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Blackburn Clarifies Role of Trump’s ‘Pro-Life Coalition’

Christine Grimaldi

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) described a cadre of congressional abortion opponents “available for advice and counsel if and as needed” on legislative processes, whether for the Hyde Amendment, bans on later abortion care, “live child, or some of the other legislation that we work on,” rather than a formal board.

Donald Trump’s “Pro-life Coalition” will provide the GOP presidential nominee with on-call guidance on how to restrict abortion rights, according to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

Blackburn discussed her role in an interview with Rewire a day after Trump exclusively revealed the names on his coalition, which includes the leader of a prominent hate group, to a Christian news site.

She described a cadre of congressional abortion opponents “available for advice and counsel if and as needed” on legislative processes, whether for the Hyde Amendment, bans on later abortion care, “live child, or some of the other legislation that we work on,” rather than a formal board.

“I just appreciate that there is a desire to understand what the template is for how we move forward to address it,” Blackburn said.

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Blackburn’s outline does not align with the more proactive role that Marjorie Dannenfelser, the leader of the coalition and president of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, previously described to CBN News.

Dannenfelser said national co-chairs, like Blackburn, “will communicate Mr. Trump’s pro-life commitments to people in their sphere of influence, speak out in support of the Trump-Pence ticket and, most importantly, recruit state co-chairs for the coalition who will in turn drive the campaign’s pro-life message out to each individual voter.”

Trump’s recruitment letter to anti-choice leaders made a series of promises: permanently extending the Hyde Amendment’s annual ban on federal funding for most abortion care, signing a medically and scientifically dubious 20-week abortion ban into law, and defunding Planned Parenthood.

Trump continues to leave most of the heavy lifting on abortion to his political surrogates, failing to mention the issue even before conservative audiences.

Blackburn’s record as one of the most vocal opponents of abortion rights in the U.S. House of Representatives certainly qualifies her to speak on Trump’s behalf.

As the chair of the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, Blackburn spearheads an ongoing $1.2 million investigation rooted in widely discredited Center for Medical Progress allegations that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donations. Blackburn initially focused the investigation on the allegations, targeting abortion providers and outing researchers in the process.

Most recently, she pursued what Democrats called “illegitimate” contempt of Congress charges against a company that processes human fetal tissue for research.

Though Blackburn may be best known for her work on the panel, she said “no one has mentioned or has brought that up.”

“If they do, I’ll be more than happy to share with them what our findings are and make certain they have a copy of our interim update,” Blackburn said. As Trump “prepares to take office,” she would similarly share panel’s final report, expected by the end of the year.

Trump’s “pro-life” coalition advisers include three of Blackburn’s select panel colleagues—Republican Reps. Joe Pitts (PA), Diane Black (TN), and Vicky Hartzler (MO), all proponents of the anti-choice Conscience Protection Act, which passed the House with their support in July.

Trump also selected Republican Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the author of misleading legislation to ban sex- and race-selective abortion care and chair of a House Judiciary panel that repeatedly advances racially biased anti-abortion myths, and Chris Smith (R-NJ), perhaps the most abortion-obsessed lawmaker behind a renewed congressional anti-abortion push in recent weeks.

Another appointee, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), met with Trump, evangelicals, and “some of the life community” in New York October 29, according to Blackburn.

A spokesperson for Fortenberry ignored repeated requests for comment.

Blackburn said the coalition “can help in drawing the contrast” between Trump and his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Blackburn criticized Clinton for stating that “the unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights”—phrasing that did not sit well with pro-choice advocates—and pledging to end the Hyde Amendment. Blackburn claimed such provisions have bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, even though 124 Democrats, nearly two-thirds of the House Democratic Caucus, signed onto legislation opposing Hyde.

Blackburn expressed confidence that Trump is “pro-life” despite his murky record on abortion rights.

“I think that he is one of those individuals—and I meet [similar] people every single day— who have through the years become pro-life,” she said, attributing the shift to advances in science. “I feel, you know, that he has kind of walked that journey, and it’s a part of his journey.”

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