The Tennessee Right to Life Political Action Committee (TRL PAC) left sponsors of the unborn child heartbeat bill and the 20-week abortion ban bill off their list of endorsements of political candidates for the 2018 election cycle.
TRL PAC, as the political action arm, is the only entity of Tennessee Right to Life (TNRTL) which can actively endorse, support or oppose candidates for public office, according to the PAC’s website.
Each election cycle, TRL PAC says it undertakes extensive work to survey the attitudes and records of candidates seeking endorsement. TRL PAC endorsements are based upon written candidate surveys, examination of past voting records, public statements, measure of the candidate’s credibility and electability, and a judgment of particular circumstances impacting each race.
The organization says it also takes into account statewide meetings between candidates and the PAC’s 15-member Endorsement Committee.
The non-profit Tennessee Right to Life, the state’s oldest and largest pro-life advocacy organization, publishes voting records for both the House and Senate members of the Tennessee General Assembly.
While some legislators maintained a 100 percent score on the 2017-18 TNRTL voting record and have sponsored bills to protect unborn children, they did not secure the endorsement of the Tennessee Right To Life PAC in 2018.
Specifically, two legislators rejected by the Tennessee Right to Life PAC were Representative Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), who has a 100% score and sponsored the Heartbeat Bill in both the 110th and 111th Tennessee General Assembly as well as Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) who also has a 100% score and sponsored the Heartbeat Bill in the 111th General Assembly.
The voting record actually notes that Pody was sworn as a Tennessee State Senator on January 9, 2018, and that his voting record before his swearing in date is noted on the House scorecard. Both scorecards report Pody’s voting record as 100 percent.
Representative Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) was the House sponsor in 2017 of the “Tennessee Infants Protection Act,” which prohibits abortion of a viable fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The measure was signed into law by Governor Haslam in May 2017. Hill maintained a score of just 66 percent, because of his vote on another legislative measure Tennessee Right to Life tracked, Prioritization of Title X Family Planning Funds.
Meanwhile, Representative Timothy Hill (R-Blountville), brother of the aforementioned Representative Matthew Hill, also had a 100 percent voting record with TNRTL, yet didn’t manage to garner an endorsement from the affiliated PAC.
Tennessee Right to Life Political Action Committee’s 2018 Endorsement List can be viewed here.
The Heartbeat Bill passed the Tennessee House during the 111th General Assembly on March 7, 2019, by a vote of 65 Ayes, 21 Nays and 7 Present and Not Voting.
After two months of being on notice for the Senate Judiciary Committee and then a hearing of about an hour and a half on April 9, the bill was sent to Summer Study scheduled for August 12 and 13.
Senator Pody told The Tennessee Star following the action by the Judiciary Committee about Tennessee Right to Life, “It’s very disappointing that they would be the ones standing in the way.”
A special counsel will be attending the Summer Study on behalf of and at the expense of Tennessee Right to Life to testify that the Heartbeat Bill is “ill advised,” as The Star reported.
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Summer Study of the Heartbeat Bill will be held on Monday, August 12 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesday, August 13 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon in Senate Committee Room I of the Cordell Hull Building. A prayer meeting is scheduled in Conference Room D on the 8th floor of the Cordell Hull Building on Monday, August 12.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.