Tennessee Asserts Sovereignty on Amendment 1

As you probably know, the chair of Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee and some of its supporters filed a federal lawsuit this past summer to enjoin passage of Amendment 1, which voters adopted in November of last year. Planned Parenthood’s supporters argued the state Election Commission did not count the votes the way the state Constitution requires. However, in recent months the state took the fight to them and won a great victory in Court last week.

In September, Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Mark Goins, Coordinator of State Elections, filed suit in the Chancery Court of Williamson County asking the state courts to declare whether the state had counted the votes correctly under the state Constitution.

I have written on this subject before, stating that the question of how the state Constitution is to be interpreted is a matter for the state courts to decide, not a federal court. But arrogant federal District Court Judge Kevin Sharp decided he would decide for Tennessee how its Constitution should be interpreted

Thankfully, the state essentially said, “Enough of that, Judge Sharp. We gave you a chance to do the right thing by declining to interpret our state Constitution, and you choose wrong. Now we’ll see the Planned Parenthood folks over in state court.”

This suit was a great exercise in giving recognition to the dual sovereignty that exists under our federal government.

States are still sovereign governments under the U.S. Constitution, and their courts have every bit as much constitutional authority to interpret the state and federal constitution, as do the federal courts. Of course, when the state Supreme Court disagrees with the U.S. Supreme Court, you have a problem, but not until then.

Tennessee’s Not Alone in Asserting Its Sovereignty

This legal point regarding state sovereignty was ably and rightly demonstrated last March when a single federal district judge ruled that all of Alabama’s probate judges had to start issuing same-sex “marriage” licenses. The Alabama Supreme Court stepped in and ordered all the probate judges who were not actually parties to that particular federal court lawsuit to continue following Alabama’s marriage law.

Liberals decried the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision, but that’s all they could do, cry. The Court was correct, and eventually the same-sex “marriage” advocates realized all they could do was wait to see what the U.S. Supreme Court would say in the Obergefell v. Hodges case.

Just Say No to Federal Government Overreach

So back to the Amendment 1 lawsuit in state court. The abortion advocates moved the state court to dismiss the state’s lawsuit and, essentially asking the state court to defer to the federal court, to let the federal court handle the decision. To the credit of Judge Binkley, he said, “No thank you. The state is equipped to handle these kinds of cases, so we’ll just all proceed full speed ahead.”

That decision was as it should be. We can thank our Secretary of State, Election Coordinator, and Attorney General for asserting our state’s rights on this issue of state law. It was a creative way to tell the pro-abortion crowd that Tennessee is not going to let them use the federal government to dictate to us if we can find another way.

Now let’s hope our Attorney General will put on that same creative thinking cap to find a way to say to the federal government we’re not going to let you shove us around when it comes to refugee resettlement and to marriage, two issues that are looming as the legislature prepares to return for session in January.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Amendment 1 and the ‘Government Interference’ Fallacy

Just as “marriage equality” has become the campaign theme for those trying to turn marriage into something it isn’t, “stop government interference” has become the theme for opponents of Amendment 1 to turn it into something it isn’t. Surely, they aren’t really against government interference.

Being against government interference certainly has an attractive ring to political conservatives who want less government. And, of course, that is what Planned Parenthood with its “government interference” mantra wants conservatives to think. But hopefully conservatives will do just that—think!

Government is, by definition, a form of interference. When something is governed, it has order and it has limits.

It’s not like we really want to stop government interference completely. Like me, you want the civil government to interfere when someone’s jeopardizing your life or property. The truth is, we all like the kind of interference we think is appropriately within the civil government’s jurisdiction, and we don’t like the interference we think is outside its jurisdiction.

For example, polls show that most opponents of Amendment 1 are Democrats. But Democrats love government inference! They love to regulate everything. They want the government to regulate health care in general. Ever heard of Obamacare?

Obamacare interferes in the kind of health procedures an employer’s health insurance policy must provide. That is government interference in health care. And I guarantee you the opponents of Amendment 1 don’t want the government to repeal the “interference” the abortifacient mandate under Obamacare is to some Christian employers.

