The party that plays chickenAn important Constitutional Amendment passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in Nashville yesterday, and the reaction of the Democratic Leadership in Nashville to its passage is telling. The Amendment would give the General Assembly the authority to to regulate abortion-something that the federal Constitution already gives the Legislature by virtue of its non-mention of the issue. The reaction of Democratic House Speaker Pro-Tempore Lois DeBerry is that this is all just an election-year ploy:
One key Democrat in the House said she viewed the Republican-led measure as a political game to get Democrats on record opposed to it. All 99 members of the House and half of the state senators are up for re-election in the fall.
"They're making it a campaign issue," said state Rep. Lois DeBerry, a Memphis Democrat and the House speaker pro tem.
I know that Senator Diane Black and Representative Delores Gresham (the Senate and House sponsors of the bill, respectively) have a track record of really caring and believing in the cause of Life, so DeBerry saying that this proposal is just a ploy is a bit disingenuous. The Democratic reaction does raise a very legitimate question, however: What exactly is the problem with going on the voting record with your position about the issue of abortion?
The Democratic Party in this State depends on campaign money from many sources and many political action committees. One of those sources has traditionally been the pro-abortion lobby, and especially Planned Barrenhood. However, enough Tennessee Democrats have run for the General Assembly telling their constituents over the years that they are-in defiance of their national party-both politically and personally pro-life that if the proposed Amendment were brought to the House floor and the so-called pro-lifers were made to vote according to the positions they set out, the proposal would have a very good chance of passing both rounds of scrutiny in the House.
The Democratic Leadership is scared to death to bring this to a vote because they know it is a vote that they may lose-and that if they were to go on record as opposing this Amendment, many Democratic legislators will be seen to have been untruthful with their constituents about this issue. The Democratic Party is afraid of losing campaign money on the one hand and afraid of facing the wrath of the voters on the other. All sides are very much aware that if the people actually got a vote on this Amendment in the 2010 Election in a referendum, it would almost certainly pass.
The pro-life movement has been where I've cut my political teeth, and over the years I have become convinced that the abortion question is best dealt with on a State by State basis. This Amendment allows for the Legislature to be able to do its job and its duty, and it deserves the serious consideration of floor votes in both Houses. That doesn't need to happen because it is an election year, it just needs to happen because it is the right thing to do. If there are electoral consequences because of the votes people cast, the positions they take, or the promises they break,then so be it-that is what happens when it is time to face the political music.
Rather than stand on principle and be willing to take an overtly public position on such a controversial issue, the Tennessee Democratic Leadership has decided to play chicken. That reality should give both conservatives who agree with my pro-life position and liberals who do not pause to think about whether such an indecisive party really deserves their majority.