Should state Constitution be changed
to prohibit abortion? Yes
by State Representative Bill Dunn
Knoxville News Sentinel
August 08, 2004
President Ronald Reagan, while in office, wrote a book titled "Abortion
and the Conscience of a Nation" in which he stated, "Abraham
Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some
men could decide that others were not fit to be free and should therefore
be slaves. Likewise, we can not survive as a free nation when some men
decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion
Reagan was referring to the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision,
which legalized abortion at any point during all nine months of pregnancy.
This decision, which has sparked decades of debate, declared unborn babies
to be nonpersons and therefore able to be killed by means so gruesome
that some newspapers will not allow even a description of them. It is
reminiscent of the Nazi courts which declared certain people less than
human and therefore eligible for extermination by various horrific methods.
In the year 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court went even further than Roe
v. Wade in its Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist ruling. The court decided
4-1 that the right to kill the unborn child was a fundamental constitutional
right. Until this decision, the Tennessee Constitution was neutral on
the subject of abortion, thereby allowing the duly-elected state legislators
to enact commonsense regulations. Over the years, state lawmakers passed
several protective measures, including an informed consent law requiring
that the abortionist inform the woman of the possible dangers and consequences
of the surgery (a common practice with any other medical procedure), a
48-hour waiting period to ensure that a woman could not be pressured into
having an abortion, and a requirement that second-trimester abortions
be performed in a hospital where proper care and equipment are available.
Although these laws undoubtedly saved the lives of many unborn children
by giving their mothers the time and information to make a choice for
life, they were specifically designed to protect women from being coerced
into an abortion or exploited by the abortion industry that would benefit
financially from the destruction of her child.
The Supreme Court decided that these regulations were suddenly unconstitutional
and therefore no longer enforceable. This decision went against hundreds
of years of precedence and against the will of millions of Tennessee citizens.
This ruling was so outrageous, so out of step with Tennessee values and
based more on the judge'' personal feelings than the actual wording of
the state Constitution that dissenting Supreme Court Justice Mickey Barker
opined, "With its conclusion ... this court has consciously decided
to ignore two centuries of settled constitutional interpretation concerning
the proper scope of our Constitution ... this Court has taken it upon
itself to suddenly change the import of this provision so as to reach
its desired conclusion ... . Plainly stated, the effect of the Court's
holding today is to remove from the people all power, except by constitutional
amendment, to enact reasonable regulations of abortion."
The Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist ruling so shocked the sensibilities
of fair-minded Tennesseans that the immediate reaction was to reclaim
their Constitution by offering an amendment that would return the power
to the people. Senate Joint Resolution 127 was introduced to clearly establish
that the elected representatives of the people, not activist judges, would
decide how abortion was regulated in Tennessee. The resolution quickly
gained support in the Tennessee Senate and House, where it was sponsored
by a majority of legislators.
Despite misinformation and stalling tactics by pro-abortion groups and
legislators, it passed the Senate overwhelmingly with only six of the
33 senators voting against it. In the House however, it was sent to a
small subcommittee designed to kill pro-life legislation. There, five
pro-abortion legislators killed SJR 127. Even though there was widespread
support by the citizens of Tennessee and by their legislators, the people
were denied the right to control their Constitution and their laws. There
are those who argue that SJR 127 would have taken away rights. This is
ludicrous. Roe v. Wade took away the right to life of the unborn child.
Without the right to life, all other rights are meaningless. Planned Parenthood
v. Sunquist took away the rights of the people of Tennessee to regulate
themselves. SJR 127 would have helped to restore these rights.
The dilemma over who has human worth is not new. It took a civil war to
recognize the personhood and and rights of African Americans, and it took
a world war to stop the Jewish Holocaust. Tennessee simply needs a constitutional
amendment to overturn a horrible decision by a liberal, activist Supreme
Court. Tennessee needs to restore basic rights to its citizens -- born
State Rep. Bill Dunn serves the 16th District. He is a member of the Agriculture,
Transportation and Fiscal Review committees. He and his wife, Stacy, are
the parents of five children.