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Republicans succeeded this afternoon in shoving SJR127 back onto the Senate floor, but Democrats managed to make them look like callous nutcase extremists in the process. So it all worked out for everyone, right? (Well, not for pregnant women, but that's politics.)
In the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrats offered two amendments--one to make exceptions in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother, the other to allow abortions only to save the mother's life. Republicans beat back both amendments, then adopted the resolution as written. Sen. Doug Jackson argued passionately to make exceptions for the mother's life.
"Surely we can agree on this. If we can't agree on this, I think the people of Tennessee need to start scratching their heads and asking, 'What are they thinking?' If anybody's daughter gets stage 3 breast cancer and she's pregnant and the doctor says you've got to make a choice here, that mother ought to be able to make that choice, as tragic as that entire circumstance is."
If it ever makes it onto the Tennessee ballot, SJR127 will ask voters to amend the state constitution to strip away abortion rights. If it passes, abortion would remain legal in the state as long as Roe v. Wade stands, of course. But amending our constitution would nullify a 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist. The court ruled the state constitution affords stronger protection for abortion rights than does the U.S. Constitution. This means that certain restrictions on abortion upheld by the nation's highest court can't be imposed in Tennessee.
Pro-lifers want to fix that. The resolution's sponsor, Sen. Diane Black, insisted today she only seeks "commonsense restrictions" on abortion, presumably not ridiculous ones like Rep. Stacey Campfield's bill to make women obtain death certificates for their fetuses. Commonsense is the favorite word of pro-life legislators when they're talking about abortion. At one point, Black even went so far as to claim she's actually pro-choice. That's the way it sounded to me anyway. Here's what she said:
"I'm not trying to take someone's right to abortion away, although that's what many people will say. But that is not the purpose of this resolution."
The debate went on and on, but no one offered the pure pro-choice argument until the end. Sen. Beverly Marrero spoke just for the record, not trying to persuade anyone, which says something about the mindset of our state Senate. Here's what she said:
I'd like to have the opportunity to say there is a different perspective. There are those of us who really do care for and respect a woman's right to make choices about her own body. ... I don't know of anything that's more private or more important than for a woman to be able to decide whether she would like to carry a baby under whatever circumstances. It seems to me that some of these decisions are very agonizing, very difficult for people to make. But it's a decision that should be made between a woman and her husband or her partner and her physician or the people who care about her. It seems to me unreasonable that the legislature should make this important decision for a woman.
We have so many children in this state right now who are in state custody who are being taken care of because they were in abusive situations. If you force people to have babies who don't want or need babies, I can't even imagine how many abusive situations you're going to run into. Every child should be a wanted child. That is what a lot of us in the state of Tennessee sincerely believe, that a woman should make choice to have a child, to love that child and to take care of that child, and that is her right to make that decision. I oppose the state of Tennessee and the legislature making that decision for a woman. I applaud the fact that the constitution in the state of Tennessee guarantees a woman's right to privacy. Nothing is more private than what you do with your own body.