A pretty blond woman who looks younger than her sixty-three years, she was born and educated in Mississippi and has worked for various advertising companies before being elected to the Tennessee Senate, where she served for six years, rising from there to the U.S. House of Representatives.
None of this speaks clearly to the reasons for the anti-choice crusade she is carrying out as chairwoman of the newly elected House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a creation of that wing of the Republican Party that has redefined the definition of conservatism, returning it to its roots in the eighteenth century when it opposed suffrage for women and the emancipation of slaves.
Whatever her personal convictions may be, Representative Blackburn is positioning herself to be chosen by Donald Trump as his running mate. She will “seriously consider an offer” which is rumored to forthcoming.
Her opposition to choice would strengthen Trump’s standing with those Republicans who remember that he once supported abortion, and perhaps even steal the fire from voters offended and appalled by his misogamy.
So enters the pretty blond lady from Tennessee who has issued three subpoenas to three organizations, two of them here in New Mexico: Stem Express, which supplies biological specimens for research—this in support of the fraudulent undercover video, later thrown out of court, that purported to show an office of Planned Parenthood dickering over prices for “fetal parts,” the University of New Mexico, which until recently used tissue for research, and Dr. Curtis Boyd’s longstanding Southwestern Women’s Options, in Albuquerque.
These subpoenas demand not only exhaustive documentation but the names of all staff and even of college students who as part of their medical training “were in close proximity to abortions and their aftermath.”
This is terrifying.
In 1997, the “outing” of abortion providers led to the murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, shot and killed in front of his wife and children at home in Albany, New York.
In 2002, Operation Rescue listed Dr. George Tiller’s whereabouts. He was shot and killed in his church in 2009.
Three months ago, a gunman shot and killed three people at an abortion clinic in Colorado Springs. Questioned by police, the gunman is said to have proclaimed, “No more body parts.”
Members of Representative Blackburn’s panel have objected to her subpoena. The ranking Democrat on the panel, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, called it “a partisan and dangerous witch hunt.” Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, said it could endanger the lives of clinic workers. Henry Waxman a former California congressman who served as the Democratic chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told an interviewer that “Issuing a subpoena is not a benign activity. It involves the intrusive power of the federal government to compel people…to testify and turn over documents. If you don’t comply, you can be held in contempt of Congress, which is a criminal charge” leading to a jail sentence. All this from a party that pretends to distrust the Federal government and plans to whittle down its powers.
Issued a subpoena, Dr. Curtis Boyd of the Southwestern Women’s Options Clinic is not backing down. I knew he would not; along with Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study group—the lab’s watchdog—Dr. Boyd is my hero. He plans to turn over all the documentation the Panel is requiring but he will not release the names of his staff, volunteers or visitors.
“I lived through the McCarthy era,” he said. “I’ve lived and worked through the last twenty years of anti-abortion violence. I know that naming those names could be dangerous. So I won’t do it. Ever. No matter what.”
He may be facing a criminal indictment and sentencing to jail.
The violence these subpoenas may summon up is part of the violence that is now a nearly accepted component of U.S. society. And it is not only physical violence. The free use of abusive language contributes to an atmosphere of fear; we have experienced the way abusive language frees up abusive behavior. It is said first, and then it is done.
Even in writing this piece, I am affected by the anxiety that grips all of us who write about contentious matters. A beloved member of my birth family is being subjected to torrents of vile email abuse because of her questioning of the excessive money a local university is spending on its sports program. As sports programs have become the be-all-and-end-all of many universities, to which they attract enormous donations and media attention, their boards have an ethical obligation to ask whether the legitimate needs of undergraduate education are being sacrificed. For boards to be intimidated into silence—for any writer of criticism to be intimidated into silence—strikes at the heart of our democracy.
In the case of Representative Blackburn’s subpoenas, there are lives at stake. I wonder if Donald Trump in his raging ambition would welcome as his running mate a woman who may have blood on her hands.
Both these people call themselves Christians.