The special counsel for Tennessee Right To Life told The Tennessee Star that at the Heartbeat Bill Summer Study he will be testifying on why the bill is “ill-advised.”
The Heartbeat Bill, after passing the State House in March 2019, was sent to Summer Study by the Senate Judiciary Committee in April 2019, which is scheduled for August 12 and 13.
The Star contacted Tennessee Right To Life (TNRTL) via email, referencing the statement of concern the organization issued on March 5, 2019, regarding the Heartbeat Bill in its form at the time and asked the following questions:
- Will TNRTL be participating in the Summer Study on Aug.12 and/or 13, 2019?
- What is TNRTL’s current position on the Heartbeat Bill?
- What does TNRTL need to see in the Heartbeat Bill to either support or not work against the bill?
A few hours later, attorney Paul Linton called The Star at the request of Brian Harris, who is the President of Tennessee Right To Life according to LinkedIn.
Attorney Paul Linton has been involved in the pro-life movement for over 30 years, working at Americans United for Life from December 1988 to January 1997 as staff counsel, associate general counsel for litigation and then general counsel. He then went into private practice in early 1997 and much of that time has been focused on pro-life work.
Mr. Linton has drafted legislation for a number of states, as he has for Tennessee, including state constitutional amendments. In addition, Mr. Linton has done numerous briefs in federal and state courts as well as the Supreme Court on behalf of various legislators or groups interested in the issue; published almost two dozen law review articles, many of which dealt with the abortion issue; and published the only full-length analysis of abortion as a state constitutional right, Abortion Under State Constitutions by Carolina Academic Press, with the first edition in 2008, second edition in 2012, and a third edition coming out probably in January 2020, he told The Star.
Later, TNRTL President Brian Harris told The Star that Mr. Linton is serving as special counsel to TNRTL, as he has for a number of years dating back to the draft of pro-life Amendment 1 (SJR 127).
“His experience as one of the nations (sic) leading pro-life Constitutional authorities has been of inestimable value to our state’s pro-life movement and legal successes,” added Harris in regards to Mr. Linton.
Mr. Linton told The Star he will be attending the Senate Judiciary Committee Summer Study on the Heartbeat Bill and “testifying on why the bill is ill-advised.” He added that he doesn’t “see the point of this legislation for many respects.”
After citing examples to support his position, Mr. Linton summarized, “in the first instance, if you need a test case, there are so many out there already, this one would serve no additional purpose.”
“Secondly,” Mr. Linton continued, “there is no evidence the court is ready, willing and able to reconsider Roe at this point.”
With those being his two principal points, Mr. Linton then added, “A third point I would make is Tennessee has enacted what’s sometimes referred to as a trigger law that would take effect upon the overruling of Roe. So, if the court in one of these other cases were interested in reconsidering Roe and decided to overrule Roe, well Tennessee would have a law ready to go into effect that would provide legal protection for unborn children throughout pregnancy, not just some stage of pregnancy as the Heartbeat Bill would. “
The Tennessee General Assembly passed a trigger law last year, officially known as the Human Life Protection Act. TNRTL supported the measure, with the organization’s Legal Counsel and Legislative Liaison, Will Brewer, offering testimony on the bill during a House Public Health Subcommittee meeting, The Star reported.
Reiterating and expanding his position on Tennessee’s Heartbeat Bill, Mr. Linton said, “So, it’s premature, it’s not necessary and it doesn’t serve any purpose.”
Mr. Linton said he was talking about his concerns with the Heartbeat Bill from a legal point of view and didn’t want to be put in a position of putting words in the mouth of TNRTL, when it comes to why it would work against the Heartbeat Bill.
However, he did say that enacting laws that don’t have a ghost of a chance of being upheld uses up “a lot of political capital that’s not going anyplace and it has a tendency to give people in the pro-life movement a false sense of where things are or where things are going in the near future with respect to the Supreme Court.”
Another concern expressed by Mr. Linton is the recovery of reasonable attorney fees by those who prevail in a challenge of these laws, which puts a lot of money in the hands of the persons challenging.
Mr. Linton doesn’t see merit in having numerous states that have passed Heartbeat Bills to prompt an interest by the Supreme Court in hearing a case, citing that no Justice has dissented in any of the denials of review, some of which would not “reach anywhere near as many abortions as the heartbeat ban.”
He added that taking the case “does not say anything about what they would do if they took the case.”
If the Supreme Court took the case and did not overturn Roe, it would be the fourth reaffirmation nearly 50 years later, making it that much more difficult to “go back to the well again and try to overrule Roe,” argued Mr. Linton.
“One of the problems here, what some of the people in the pro-life movement don’t understand is that you don’t need a direct conflict of Roe in order to overturn Roe.”
In Mr. Linton’s view, it would be much more prudent to pursue litigation through a more cautious approach of abortion regulation as opposed to prohibition. Mr. Linton wants to know more about where the court stands, as it’s presently constituted, with only Justice Thomas having publicly stated in his writings that Roe should be overruled.
Unlike Brown vs. The Board of Education which nobody was talking about ten years after being decided, Mr. Linton compared, the fact that people are still debating whether it should be overruled, Roe is still a very unsettled case.
In response to The Star’s inquiry, TNRTL’s Harris said they asked the Senate Judiciary Committee “for the opportunity to share our concerns and be represented during the Summer Study.”
“Tennessee Right To Life will fund Mr. Linton’s fees and travel expenses as we always have,” confirmed the non-profit’s head, Mr. Harris.
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