So the real question is what kind of things should civil government interfere with? That is where I really question some of the ministers who have talked as if Amendment 1 is depriving a woman of a God-given choice.

First, if you’re a minister, you have to know there is a difference between the free will to make a choice and whether a choice is one that is generally permitted in a civilized society. God and civil government both say that some choices are not okay, like murder. Like stealing. Like lying under oath. Do these ministers oppose government interference when it comes to those choices?

Oh, but they say, “Those choices affect another human being.” But that is the question, isn’t it? Is this living being in a mother’s womb with a DNA and circulatory system of its own not that of its mother of the same essence as the minister? Of course.

Yes, they again counter, “But ‘it’ can’t survive without the “life support” provided by the mother. Ah, but can any of us “its” survive long if someone is unilaterally allowed to deprive us of the things we need for our continued existence, like nutrition and oxygen?

I hope none of these ministers who are against government interference ever ask for government assistance if they are too frail to care for themselves. The golden rule would say that they should be treated the same as the little ones around whose necks they are now casting the abortion millstone.

But, really, these arguments over the rightness or wrongness of abortion are beside the point when it comes to Amendment 1. Amendment 1 cannot take away the right to abortion given by the United States Supreme Court.

Opponents of Amendment 1 are hoping you won’t think about that. And they hope you won’t think about what government interference really means in this situation.

So, if you don’t know what “government interference” means when Planned Parenthood says it, here it is; it means you are okay with:

  • some women continuing to make life-altering, irreversible medical decisions without the assurance they have been fully informed about the procedure and their options,
  • that decision being made on the spot in non-emergency situations, and
  • another human being’s life being taken under those conditions.

Well, that’s not something, as a conservative, I’m okay with for the sake of the woman or the unborn child. So, in this instance, I’ll accept a little “government interference.”

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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A Time for Truth on Amendment 1

King Solomon said that there is a time for everything under the sun. And after watching some of propaganda against Amendment 1, it is time for a little truth. Here are some of the most blatant errors that need to have a little truth thrown on them.

Government Intrusion

One of the ads by a law professor (who is listed as Board Chair for Planned Parenthood in Middle Tennessee) says that Amendment 1 will “force governmental interference into private medical decisions.” As I noted last week, the Amendment does no such thing. It doesn’t force the state government to do anything. Some would dare call her statement an outright lie.

In fact, a national political website called it “the most dishonest ad this political season.” Pretty impressive work by Planned Parenthood’s Board Chair, considering how furiously folks are fighting over some of the U.S. Senate seats!

Informed Consent

Tennessee does not, in fact, have an abortion-related informed consent law like other states have. It was ruled unconstitutional by our State Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee v. Sundquist.

What was it that Planned Parenthood didn’t like about our informed consent law that was so “burdensome” on a woman’s right to an abortion? Let me quote from the Supreme Court’s opinion:

“Planned Parenthood challenged the statutory requirement that before a woman consents to an abortion, her attending physician must orally inform her of certain information about the procedure and her options.”

I guess meeting with the woman is a “burden” because it would interrupt the profit stream that comes from the doctor being able to do one abortion after another without having potentially time-consuming meetings with the patient.

If you were going to have an irreversible and potentially life-changing surgery done on you, would you want to speak with the doctor? Of course. So why would we insist on meeting our doctor for other surgeries, but not for an abortion?

That Planned Parenthood would complain about the physician taking time to inform the woman about the procedure tells me a lot about how much I would want to trust them to tell women the truth.

And that exposes another assertion by Planned Parenthood. They say that Tennessee already has an informed consent law.

There is a statute that has nothing to do with abortion. It says that in a trial for medical malpractice, in order to “win,” the injured patient must proved that the “defendant” did not adequately inform the patient. The burden is on the patient, not the defendant, who happens to be the doctor—the doctor who Planned Parenthood successfully insisted should be freed from speaking with the patient.

