The Misinformation Is Coming

But assuming SJR 127 gets passed and heads toward the ballot, expect a steady stream of misinformation and confusion between now and the vote in 2014.

For hopefully the last time, the state Legislature will vote on Senate Joint Resolution 127, the proposed amendment to the state constitution that would wrest abortion policy out of the hands of unelected activist judges and once again make the state constitution neutral on the issue of abortion. Just yesterday a major media source in Tennessee tried to get it right, but missed.

Yesterday’s Chattanooga Times Free Press reported on SJR 127, saying it “would strip the Tennessee Constitution of any language construed to protect the right to an abortion.” The reporter, who is a friend and actually a good reporter as far as I’m concerned, sort of got it right. He rightly noted that the “right to abortion” in Tennessee’s constitution was a consequence of judicial construction. There is, in fact, no language in the state constitution regarding abortion.

But SJR 127 doesn’t strip any language out of the state constitution. Rather, it adds language telling courts what they should have known—that there is nothing in the state constitution regarding abortion and nothing that should even be construed that way.

It may seem a minor point, but the key point is there is nothing in the constitution that should have been “construed” in the first place. While some might think the state constitution should contain a right to abortion, the simple fact of the matter is that the “right” in our state constitution is as made up as the tooth fairy and Santa Claus.

Yes, you may think there’s a tooth fairy because there’s money under your pillow, and you may think there’s a Santa Claus because there are presents under the tree on Christmas morning, but they don’t exist. (Sorry about that, “Virginia.”) In other words, we may think there’s something in the constitution about abortion because the Court said so, but there just isn’t anything.

Of course, the November 11, 2010, edition of the Nashville Scene takes the prize for inaccuracy and hyperbole by saying SJR 127 “would amend the state constitution to strip abortion rights and force women to have the babies of even their rapist.”

Of course, there is nothing in the language of SJR 127 that comes even close to forcing woman to have a baby of even their rapist. Here’s what it says:

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 form rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.

If you don’t find anything that looks like what the Scene reported after your first read through, don’t waste your time reading it again. It’s not there.

But assuming SJR 127 gets passed and heads toward the ballot, expect a steady stream of misinformation and confusion between now and the vote in 2014.

The fact is someone in government will make abortion policy for Tennessee. Therefore, the ultimate question raised by SRJ 127 itself is do we want our policies to be made by as few as three out of five unelected and unaccountable state Supreme Court judges or by people we can throw out of office if they go to far or don’t go far enough … like Americans and Tennesseans just did in November 2006, 2008 and 2010?

Accountability is a good thing, particularly when someone’s life is on the line.