Something seems to happen the moment that many legislators sit down in the chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly. They forget they represent every one in their districts, not just their narrow political bases.

There was a time when such partisanship was reserved for the nation’s capital, but apparently, Potomac Fever is spreading downstream, and more and more, statesmanship in Nashville falls prey to political self-interest and ambition. These days, the number of legislators who are unwilling to sow divisiveness in order to harvest more votes can be counted on one hand.

Most ironic of all is that often those who espouse a distaste for big government are the very ones engaged in expanding the reach of government into the most private and personal decisions. It’s easy for them to see clearly the sins of others when they use government as the instrument for their political ideology, but when it comes time to show they are different, what do they do?

They introduce a bill that would tinker with Tennessee’s Constitution to remove a woman’s right to include abortion among her private health options. In their haste to garner support of their radical Christian base, they are willing to undermine the individual right to privacy guaranteed in the Tennessee Constitution and upheld by the state Supreme Court.

It wasn’t too many years ago that many of these same political interests campaigned against the equal rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution on the grounds that it was too sacred to be used for narrow political interests. That was then. This is now.

It points to one of the most infuriating elements of today’s highly charged partisan environment. Politicians who state firm, unshakeable, unequivocal opinions when they are opposing the other party simply ignore everything they’ve said when it comes time for them to pursue their own interests. Political amnesia is one of the incurable diseases of our time, but obviously, the outbreak in Nashville won’t see a cure any time soon. The pandering seems to have just begun.

The true believers have even suggested that the right to an abortion should be denied for women who are raped, are victims of incest or if their lives are in jeopardy. Apparently, women are only containers; it’s the contents that have value.

We may be witnessing the birth of “Big Brother” on Capitol Hill. In addition to telling women what they should do with their bodies, legislators are also refusing to give Memphis and Shelby County Governments the right to make decisions about the kind of community in which we live. Already, the legislature has killed a bill to give local government the ability to ban smoking in restaurants that employ people younger than 18 years of age, and they seem intent on bottling up county government’s bill asking for more control over its own taxes.

As for the proposed constitutional amendment, it is demagoguery at its core. Radical Christians are now using these kinds of referenda (on issues from the alleged gay agenda to abortion) as the means to enflame their base and get them out to vote. Just coincidentally, the referenda are scheduled for the same elections of governors or Congressmen.

That’s why many of these referenda across the U.S. aren’t so much aimed at accomplishing something as in giving their base a red meat diet of wedge issues, so they will get out and vote. It’s a ploy that sacrifices comity and compromise in order to elect those who share their extreme views. It may make for clever political maneuvering, but it also makes for a state whose voters are divided and antagonistic.

In the end, even if Tennesseans approve a Constitutional amendment outlawing abortion, it’s probably a Pyrrhic victory. First, it’s likely to be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Second, even if it’s not, the amendment would only keep the poor and middle class from having abortions. Other people know where to go to get abortions, so only those who cannot afford to travel elsewhere will be bound by the law.

Memphis Regional Planned Parenthood says it best in its petitions opposing the bill. The amendment would “undermine Tennesseans’ right to privacy, particularly as it relates to a woman’s right to make the most personal decisions of her health care without government interference. This amendment…would usher in an era where the consultation of doctors with their patients is replaced with an edict from the General Assembly. We believe that it is a founding principle of our state that individuals should be protected from government intrusion into their private affairs. The majority of Tennesseans also oppose the actions of politicians who tamper with the Tennessee Constitution in the belief that its integrity is of secondary importance to their own political ambitions.”


If you’d like to circulate a petition opposing the amendment, give Planned Parenthood a call.