As the Tennessee legislature wages a fierce debate over whether or not the state should ban abortions, there is one somewhat unexpected lobbying group that has emerged as an opponent to the pro-life bill: National Right to Life.
The Tennessee legislature amended a bill to ban abortions in cases when a heartbeat can be detected inside the fetus into a much more restrictive ban on abortions earlier this session. The most prominent pro-life organization in the country is calling this proposal “irrational” and “foolish.”
The amended language in the legislation would define “viability” as encompassing anything “that a male human sperm has penetrated the zona pellucida of the female ovum, which includes, but is not limited to, serial human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) determinations or the detection of a heartbeat in an unborn child.”
With this new language, the bill would effectively ban abortions following conception, as committing one would become a Class C felony. An abortionist would lose their medical license for performing an abortion except to prevent the “death of the pregnant woman or to prevent serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”
National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) general counsel James Bopp showed up to a hearing earlier this month to urge against the passage of the strong pro-life legislation, claiming that Roe v. Wade is sitting precedent and shouldn’t be fought in this manner by the states.
“It’s not a matter of whether these judges are pro-life,” Bopp said. “It’s the reality that they have an obligation to follow precedent. And there’s simply no question that pre-viability prohibitions are unconstitutional […] We have precedent we cannot avoid with a clever legal argument.”
“To enact legislation we have to live in the real world,” Bopp added. “We have precedent we cannot avoid with a clever legal argument.”
Bopp said that re-electing President Trump next year, electing more Republicans to the U.S. Congress and Senate, and then waiting for the Supreme Court to eventually do the right thing is the correct path of action for Tennessee lawmakers to take. Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT) president David Fowler rebuked Bapp’s line of thinking.
“There is a rule of law conflict, because in every area of the law—criminal, tort, and property—the state has the authority to recognize the right-bearing capacity of unborn persons, just not when it comes to one thing, abortion,” Fowler wrote.
“That arbitrary distinction as to when a known living human being is a person is an offense to the rule of law. If a Republican legislature isn’t willing to make the Court decide this issue on the basis of the rule of law because it doesn’t think the Court cares about the rule of law either, then heaven help us; we are lawless,” he added.
In the recent past, the NRLC has opposed federal legislation to ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected and used their lobbying weight to attempt to carve out rape and incest exceptions permitting more abortions. They have also worked intimately with the Republican Party establishment, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) pointed out the games that Republican leaders and their controlled opposition groups play with the pro-life cause, as they want to keep the issue of life around as a useful fundraising tool during election season without finding any real solutions.
It appears that National Right to Life is just a partisan rubber-stamp for the GOP establishment that doesn’t care all that much about ending abortion.