Tennessee Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R) and Diane Black (R) separately reintroduced a bill during the first two days of the 2013 legislative session that would prohibit Title X family planning grants from being awarded to any organization that performs abortions. The bill, first introduced by former Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) in the 112th Congress, primarily targets Planned Parenthood, which receives about $340 million a year in Title X funds for non-abortion health and family planning services. Both bills amend Pence's original bill to include exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.
Blackburn is Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the committee with jurisdiction over the issue. Since she filed and circulated her bill on Thursday, the first day of the legislative session, more than a half-dozen Republicans have signed on as cosponsors and numerous anti-abortion groups have endorsed it.
Blackburn declared the bill a priority for her committee and vowed to carry on Pence's agenda. “Congressman Pence has been a champion in the fight to protect innocent human life and I hope to continue his leadership in the House,” she said in a statement. "As a woman, I believe America deserves better than abortion."
The day after Blackburn circulated her bill, Black introduced the same bill. One of Black's staffers pointed out to HuffPost that her bill has the same number as Pence's original bill and said that Pence, the governor-elect of Indiana, had specifically given Black his blessing to carry it on. Black's bill has 38 cosponsors and endorsements from all the same organizations that Blackburn's has.
Blackburn says she is not bothered by Black's move. "Stopping taxpayer money from being used to fund big abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood is something both fiscal and social conservatives can agree on," she told The Huffington Post in a statement. "The fact that there are multiple members interested in this issue proves that Planned Parenthood is not going to be let off the hook. We welcome the attention of all members to the subject. It helps build momentum."
She added, "As Vice Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over this issue, I look forward to working with her to ensure every human life is protected."
A spokesman for Blackburn said she had "offered" to sign on as a co-sponsor to Black's bill in addition to sponsoring her own.
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said that that Americans value Planned Parenthood's health services for low-income women and Black and Blackburn "don't get it."
"They apparently learned nothing from the results of the last election, when Americans said overwhelmingly that they do not want politicians dictating women’s access to health care," she said.