result of an attempted abortion;
• Any changes in law or regulation necessary as a result of any other findings made.

Below is the complete list of Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Select Investigative Panel:

• Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Chairman (R-TN)
• Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA)
• Rep. Diane Black (R-TN)
• Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN)
• Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI)
• Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)
• Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO)
• Rep. Mia Love (R-UT)

News release from Rep. Diane Black
Washington, DC– Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06), a nurse of more than 40 years and member of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, was appointed as one of eight Republican members to the House of Representatives’ select investigative panel on Planned Parenthood. Black released the following statement:

“I am grateful for the opportunity to bring my health care expertise to the critical work of this panel,” said Congressman Diane Black. “It is no secret that I am passionately pro-life and have long opposed the federal funding of Planned Parenthood, but every American deserves to know that our laws are followed and that taxpayer dollars are spent with integrity. This panel will help ensure that is the case. We will be relentless in the pursuit of the facts, we will bring the truth out into the light of day, and we will hold responsible parties accountable. This panel has an obligation to taxpayers to conduct a thorough investigation that produces real answers. I am ready to get to work.”

The House of Representatives’ select investigative panel was authorized by the House passage of H. Res. 461, which passed with Congressman Black’s support on October 7, 2015. A longtime pro-life leader, Congressman Black was the author of the House-passed Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015 and led floor debate in support of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act earlier this year.

DesJarlais bashed on abortion by primary foe

Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais is coming under fire from GOP challenger Grant Starrett’s campaign for passing up an opportunity to grill Planned Parenthood’s chief during a U.S. House hearing, reports Andy Sher. A Desjarlais spokesman says the congressman simply deferred to Republican women.

“Scott DesJarlais just showed the American people why Washington, D.C., is so hated and why he is unfit to be a congressman,” Starrett campaign manager Tommy Schultz charged in a statement.

…Left unsaid by Starrett’s campaign were DesJarlais’ past controversies over abortion. Court records from his 2000 divorce, released in 2012, revealed the pro-life physician went along with his then-wife’s decision to obtain two abortions and encouraged a former patient with whom he’d had an affair to undergo the procedure as well.

DesJarlais has long said his life changed dramatically when he remarried, that he has since found God and has voted “100 percent pro-life.”

His spokesman, Robert Jameson, said Wednesday there was a simple reason why the South Pittsburg, Tenn., lawmaker yielded his time.

“There were several Republican women from other committees that asked for time to be yielded to them by members of the House Oversight Committee so they would have an opportunity to weigh in and participate in the hearing,” Jameson said. “I think all those with pro-life values would understand the import of having [Republican] congressional women weigh in on this issue.”

Jameson said Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, who doesn’t serve on the panel, had asked DesJarlais for his time so she could question Richards.

…Dr. Bruce Oppenheimer, a Vanderbilt University political science professor who follows the 4th District, said he doesn’t see the Starrett campaign’s apparent strategy on DesJarlais and abortion as terribly effective.

“It’s not like DesJarlais is voting to fund Planned Parenthood,” Oppenheimer said. “He let someone else rake them over the coals. Maybe it resonates, but with whom? The question is, can you keep adding them up and keep piling them up and that’s hard to do. It’d be easier if [DesJarlais] went off the reservation and then people would go, ‘Wow.'”

TN delegation split on budget shutdown vote

Congress sent President Obama legislation on Wednesday to prevent a government shutdown and keep federal agencies funded through Dec. 11. The House vote was 277-151; the Senate approved 78-20. All no votes were by Republicans.

In the Tennessee delegation, all seven House Republicans voted no. The state’s two Democratic congressmen, Steve Cohen and Jim Cooper, voted yes. So did Republican U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander. (Note: Roll Call vote HERE.)

Some congressional comments:
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Black’s Planned Parenthood defunding bill clears House

By Alan Fram and Andrew Taylor, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — A divided House voted Friday to block Planned Parenthood’s federal funds for a year, as Republican leaders labored to keep GOP outrage over abortion from spiraling into an impasse with President Barack Obama that could shut down the government.

The House used a nearly party-line 241-187 vote to clear the legislation, which stands little chance of enactment. Senate Democrats have enough votes to block it, and for good measure the White House has promised a veto.

Yet Republicans are forging ahead, sparked by secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they obtain tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research.

Those videos have helped mushroom the longtime political fight over abortion into a prominent issue for next year’s elections. They’ve also refueled Congress’ always-emotional clashes on the subject, with Friday’s debate featuring a poster-sized photo of a scarred, aborted fetus and accusations from each side that the other was simply trying to drum up campaign donations.
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Bradley County: Defund Planned Parenthood & Insure TN

The Bradley County Commission, after an impassioned plea by Commissioner Dan Rawls, voted 14-0 on Tuesday night to ask Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly to defund Planned Parenthood, reports The Chattanoogan.

