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October 18 2019

Senator Marsha Blackburn on protecting women from FGM

featuring Beverly Hallberg

Senator Marsha Blackburn joins the podcast this week to discuss the tough issue of Female Genital Mutilation, or what’s known as FGM. She and her colleagues in the Senate have made strides to protect young girls and women from FGM in the U.S., making it clear that Americans will not tolerate the abuse. Senator Blackburn gives an update on her legislation and recommends what else can be done to fully eradicate the practice. We also discuss her tenure in the Senate as well as her work as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Task Force where she’s tackling issues related to big tech.

Marsha Blackburn was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018, and is currently serving her first term representing the state of Tennessee. Before her election to the Senate, Senator Blackburn represented Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District. Her public service is dedicated to promoting opportunities for women and making America a more prosperous place to live. Marsha’s leadership philosophy is based on her experiences in the private sector as a small business woman and author, as well as being a mother and grandmother.

Hallberg:
And welcome She Thinks, a podcast where you're allowed to think for yourself. I'm your host, Beverly Hallberg and on this episode we talk with Senator Marsha Blackburn on the tough issue of female genital mutilation or what's known as FGM. This is a practice that sadly happens not only around the world, but in the United States as well. She and her colleagues in the Senate have made great strides to protect young girls and women, making it clear that Americans will not tolerate this abuse. She's here to talk about where things are on the issue and what more can be done.

Hallberg:
A little bit about Senator Blackburn before we bring her on. Senator Blackburn was elected to the US Senate in 2018 and is currently serving her first term representing the great state of Tennessee. Before her election to the Senate, Senator Blackburn represented Tennessee's seventh congressional district. Her public service is dedicated to promoting opportunities for women and making America a more prosperous place to live. Marsha's leadership philosophy is based on her experiences and the private sector as a small business woman and author, as well as being a mother and grandmother. Well Senator Blackburn, thank you so much for joining us today.

Sen Blackburn:
Well, I'm delighted to be with you. IWF does such a tremendous work in educating women on the issues of importance. So it's an honor to join you and to talk to all of your members and your listeners.

Hallberg:
Well you've been such a staunch defender of women and in your time, not just in the Senate, but also in the house as well. So I personally thank you. I think the first time I was able to chat with you was probably about 15 years ago. I was new to DC and got to do an interview with you and it's just amazing the work that you have done over the years. And I'm curious, so you're a new Senator. How has that switch been, going from the house to the Senate?

Sen Blackburn:
You know, it's so interesting to go from the house to the Senate and I really appreciate that people say, the house is that hot cup of coffee and the Senate is the saucer that it spills over into. I think that, that is a well placed statement. In the house, we're working on so many different issues and then in the Senate what ends up happening is you really come to drill down on your area of interest and I am chairing the technology task force in the Senate. And this is a way for us to do a deep dive if you will, on the issues of privacy and data security, prioritization, censorship, transparency, antitrust and competition, all in the virtual space.

Sen Blackburn:
As people are beginning to say, "Hey, we need some privacy guidelines that are in statute and we need authority for penalties and enforcement." This is a timely issue. It is an enormous issue with women because they want to make certain that not only are they and their information safe online, they want to make certain that their children are safe, when they are online. So we are digging down on this issue, working, we've had three meetings of the tech task force and that is going great. And that's kind of the difference that you see between the house and the Senate, is the structure and how things operate.

Hallberg:
And I just want to personally say, as a small business owner myself, the technology angle is such an important part because I work from home. So many women at IWF work from home as well. And I think when it comes to technology, and obviously it's opened up amazing doors for female entrepreneurs, which you started with a small business before you went into public service. So I think it's great to have a female voice and the other female voices in the Senate on this issue. Is there anything you could say to female business owners out there and how you're viewing the technology side? Of course, there is the mother's side and wanting to protect your kids and privacy. But as female entrepreneurs, which is a growing sector of this public, how do you approach some of these issues as someone who ran a business yourself?

Sen Blackburn:
Yeah, what we have to do is to realize that we've got to hit the right balance when it comes to privacy and data security legislation. We want to make certain that you are the one that owns your virtual you and you have control of your online data. At the same time, we do not want to hamper innovation and we want to be certain that our entrepreneurs are going to be able to use data to build their business, to deliver to you goods and services.

Sen Blackburn:
And it is going to be imperative that we get this right. We look at what happened in the EU and they overstepped and now they're having to modify the GDPR, their regulations. We look at the mess that they've made of this issue in California and we know that a federal standard with preemption is going to be necessary in order for us to continue to see a robust virtual space and virtual marketplace.

Hallberg:
Well, it's an important issue area, especially as technology is innovating and advancing so quickly and I know that you being a female Senator, you have female colleagues there that work on a wide variety of issues and I want to switch to a harder one, a tougher issue to talk about. And that's one that you have been working on and that is making sure that women in our country, and sadly this happens to young girls, women in our country, but to protect them from female genital mutilation or what's known as FGM. IWF has done a lot of this. I want listeners to know if you want more information you can go to iwf.org. But just wanted to hear personally from you, Senator, tell us about the strides that you've been able to make from a federal standpoint on this issue.

