Tennessee Amendment 1: Rhetoric and Red Herrings

On November 4, Tennesseans have the privilege and opportunity to vote on an important constitutional amendment.   The famed Amendment 1 reads:  “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

(Full disclosure: I am generally for whatever Planned Parenthood is against and Planned Parenthood is vehemently against this amendment.  It is ironic an organization called “Planned Parenthood” is actually devoted to preventing parenthood.)

What the amendment proposes is that abortion is not a right Tennesseans have.  It does not outlaw abortion or prevent anyone from getting an abortion.  It simply means the State of Tennessee is not responsible to fund abortions in the way it funds the interstate system, public universities or Tennessee National Guard.  Anyone can still get an abortion, but they’ll have to use their private funds and/or private insurance.  Abortion would still be (unfortunately) legal but not a constitutional right the State is obliged to provide or protect.  No one will be arrested after an abortion but they won’t be receiving a government check before it, either.

Needless to say, the din of rhetoric increases on both sides.  Despite all the parsing of legal jargon, the issue comes down to whether or not what is gestating in a woman’s womb is a person or a thing.  Is the fetus a disease to be eradicated or a person to protected.  Is the fetus a he/she or an it?

While I think the state has the Romans 13-esque moral and theological responsibility to prohibit abortion altogether, I also know we live in a democracy and so I argue the case on that front.  And opponents of the amendment specialize in two glaring red herrings rather than honest democratic citizenship.

1.  Opponents claim this amendment gives all the power to the State to weasel its way into a woman’s bedroom or exam room.  However, the amendment clearly says the State doesn’t protect any right to abortion but that “the people retain the right.”  In other words, the State would not consider abortion a right but would consider the democratic process a right.  The amendment protects the democratic process to “enact, amend or repeal statutes regarding abortion.”  Frankly, pro-abortion folks should relish this opportunity.  It’s not constitutional overreach.  It’s actually opening the door for them to get more then they’ve ever had.

If the majority of Tennesseans want to fully fund all abortions by their tax dollars then they can elect like-minded representatives and senators who then decide to fund them. If the majority of Tennesseans want to mandate abortions for all rape-related pregnancies then they can elect like-minded representatives and senators who write the law thereunto.  If the majority of Tennesseans want to give 2-for-1 abortions then they can elect like-minded representatives and senators who write the law and fund it.  Frankly, the pro-abortion crowd should really take advantage of this amendment.  The State is granting them the power to persuade the citizenry rather than fight the legislature.

But, if the majority of Tennesseans don’t want to allocate tax dollars to abortion then they elect like-minded representatives and senators to prevent it.  In effect, the Tennessee legislature is giving the right back to Tennesseans pilfered by the Supreme Court in 1973.  Voting against the Amendment actually preserves governmental overreach rather than ends it.

If through Amendment 1 the State is imposing anything it’s the freedom of democratic process!  Its opponents claim the government is inserting itself while in reality the government is deferring itself to the citizenry.

2.  Opponents claim this amendment has no regard for women impregnated by rape/incest or whose life is endangered.  Let’s consider these in turn.

There is no mandatory reporting of pregnancies caused by rape/incest.  No woman has to tell anyone how she got pregnant unless the father wants to cause a fuss about it. Therefore, any statistics about the number of rape-related pregnancies is an educated guess.  That said, all reasonable, scientific, scholarly data (albeit dated) estimates there are several thousand rape-related pregnancies per year (around 3% of all reported rapes). That’s a national number so there can only be several hundred rape-related pregnancies per year in Tennessee at most.  More likely, there are several dozen.  Incest-related pregnancies are even fewer.

There are currently 6.5 million Tennesseans.  Therefore, opponents of Amendment 1 are asking 6.5 million Tennesseans to fund statewide abortions for everyone on the off chance a few dozen are rape-related.  Despite the moral absurdity of abortion, this is democratic absurdity.

What about pregnancy-related deaths?  What if giving birth to a baby threatens the mother’s life?  According the CDC, there were 16.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010. The CDC defines a pregnancy-related death “as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 1 year of pregnancy termination—regardless of the duration or site of the pregnancy—from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes.”  Therefore, for every 100,000 live births in 2010 only .02% of the mothers died as a result.

These mothers were not forced to die because abortion wasn’t available, mind you.  They either didn’t know they would die or chose to do so to save their baby.  To argue for abortion based on the danger of a mother’s health is a straw man.

In 2013, there were 79,954 live births in Tennessee.  If national statistics hold equally true in Tennessee, 16 mothers died as a result of their pregnancy.  Opponents of Amendment 1 are asking 6.5 million Tennesseans to fund statewide abortion for everyone on the off chance 16 pregnancies would endanger the mother’s health.  Again, its democratic absurdity.

Per the Guttmacher Institute, 16,720 women aborted their babies in 2011 in Tennessee at one of 14 providers.  All but a few dozen of those ended pregnancies were rape-related (maybe) or health-endangering.  Opponents of Amendment 1 are willing to allow the deaths of tens of thousands Tennesseans who have the constitutional right to live for the sake of a few dozen.

We must not be blindly insensitive to rape-victims or mothers endangered by their pregnancies.  Those are complex situations.  But they are highly exceptional situations that do not qualify for constitutional protections.  If women so affected want to end their pregnancies then they can do so.  It’s their choice!  That doesn’t mean the rest of their fellow Tennesseans (the majority of which oppose abortion) should help pay for it, though.

Their opposition is not really about women’s health, though.  It’s about a feminist (read: gender blending) agenda exploiting a few dozen women for sake of consequence-free sex. “Women’s health” and fearmongering about governmental overreach are merely the Trojan Condoms horse.  They’ll shamelessly use the painful and unfortunate circumstances of a few dozen women to get what they really want: autonomy via state-sponsored genocide.  They oppose Amendment 1 because  they know they’re in the moral minority and the democratic process wouldn’t support them.

As detestable is as it is to many of us, the Constitution does afford pro-abortionists the right to set up non-profit (or for-profit) organizations that can help fund abortions if they so desire.  They can raise all the private funds they can.  In fact, if the amount of citizens they claim are really pro-abortion then they should have no trouble finding deep pockets.  They just might raise more funds than our tax dollars ever could.  Just as churches establish adoption funds to help with adoption costs, abortion-friendly ministers can lead their churches to establish abortion funds.  If they’re honestly committed to women’s health and not state-sponsored genocide, they can then screen abortion-minded women to determine if there was a rape or if the mother’s health is jeopardize.  If so, the can then provide funds to end the baby’s life.  The State won’t interfere even if God will have a say in the end.

Amendment 1 is not outlawing abortion despite what its opponents argue.  It’s simply relieving Tennesseans of any constitutional mandate to fund abortion. The citizens retain the right.  You may not vote “yes” because of moral or theological reasons, but you should at least vote “yes” because it’s good democracy.  You don’t need to be a Christian to vote yes, but simply a good Tennessean.

You can be sure, though, the citizens of Zion will redouble her constitutionally-protected efforts to protect life through gospel proclamation and real pro-life efforts while we eagerly wait a country of our own (Heb 11.14).

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