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May 5, 2009

An Interview with Tennessee State Senator Diane Black
By Susan Harbison

Senator Diane Black graduated from Belmont in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She served three terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives before her election to the State Senate in 2004.

On Friday, April 17th, State Senator Diane Black spoke to a group of students about a state bill currently in the House of Representatives: SJR 127. She has co-sponsored SJR 127 in the Senate since 2004.

Despite passing several times in the State Senate, it has always failed to pass through the House Health Committee. On April 7th, however, the bill finally pushed through the deadlock.

In 1974, the state of Tennessee lost a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood. The Supreme Court of Tennessee decided that our state constitution gave women a fundamental right to an abortion. Tennessee now has the most unsupervised abortion clinics in the country. The Health department has no jurisdiction to inspect abortion clinics. There is no other medical clinic in the country that can still operate without Health Department Inspection.

Furthermore, Black contended that there is no required informed consent in Tennessee. A doctor may or may not choose to tell you the details of an abortion and its after-effects–he doesn’t have to. For any other surgery, however, informed consent is required.

Senator Black reiterated that SJF 127 would not restrict the protection of abortion under Roe v .Wade. Instead, SJR 127 is designed to level the playing field and put “common sense protections back in place”. SJR 127 would simply require informed consent, a 48 hour waiting period, and regulation of abortion clinics just as every other clinic in the state is regulated.

Holding abortion to the same standards as other surgeries does not seem like to much to ask, but apparently some disagree.

I then asked Senator Black some personal questions about the abortion issue:

RAR: When did you become opposed to abortion?

Senator Black: I have always been a right-to-life person.

RAR: Does your nursing background strengthen your belief that life begins before birth?

Senator Black: Being a nurse probably only confirms my belief that every life is important. You can’t see a new life enter this world without being amazed by the creation of a new life.

RAR: Will the abortion issue be on the ballot for the 2010 elections for sure or is it still being debated?

Senator Black: As I said in the meeting yesterday, the referendum for the question will be on the 2014 ballot if it is passed in this general assembly and again by 2/3 in the next general assembly.

RAR: What is the next step after SJR 127 for pro-lifers? What can we do to keep the momentum?

Senator Black:
It is very important that the CORRECT message regarding the purpose of SJR127, which is to restore correct sense protections, is heard by the public. The pro-abortion groups want to confuse the issue.

RAR: What is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of more restrictions on abortion in Tennessee: legislators, lack of public support, apathy, etc?

Senator Black: SJR127 can reduce the number of those choosing abortion if they are given complete and correct information. Other states have shown that if an individual is given choices and support they will often choice life over abortion. Although SJR127 will not stop abortions, it will reduce the number.

Tennessee is behind the times, and new legislation is needed to correct past mistakes. SJR127 will go a long way in this regard.

Susan Harbison is junior Entrepreneurship major.

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