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Tennessee Right to Life Legislative Action Center



When someone is in a coma, they are much like an unborn child. They have a heartbeat, they have cognitive capabilities, and they have a soul. Just like an unborn child, they also cannot speak; they cannot decide for themselves what they want, what will happen to them, or what will become of their life. They are simply alive, unaware, and unprotected.” These were some of the opening words in a speech given by William Blankenship, winner of the recent Tennessee Right to Life Pro-Life Oratory Contest for high school students.

The 19th annual event was held at Aquinas College in Nashville on Saturday, April 28. Winners from 11 participating chapters across the state qualified to attend by competing against over 30 public, private, and home-schooled students in grades 9-12. Each contestant researched, wrote, and presented an original 5-7 minute pro-life speech on abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, or stem-cell research.

William, a high school senior, represented Macon County. Because he had once been in a coma, William was able to speak first hand on the frightening prospect of someone else controlling whether or not he would live. “I speak from the point of a man who has been in a coma, and who has experienced firsthand the state of being in which I heard the discussions … as to whether or not to pull the plug rather than to keep me alive by machine…..there is nothing more terrifying than not being able to say, ‘I want to live! I want life!’”

Other finalists in the state contest were William Shaw, a senior from Cheatham County, explained the right of an unborn child to have life; Ireland Duggin, a sophomore representing Rutherford County, who described the inhumanity of abortion; and Violet Thorne, a freshman representing Wilson County, relayed information regarding euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.

Later this summer, William will represent Tennessee at the National Right to Life Jane B. Thompson Oratory Contest in Overland Park, KS.

“The students who present speeches at this annual event never cease to amaze me. Anyone of our finalists would represent Tennessee well at the national competition!” exclaimed Frances Arthur, oratory contest chairman. “Their speeches were impressive and their delivery was impassioned. I hope that each of the county winners will be given opportunities to share their speeches again. These are our future leaders, and it is our responsibility to support them in their endeavors.”

Click here to learn more about the oratory contest and pictures of the contestants.

Tennessee Right to Life Applauds Haslam Signature on Pro-Life Legislation

Pro-Life Law Permanently Redirects Title X Funds Away From Planned Parenthood

NASHVILLE, APRIL 11, 2018 The state's oldest and largest pro-life organization publicly thanked Governor Bill Haslam today for signing into law the Title X Prioritization Act (SB 2494 / HB 2262). The bill codifies existing policy established in 2011 by the Haslam administration which prioritizes health departments to receive Title X family planning funds rather than Planned Parenthood abortion facilities in the state.

Prior to 2009, Planned Parenthood facilities received preferential treatment in the awarding of more than $1 million tax dollars annually. For decades the funds were automatically directed to Planned Parenthood without any bidding process or request for proposals from other entities.

The new law permanently establishes that first priority for distribution of the funds will be given to local public health departments, the policy of the Haslam Administration since 2011.

The protective legislation was sponsored by state Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and state Representative Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville.) It was passed overwhelmingly by both the Senate 25-1-1 and the House 74-15-1.

"Tennessee Right to Life is grateful to Governor Haslam for his legacy of restoring common sense protections for Tennessee's women, girls, and unborn children," said Brian Harris, the organization's president. "The Governor ran for office as a sincere pro-life candidate and has consistently demonstrated that commitment throughout his two terms," said Harris.

"The Governor's signature on the Title X Prioritization Act makes permanent the policy of his administration which has been to prioritize tax-payer dollars for providers of ethical health care over those who promote and profit from abortion," said Cathy Waterbury, spokeswoman for Tennessee Right to Life. "Tennessee is a better state as a result of the Governor's principled pro-life leadership."


Pro-Life Vote Upheld on Amendment 1: Judges Rule Unanimously Against Planned Parenthood

JANUARY 9, 2018 - In a resounding victory for pro-life Tennesseans, Judges on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals have rejected a pro-abortion effort to overturn the 2014 voter passage of Amendment 1.

"Although the subject of abortion rights will continue to be controversial in Tennessee and across our nation, it is time for uncertainty surrounding the people's 2014 approval and ratification of Amendment 1 to be put to rest," wrote Senior Judge David McKeague, a 2005 appointee of George W. Bush.

Tennessee Right to Life expresses profound gratitude to the many supporters, advocates, and voters who sacrificed to see Amendment 1 placed on the ballot and passed by public vote. It was made necessary by a radical pro-abortion decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2000 which wrongly declared a so-called "fundamental right to abortion" in the Tennessee Constitution thereby making enforcement of common-sense protections impossible in Tennessee.

Passage of SJR 127 and Amendment 1 remained the top priority and legislative goal of Tennessee Right to Life for more than 16 years.

"Today's ruling is vindication of the state's amendment process and victory for the thousands of pro-life Tennesseans who sacrificed to see Amendment 1 passed," said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life.

"We are grateful to the legislators who placed the amendment on the ballot, to voters who approved it, and to the Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Coordinator of Elections who all worked tirelessly to defend it," said Harris. "The voices of Tennessee's voters have been heard and, as a result, public policy decisions on the matter of abortion can be rightly debated and determined by the people's representatives."