Tennessee Republicans have decided to launch this year's annual political squabble over the abortion issue with what they're advertising as “a prayer breakfast to celebrate life.” It stars Gianna Jessen
, a pro-life activist who's been hitting the Christian Right speaking circuit lately. She bills herself as an “abortion survivor” because her teenage mother was supposedly trying to have an abortion when she gave birth instead to the premature Gianna 30 years ago.
The Family Action Council of Tennessee is revving up the evangelical troops in a new email message with this headline: "Putting a little life into the upcoming political year." The group's leader, former state Sen. David Fowler of Chattanooga, hails state GOP chair Robin Smith for hosting the Jan. 29 breakfast, “something that no predecessor ever had the courage, will, or interest in doing, and it is making crystal clear that the Republican Party is pro-life.”
Abortion opponents are demanding passage of a state constitutional amendment that would overrule a state Supreme Court decision that declared in 2000 that Tennessee's constitution guarantees women the right to an abortion. That way, the pro-lifers reason, if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, the Tennessee legislature could make abortion illegal.
A resolution to place the question on the 2010 ballot cleared the GOP-run Senate last session, but in the House, Speaker Jimmy Naifeh sent it to be killed in one of the subcommittees that he controls. He will no doubt do the same thing this session, which begins tomorrow, and Republicans see it as a winning, base-energizing issue in this year's elections.
As Fowler points out, “the lines on this issue are being drawn. Mrs. Smith seems to be saying, 'If you are pro-life, then you need to put Republicans in control of the House and if you are not pro-life, then the status quo is your political ticket.' She, of course, hopes there are more pro-life voters in Tennessee than not.”
“We're trying to ratchet up the pressure,” says state GOP flack Bill Hobbs, adding that Republicans believe the resolution would pass even in the Democratic-controlled House if Naifeh would let it go to the floor.