Commissioner Rawls said he proposed the resolution based on the organization “selling body parts and tissue harvested from aborted babies.”

Saying that through the centuries there had been a focus on “protecting the weak,” he said, “What mental illness afflicts them? What demons possess them? No humans would do those things.”

He called the founder of Planned Parenthood “a despicable piece of human filth.”

The commission also voted down a move by Commissioner Thomas Crye to ask the General Assembly to put the Insure Tennessee program into place. He said some 6,000 Bradley County residents would be affected.

Commissioner Rawls also had an adamant stance on that issue, saying that Senator Mike Bell told him that as many as 480,000 might qualify for the program – up from an earlier 280,000.

He said, “The cost is going to be astronomical. This is not free money. It’s borrowed money.”

Commissioner Rawls said the last time Tennessee had a Medicaid expansion “it almost bankrupted the state. It had to remove 170,000 people from the program.”

In the end, not even Commissioner Crye voted for the motion.

Rep. Holt’s investigation: Planned Parenthood got $10,800 in TN taxpayer funds

News release from state Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden
NASHVILLE, August 25, 2015– I continue to hear from many people, including Planned Parenthood, that the State of Tennessee provides no tax-payer dollars to the organization. Unfortunately, I do not sit on any of the committees that relate to the operation of Tennessee abortion clinics. Therefore, I had to conduct my own independent investigation with the assistance of Rep. Bryan Terry, MD (R-Murfreesboro) into Planned Parenthood’s funding. The claim that Planned Parenthood receives no Tennessee tax-payer dollars simply isn’t true.

Last Wednesday, the Tennessee General Assembly held a special hearing on Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers in the State of Tennessee in an attempt to discover whether or not any Tennessee clinics had been selling aborted fetal parts for profit. We were informed by the Tennessee Department of Health that there was no way of knowing whether or not Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers had violated the law. These organizations could very well be violating federal law right under our nose and no one would know the difference. I expect new legislation next year to guarantee more transparency. During this hearing, funding was not discussed.

Last April, in the House Health Committee, Rep. Terry asked Planned Parenthood of Tennessee whether or not they received tax-payer funds. A Planned Parenthood representative told Rep. Terry that Middle and East Tennessee Planned Parenthood received no public funds (hour 2, minute 17). Another Planned Parenthood representative told Rep. Terry that West Tennessee Planned Parenthood provided no-cost contraception, but never said whether or not they received public funds. As it turns out, this misleading rhetoric is a lie.
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GOP senators want ’emergency rules,’ TBI investigation of fetal tissue sales

News release from Senate Republican Caucus
NASHVILLE — In response to a Joint Government Operations Fact Finding Hearing on August 19, 2015, State Senators Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) and Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) have issued a request to Governor Bill Haslam to enact emergency rules for abortion providers.

It was revealed during the hearings that safeguards to prevent the illegal selling of fetal body parts or tissues are inadequate or non-existent. It was also revealed that the Tennessee Department of Health has no investigative authority over the illegal selling of fetal body parts or tissues.

“As legislators, we strongly request that our state agencies step up their efforts to make sure abortion clinics are not illegally profiting from the slaughter of unborn children,” said Senator Beavers.

Senator Kerry Roberts added, “During the hearings, it became obvious the Tennessee Department of Health cannot provide Tennesseans any assurance whatsoever that illegal selling of aborted baby parts is not taking place.”

In response, the senators requested Governor Haslam take three immediate steps:
•enact emergency rules to provide a “chain of custody” from the procedure until the disposal of the remains; •expand the Abuse Registry to include an abuse hotline for the reporting of illegal activity at abortion clinics; and •authorize an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation into whether and to what extent abortion clinics are engaged in activities that violate Tennessee state law.

Further, the Senators pledged to file legislation giving the Attorney General investigative and prosecutorial authority over illegal selling of aborted fetal parts, organs and tissues.

“Safeguards need to be in place at all abortion clinics so the immoral and illegal practice of selling organs and tissues cannot and will not occur in Tennessee,” Senator Bowling said.

Senator Dolores Gresham said, “It is easy to say that the abhorrent practices shown in the Planned Parenthood videos are not happening here, but that is a terribly naive belief given the history of Planned Parenthood. We must investigate.”

“The disturbing videos cannot be ignored. The fact is that illegal activity could be taking place in Tennessee so we are calling upon the Governor to take action,” Senator Bailey concluded.

Note: Text of the letter to Gov. Haslam available by clicking this link: pphoodletter

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.