The Most Important Lesson to Learn from the Debates Over Pro-life Bills in Tennessee

(TN State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) wears baby feet lapel pin “In honor of those children that will be saved after our actions today in the legislature, and in memory of those who were denied their first breath…” via Facebook)

I am staunchly pro-life. As such, I’m thrilled that the Tennessee legislature passed two bills that will significantly impact women and unborn babies in Tennessee and from surrounding states.

Since 2000, there has been no waiting period and no informed consent requirement for abortion facilities to abide by. Makes for quick but very dirty work, allowing same-day abortions with no doctor involvement prior to the abortion. Since 2003, there has been no requirement for inspection and licensing of abortion facilities. Some facilities submitted voluntarily, but others did not. Again, makes for very cost-efficient operation if you have no quality or sanitary standard that you have to operate under.

As of yesterday, these commonsense protections have been passed in the legislature and will soon be signed by the Governor. This will put us on our way to destroying Tennessee’s reputation as an abortion destination. These are steps that are welcomed and that we should be proud of as pro-life Tennesseans.

I have to address something, however, that is extremely important to the pro-life movement. In the political arena especially, stupid things are said by (hopefully) well-meaning people, things that do nothing to advance a just cause and even serve to hurt innocent people.

Opposition to the pro-life bills I’ve described have seized on comments from Rep. Sheila Butt, who stated that rape and incest is rarely verifiable. The statement containing these words was made in response to a proposed amendment to the waiting period/informed consent bill that would have allowed exceptions for rape and incest. There are two problems with such a statement:

  • First of all, abortion takes the life of an innocent person regardless of the circumstances of conception. THAT is the issue. The veracity of rape and incest claims has nothing to do with this fact. Proven or not proven, the occurrence of rape or incest does not revoke the personhood of the unborn child. It does not change the fact that a child at 20 weeks en utero feels the pain of the scalpel used to dismember him. Protection for the life of the child is the purpose, and that is why rape and incest exceptions are unacceptable.

  • Secondly, having worked with victims of child sexual abuse and rape as a mental health professional, it is extremely disrespectful and potentially harmful to make such a statement. The opposition wants us to think women never lie about being raped, which is itself a lie. However, that does not mean there is an epidemic of women lying about being raped. Additionally, there are very reliable ways to gather forensic evidence of a rape, both through physical examination and specially conducted victim interviews. Rep. Butt being a woman doesn’t make such a claim any more right or reliable than if the comment came from a man. I’m afraid some women in politics don’t realize that to be true.

The worst consequence of such statements is that they take the focus off of where it needs to be, which is on the fact that abortion has taken millions of lives in the past 40 or so years that it has been legal. Abortion has been justified in the minds of so many people, bolstered by lies that a fetus is merely a clump of “pregnancy tissue,” not a living human being. The second contributing lie that has caused so much damage is that abortion is completely innocuous, poses no short- or long-term threats, and rids the woman of an obstacle to her ongoing success in life.

These are the lies that need to be debunked, and we will have to do so over and over again, with as many people as we can, before the culture actually starts to absorb the message that life is precious again. I am persuaded of better things, and these new laws give me further hope. In these times when stupidity spreads faster than wildfire on social media, let us keep the news of better things at the forefront and not be distracted.


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