“It’s terrible to see such a misuse of the Right To Life name,” says conservative activist Andy Schlafly, attorney and son of Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, in regards to organizations that, instead of being strongly pro-life, interfere with strong pro-life legislation.
Andy Schlafly is the fifth child of John Fred and Phyllis Schlafly, who was politically active for decades before she took on the fight against the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972, which was narrowly defeated after five states rescinded their ratification. Mrs. Schlafly is widely recognized as a key player in the defeat of the ERA.
The younger Schlafly graduated from Harvard Law School after receiving an engineering degree from Princeton University.
As the organization’s General Counsel, Schlafly represented the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. – “a voice for private physicians since 1943” – in a 2010 lawsuit against ObamaCare.
Schlafly also founded Conservapedia, an alternative to the left-leaning online encyclopedia Wikipedia and is a political columnist and commentator.
In a telephone interview, Schlafly told The Tennessee Star that it is “unfortunate and surprising to some people that organizations with the [Right To Life] name and appear that they will be strongly pro-life, but are there to interfere with strong pro-life legislation.”
The Right To Life organizations “are used to interfere with pro-life legislation,” Schlafly told The Star.
He explained that’s what happened in Ohio, where “Ohio Right To Life opposed the Heartbeat Bill until the very end, when the Governor was going to sign it into law.”
As previously reported by The Star, it appeared that, unlike Tennessee Right To Life, Ohio Right To Life supported the Heartbeat Bill legislation that Governor Mike DeWine signed into law.
Behind the scenes, though, Schlafly depicts that it wasn’t until it was a “done deal” that Ohio Right To Life was at the signing ceremony and “got in for the photo ops and excluded Janet Porter.”
Janet Porter of Faith2Action.org, and former head of Ohio Right To Life, was the real woman who had promoted the Heartbeat Bill there for years, says Schlafly.
According to the Faith2Action.org website, Porter wrote the original Heartbeat Bill and has been sharing the language for it in numerous states ever since, as she describes, “God first put this idea on my heart in November 2010.”
Some of the older Right To Life organizations are aligned with pro-choice Republicans, according to Schlafly, and they control the flow of some of the donors. “It’s that control of the donors behind the scenes that distorts the position of some of these organizations.”
“Over time, the longer an organization is out there, they become more like businesses. Many are no longer strictly volunteer, and they look at where the revenue is coming from.”
“Pro-choice Republicans control more of the money than pro-life Republicans do,” concludes Schlafly.
“Some savvy legislators know they can use Right To Life organizations to give them political cover,” says Schlafly.
That’s what happened with former Governor John Kasich’s veto of the Heartbeat Bill, according to Schlafly. It wasn’t until after Kasich left office that the bill was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine, who made a campaign promise to do so, according to Cleveland.com.
Schlafly says he knows that Tennessee Right To Life has been interfering with the Heartbeat Bill. Tennessee as a state does not pass as strong pro-life legislation as other states do, observes Schlafly, which he says is unfortunate.
“Tennessee, in terms of voters, is one of the most conservative voting states in the country. And, yet, the conservative pro-life legislation does not seem to pass in Tennessee like other states.” Putting it into context with pro-life legislation passed in other states, Schlafly adds, “Roughly nine states have passed Heartbeat Bills or stronger, and yet Tennessee hasn’t.”
On the fact that the wife of Tennessee’s House Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) works for Tennessee Right To Life, Schlafly reacted, “That’s not even behind the scenes. That’s right out in front of the scenes.”
Schlafly also opined that it “seems to be a bit of a conflict of interest for a powerful legislator to have a spouse” in such a role and “it’s a shame that Tennessee Right To Life is not strongly pro-life.”
In terms of needing political cover for strong pro-life legislation, Schlafly explains, “The pro-choice people will avoid a vote, because they know if forced to, they will have to vote for it.”
Despite Tennessee Right To Life not supporting the Heartbeat Bill (HB 0077 / SB 1236) during the recent legislative session, the bill passed the state House with 65 Ayes, 21 Noes and 7 Present and Not Voting. All of the No votes came from Democrats, while the seven who were recorded as Present and Not Voting were all Republicans, including Speaker Pro Tem Dunn.
In the state Senate, after five weeks of being “on notice,” and then about an hour and a half of compelling testimony by two subject matter experts in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville) made the motion, seconded by Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) to send the bill to Summer Study on August 13 and 14. The dates for the Summer Study, as reported, have subsequently been changed to August 12 and 13.
Schlafly feels that “Summer Study was just a delay tactic to slow walk it, and this is a tactic employed in other states.” He reiterated, though, “Nine states that have passed it [a Heartbeat Bill] or something stronger. Tennessee people are more conservative than the people of Ohio, yet here we are.”
Tennessee Senate sponsor of the Heartbeat Bill, Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) shares Schlafly’s sentiments about Tennessee Right To Life’s role against the pro-life legislation, telling The Star the day after the Heartbeat Bill was sent to Summer Study by the Judiciary Committee, “It’s very disappointing that they would be the ones standing in the way.”
To the argument that a Heartbeat Bill would be challenged in court by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Schlafly says, “There’s been big changes in the federal judiciary, so it’s impossible to know what would be constitutional and impossible to know what is or isn’t constitutional. No one could say for sure given changes in justices in federal and appellate courts. That’s number one.”
Adding number two, Schlafly continued, “Even if some judges might consider the bill to be unconstitutional, that’s the opinion of the judge and is no reason not to protect the unborn. We should still try to protect the unborn.”
Schlafly asked rhetorically, “How do we ever overturn Roe v. Wade if legislators don’t want to vote for anything that will overturn Roe v. Wade?” and points out, “The Court is constantly reversing itself on prior rulings. The only way that can happen is if legislators do the right thing.”
The 111th Tennessee General Assembly passed The Human Life Protection Act – commonly referred to as “the trigger bill,” which was the only pro-life legislation supported by Tennessee Right To Life.
The Act would be “triggered” upon the overturn of Roe v. Wade, and would return Tennessee law regarding abortion to pre-1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, but has no potential to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Tennessee Republican lawmakers have made the claim that if the Heartbeat Bill passes into law but fails in court, such failure strengthens the opposition’s position.
Schlafly, who in November 2018 authored an amicus curiae – “friend of the court” brief – to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of American Association of Physicians and Surgeons in the case of Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky on two questions: Whether a state may require health care facilities to dispose of fetal remains in the same manner as other human remains; and, whether a state may prohibit abortions motivated solely by the race, sex, or disability of the fetus and require abortion doctors to inform patients of the prohibition, sees it differently.
“It doesn’t strengthen the other side. To the contrary, they have to try to defend their pro-abortion position in court, and it requires them to put forward their argument. I don’t think it strengthens their side. It strengthens our side to continue to push and pass laws for the unborn.”
Just last month, the Supreme Court ruled against Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky in the first question, thereby upholding Indiana law signed by then-Governor Mike Pence that allows the state to prohibit “abortion providers from treating the bodies of aborted children as ‘infectious waste’ and incinerating them alongside needles, laboratory-animal carcasses, and surgical byproducts,” as written by Justice Clarence Thomas. (The Supreme Court denied considering the second part of the law relative to discriminatory abortions.)
Upholding the portion of the Indiana law that the Supreme Court did is viewed as symbolic and called a “nice win” by Schlafly, because it establishes that the remains from an abortion procedure are indeed human.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.