Republicans and Democrats have stacked a new select committee on Planned Parenthood with their fiercest fighters on abortion rights, setting the stage for a major election-year battle.
Unlike every other committee in Congress, the overwhelming majority of lawmakers on the panel are women, with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) serving as chairwoman and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) serving as the ranking Democrat.
“It makes sense to me, since the topic is of particular interest to women,” Schakowsky told The Hill.
The prevalence of women on the committee is almost without precedent in the House.
The only other House committee in history to have a woman serving as chairman and ranking member was the House Select Committee on the Beauty Shop. That panel existed from 1967 to 1977, and oversaw the operations of a salon on Capitol Hill. The panel was later folded into the House Administration Committee.
Both sides in the abortion debate are eager to see their allies duke it out, following the controversy over undercover Planned Parenthood videos.
Opponents of abortion rights, in particular, believe the committee could be the jolt they need headed into the 2016 elections.
“This is really mission central,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, who founded Susan B. Anthony’s List to attract more women to the anti-abortion movement.
“Because women are perceived as having standing on this issue, we’re given a wider allowance. When something comes out of a man’s mouth, there’s a much more rigorous analysis,” added Dannenfelser, a former staffer for the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.