Roe v. Wade was never about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of abortion…. It was always a case about privacy. A woman named Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe, for privacy) went to a doctor in Texas (a state where abortions were illegal, but allowed for in the case of rape or incest) and asked for an abortion claiming she had been raped. And you know what they said? “Prove it.” Well, the Supreme Court didn’t think she should have to prove it. They decided, in a 7-2 decision, that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to privacy, including a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. And that same Due Process Clause makes laws criminalizing abortions (in all cases other than life-saving procedures) without taking into consideration the stage of pregnancy and other interests (like rape or incest) unconstitutional as well.
This decision came in 1973, and it forced many states that had strict laws governing when and if a woman could have an abortion to change their laws. Tennessee was one of those states. After Roe v. Wade, many anti-abortion activists attempted to pass regulations that would make getting abortions as difficult as possible (this is what is being attempted in Texas and other states right now, by regulating that clinics must be partnered with a hospital–knowing full well that for a hospital in Texas to “partner” with an abortion clinic would mean financial death for that hospital). In 1992, the Tennessee Supreme Court also found that these regulations to be unconstitutional, because “they decided the Tennessee constitution contains a fundamental right to privacy, which includes a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.” The dissenting Justice said that the only way to change this would be an amendment to the State Constitution…. And that is what brings us to the Amendment 1 vote on the ballots this November. This NPR story explains the history behind this better than I ever could.
I realize there are all kinds of valid, moral arguments for why a person could be against abortions. A little while ago I wrote about the very difficult process of finding middle ground on this very divisive issue right HERE. The moral question of abortion is not simple…. Not on either side. If you think it is, you’re probably not paying close enough attention. But this Amendment is not the answer. Here is what the amendment 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 from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”
So basically, this amendment takes the fundamental right to privacy that the Tennessee State Constitution guarantees (and always has guaranteed) its citizens, and then changes it to say “except for things that have to do with a woman’s right to privacy about abortion.” If this Constitutional Amendment passes, it will give legislators broad power to regulate abortions to make them very, very difficult for women to obtain. Now, to some, this might sound like terrific news… and I get that, but regulating mandatory waiting periods, regulating hospital partnerships (ones that don’t have a chance of happening), and taking away the privacy rights of the women of Tennessee is NOT the way to fight this fight. It puts a woman who has been raped in the position of being forced to PROVE she’s been raped, and that is just not right. If you think that ALL abortions should be illegal, even in the case of rape or incest, you should vote yes on 1. But most people don’t believe that…. And ironically, the people who are usually the most pro-privacy and anti-regulation seem to have changed their tune on this particular issue.
Imagine a young woman goes to a clinic for an abortion, and then the doctor looks at her and says, “How did you get pregnant?” A perfectly legitimate response to that question would be, “That’s none of your damn business,” but let’s just say that her answer is, “I was raped.” And then she is told, “Show me the police report.” Well, maybe this young woman doesn’t want to press charges. Maybe she doesn’t want to relive the whole horrible ordeal in a courtroom. Maybe she can’t press charges because she doesn’t know who the man was. Maybe her uncle raped her, and she doesn’t want her family to know. Maybe she just wants to forget about it and try to move on with her life. How dare we force a woman in this situation to attempt to “prove she wasn’t asking for it.” People can be morally outraged by a throwaway culture that frivolously uses abortion as birth control without setting up a system that looks at a girl who has been raped and says, “Prove it.”
If, God forbid someday in the future, one of my daughters got pregnant as a result of rape, and then came to me and said, “Daddy, I’m going to keep this baby and love it with everything I have,” I would say, “Sweetie, I love you. I am proud of you. That is your decision.” If she came to me and said, “Daddy, I’m going to carry this baby, but I’m going to give it up for adoption,” I would say, “Sweetie, I love you. I am proud of you. That is your decision.” And if she came to me and said, “Daddy, I can’t do this. Every day part of the monster that did this to me grows inside me, and I keep reliving the most horrible thing that ever happened to me. I need to end this pregnancy,” here is what I can only hope I would say: “Sweetie, I love you. I am proud of you. That is your decision.” And you know what else? She might not come to me at all…. She might think it is none of my damn business. And that’s her decision too.
So I’m against this amendment…. Not because I am “for” abortion, but because I am for the right to privacy. If a woman decides not to have an abortion after she is raped and impregnated, I think that’s lovely…. But I’m sure not going to try to force a woman to prove to anyone that she has been raped. Even forcing her to SAY that she’s been raped is a violation of her fundamental right to privacy. And that is a right that is guaranteed to us–men AND women–not only as Americans, and also as Tennesseans. I’m a Christian, I’m a father to two beautiful daughters and a beautiful son, and I’m voting NO on Tennessee’s Amendment 1. And I think you should too.