Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; October 9, 2014:
By Roy Herron
Originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press
A pastor called my law office. He needed legal counsel about a girl in his church. Her father had molested the girl since she was 9. Finally, when she was 14, she told friends at school. Why? Because she was pregnant with her father’s child.
Ultimately, that “father” went to prison, and that child had an abortion. The father should have gone to prison. Whether the child should have had an abortion, I do not claim to know. It was not my decision to make. Nor was it a decision for politicians. The decision was made by the victim and her mother with the compassionate counsel of her doctor and pastor.
I do not trust politicians to have all the answers. Especially not horrible situations involving rape or incest. I believe that compassionate, caring, faithful adults, like that loving mother and pastor and doctor, ought to make or help make these difficult decisions.
My wife hears the criminal injury claims of hundreds of victims, including rape victims, victims as young as 7. Numerous young teens. She also hears cases of adult rape victims.
She’s heard many cases where young women were given a date-rape drug, then assaulted. She’s heard countless cases where young women were raped at knifepoint and gunpoint and by brutal force. When some of these girls and women are impregnated by their rapists, should we also force our government upon them and require them to bear the rapists’ children?
Rape of a child under 13 is a Class A felony, the most serious classification for the most serious crime. It is punishable by up to 60 years in prison. Yet, would we have the same government that deems child rape the most heinous of crimes also tell a 12-year-old victim that she must continue to be tortured by the rapist for nine more months? Would we tell the child, no matter how traumatized or devastated, that she must bear that child, then either raise the rapist’s child or abandon it?
I was a state senator when Amendment 1 was before the legislature. During that controversy, two friends told me their daughters were raped and had conceived. These mothers asked me to try to protect victims like their daughters.
Amendment 1 is a flawed and dangerous proposal. If approved, politicians would pass more restrictions making ending pregnancies difficult or impossible, even in cases of rape and incest.
When this proposed Amendment 1 was in the Senate, I offered amendments to let victims of rape and incest and women whose lives are endangered decide. Every Republican voted against the amendments and the amendments failed. So, Amendment 1 would leave no state constitutional protection for these victims.
In tragic circumstances, families deserve to make their own difficult, private decisions, without government interference.
Women and their doctors, not politicians, know what’s best for women. As a young woman who is pro-life but anti-Amendment 1 told me last week, “I’m against all abortions, but I ought not try to decide for everyone else.” She believes it is better that each woman make her own private decision, in consultation with her family, doctor and faith.
If you want politicians to make these decisions even in cases of child rape and incest, then vote yes for Amendment 1.
But if you agree that we should not let politicians require women and girls whose lives already are devastated to bear rapists’ children, then vote no on Amendment 1.
Roy Herron is a former Tennessee senator and the chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party.