Sen Blackburn:
Yes, and what individuals need to know is that these FGM perpetrators need to be punished. Sometimes little girls that are as young as 10 years old are having their genital areas sliced and cut and this mutilation is just awful. Now, the way we have been involved in this is trying to clarify federal law because this is a horrific act. And current law penalizing FGM suffers from a constitutional defect because it lacks commerce clause language. And there are other female senators, all Republicans who are working with me on this. And we need bipartisan support on this. I've got to tell you, this is something that everybody should be against.

Sen Blackburn:
And the way the issue really percolated was back in the fall of 2018 the district court ruled that FGM is unconstitutional, the law is unconstitutional. Then, in April, 2019 DOJ refused to defend the law and refused to file an appeal with the sixth circuit. So then DOJ asked the house and the Senate judiciary committees to pass bills to fix the constitutional defects that are in the law. So in May of 2019 we drafted a bill to fix the defect in this law. So did our house GOP partners and it is Scott Perry from Pennsylvania, Louie Gohmert, who is from Texas and Chairman Collins. And then in June of 2019 Feinstein, Dianne Feinstein refused to join our bill because Nancy Pelosi and the house of Democrats wanted to sue in a motion to intervene to sit in the shoes of DOJ and to defend the FGM law.

Sen Blackburn:
Now, they claim passing bill would run counter to their lawsuit. So they also said that they would consider joining our bill only after the sixth circuit ruled against the house lawsuit. And we refused to wait and went ahead and introduced the bill and got this on the books. So in mid September, the sixth circuit ruled that the house could not intervene in the lawsuit to defend the constitutionality of the law. And so what we are wanting to do is have them join this bill and help us straighten this out, so that we can protect these women and children and we intend to push this bill forward.

Hallberg:
It's actually just so surprising that the politics get in the way of something that could do so much good, especially-

Sen Blackburn:
Oh, you're right, yeah.

Hallberg:
And that's got to be so frustrating, as somebody who's just trying to do good and serve the public on an issue that should be bipartisan, that shouldn't be hard. Is that a frustrating thing for you?

Sen Blackburn:
Well it is somewhat because this should be a clear cut issue. This is something that we should be all in agreement, is unacceptable and we need to insert that language so these perpetrators can be charged. And we know that this has been through the district court. It has been through the circuit court. They have turned this back, DOJ has sent it to us. They have said, "Get this straightened out and deal with this provision, this language." And that is something that we should say together, "Okay there is a defect here. We are going to fix this."

Hallberg:
And especially with October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it's a month that hopefully we can shine a light on this. And I know that it's not just from the federal side, but you also talk about what this means from the state side. Can't states do more as well?

Sen Blackburn:
Well, states could do more and we would like for them to do more. But we also need to have that commerce clause language in here from the federal side, to make certain that we fully cover this issue.

Hallberg:
So where do you see this going? You talked about kind of, it's been introduced, you're promoting it. Any kind of framework or timeframe that you can expect on maybe there being bipartisan support in this being passed?

Sen Blackburn:
We do see a way forward. We anticipate that we'll be able, in the next few months move this through in judiciary committee. And we are going to continue to work with our house partners and make certain that they are moving it forward in the house. This is something where there should be bipartisan agreement, that this is a horrific crime and that it needs to be appropriately punished.

Hallberg:
And final question for you. I just want to talk about other work that you are doing in the Senate. I know you were talking about your work on the tech side. Anything you'd like to say to women out there on you and your colleagues, I know you're with Joni Ernst and Martha McSally and you're working with some wonderful women in the Senate. What type of women's issues do you like to focus on or do you see I'm making ground and pushing it forward in the Senate?

Sen Blackburn:
I have to tell you, I refer to women today as security moms and security, whether it is national security, border security, job security, healthcare security, retirement security. They talk about making certain that they've kind of nailed things down and this is, women are very focused on keeping their families secure in their communities. Making certain that there is a pathway for jobs. The economy is the number one issue with women, the economy, jobs, access to health care, fairness in the marketplace. Women business owners want to make certain that they have access to capital. That they are not being cut out of the marketplace and that they're being treated fairly and on a level playing field. So these are issues we hear so much about from women.

Hallberg:
Well, I just want to personally thank you for all the work that you have done to stand up for women and especially the issue of FGM for young girls, who tragically face this in their lives. So all of us at IWF thank you for the work that you're doing and thank you for joining us today.

Sen Blackburn:
Absolutely, thank you so much. Bye-bye

Hallberg:
And thank you all for joining us today. Remember, if you want more information on the topic we discussed, please go to iwf.org. I also wanted to let you know of a great podcast you should subscribe to, in addition to She Thinks. It's called Problematic Women and it's hosted by Kelsey Buller and Lauren Evans. Where they both sort through the news to bring stories and interviews that are of particular interest to conservative leaning or problematic women. That is women whose views and opinions are often excluded or mocked by those on the so called feminist left.

Hallberg:
Every Thursday, hear them talk about everything from pop culture to policy and politics by searching for Problematic Women wherever you get your podcasts. Last, if you enjoyed this episode of She Thinks, do leave us a rating or a review, it does help and we would love it if you share this episode and let your friends know where they can find more She Thinks episodes. From all of us here at Independent Women's Forum, thanks for listening.


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