But here’s the kicker and the reason states have abortion-related informed consent laws. That medical malpractice statute says that the information provided need only be “in accordance with the recognized standard of acceptable professional practice in the profession and in the specialty, if any, that the defendant practices in the community in which the defendant practices and in similar communities.” (emphasis added)

What that means is that the abortion doctors in a community get to decide what the standard is for what women should have to know. Since they don’t seem to like being slowed down long enough to inform the woman of the procedure and her options, do you really think someone’s going to take the time to be very thorough in explaining all the risks and options? And why would they explain to the woman anything about the developing fetus, since the plan is to destroy it anyway?

Clinic Licensing

Despite what Planned Parenthood would have you think, not all places that routinely provide abortion services are licensed and inspected by the state. Outpatient surgery centers are supposed to be licensed and inspected by the state. But when the state tried to apply those rules to a physician-owned and operated “abortion clinic” in Nashville, the doctor sued to have the rules declared unconstitutional. In 2002, he won. Enough said.


Maybe Planned Parenthood can live with its deception. But because of it, too many women are harmed and too many unborn children die. Say yes to the truth and say yes to Amendment 1.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Is Dr. Seuss Writing the Ads Against Amendment 1?

As I watched one of the television advertisements against Amendment 1, I immediately thought about one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories as a child. If I didn’t know for sure he was deceased, I’d almost swear he was writing the scripts.

The story that came to mind was And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. It’s the story of Marco, an elementary aged boy who is asked each day by his dad what he saw on the way to and from school. But the truth was the daily trip was boring. The truth just wouldn’t do. It wouldn’t impress his dad.

Now what can I say when I get home today?
All the long way to school and all the way back,
I’ve looked and I’ve looked, and I’ve kept careful track
But all that I’ve noticed except my own feet,
Was a horse and a wagon on Mulberry Street.
That’s nothing to tell of, that won’t do, of course…
Just a broken down wagon that’s drawn by a horse.
That can’t be my story. That’s only a start!

And so on his way home he dreams up a truly incredible story. But when he sits down to recount his trip, he realizes his dad just won’t believe him. And he tells the truth–just a ‘broken down wagon and a horse.’

So, like Marco, Planned Parenthood and its allies, the ACLU, know that it just won’t do to tell the people what Amendment 1 really does and what’s really at stake.

Planned Parenthood knows that in a generally pro-life state, it just won’t do to tell folks it opposes Amendment 1 because it supports abortion on demand and makes lots of money off of abortions. Why, so far, I don’t think its commercials have even used the word “abortion.”

And it just won’t do to tell people that they are opposed to having an abortion-specific informed consent law for the protection of women. Why, no one would believe that someone would be opposed to women making fully informed medical decisions.

And opponents can’t tell people that a woman could wind up in a physician-operated abortion clinic that is not subject to the same licensure and inspection requirements as other types of outpatient surgery centers. For sure, no one would believe a story that said women are well served by unlicensed and uninspected abortion clinics.

So, what story can Planned Parenthood tell that would rile folks up? Well, like Marco, the truth just won’t do, so it had to make one up. So a law professor, who is listed as the Board Chair for Planned Parenthood in Middle Tennessee, gets on television and says that passage of Amendment 1 would “force governmental interference into private medical decisions.”

Now, to a jaded public that distrusts its government, that is a story that might sell! It invites their imagination, like Marco’s, to run wild with what that might mean.

But wait, the language of the Amendment actually says the “people retain the right” to decide what policies we should have on abortion. That doesn’t sound very much like an amendment that is “forcing the government” to do anything.

Yes, we, the people, “decide” on those policies through our elected representatives, but to say that’s tantamount to forcing the government to do something? Come on.

What Planned Parenthood’s lawyer spokesperson really seems to be saying is that Planned Parenthood just doesn’t like our form of government. Then again, maybe Planned Parenthood just doesn’t like the possibility that its very profitable abortion business might be hurt if women are better informed about what they are doing.

Hopefully, voters will be more like Marco’s dad than Marco and not believe the cockamamie story that Amendment 1 would “force” the government to do something when, in fact, the words of the Amendment are clear that the government doesn’t have to do anything.

But, hey, that’s not a very exciting story. I guess for Planned Parenthood, like Marco, the truth does have its drawbacks.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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