State Rep. Nathan Vaughn said Tuesday that he was not allowed by a House Republican to be a co-sponsor of a much-debated resolution saying that “nothing in the Constitution of Tennessee secures or protects the right to an abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”
The resolution, which passed as amended in the state Senate, failed in a Democratic-controlled House Health and Human Resources subcommittee on Tuesday.
Vaughn, D-Kingsport, said that on Monday he was called by Tennessee Right to Life — an anti-abortion organization that has endorsed him in the past — to get other lawmakers to support the resolution.
Vaughn said the resolution’s House sponsor, state Rep. Dolores Greshem, R-Somerville, pulled it out of his hand on the House floor when he tried to be a co-sponsor.
“I thought it was a joke at first,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn rose to complain about the move during the personal orders part of Monday night’s House session.
House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, responded: “It’s probably because (Republicans) are going to endorse your opponent.”
Colonial Heights Republican Tony Shipley is scheduled to announce Friday that he will seek Vaughn’s 2nd House District seat.
State Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, said he was hurt by the move.
“I’ve never seen anyone turned down to sign onto a bill. ... I’m terribly disappointed,” he told the House chamber.
State Rep. Curry Todd, R-Memphis, publicly apologized to Vaughn. “This happened at my desk,” he said of the incident.
State Rep. John DeBerry Jr., D-Memphis, said that every election year something happens to disappoint him about the legislature.
“If we want to continue to show ourselves to be men and women of questionable character, who choose our morals and our principles and the way we conduct ourselves based upon on what is politically expedient, then let’s be prepared for the press to have a field day showing us to be the hypocrites we really are. I think some of us need to do some soul searching,” DeBerry told House lawmakers.
Greshem, who this year is expected to seek state Sen. John Wilder’s West Tennessee Senate seat, defended what she did.
“Life is not Democrat, it’s not Republican ... but the truth of the matter is this resolution which we all think is so important has been defeated more than once down party lines,” she said. “I would gladly have any Democrats join me if this (resolution) comes to the (House) floor.”
Vaughn, who will seek a fourth term this year in the state House, said the move was intended to be used as a wedge issue to hammer Democrats about not signing onto the resolution. He was not a member of the subcommittee that voted the resolution down on Tuesday.
“I have signed onto this bill every time it has been in (the legislature),” he said. “I’ve been all over this state talking about life issues and have been a pro-life advocate. ... This reeked of partisan politics to be able to go back home and say ‘This has no Democratic support’ when I am begging to sign onto it.
“We had some folks considering to vote this bill out of committee. ... When they saw what happened last night, they said ‘There ain’t no way, that it’s partisan politics’... and that’s wrong.”
For more information, go to www.legislature.state.tn.us and click on “Legislation.” The bill’s number is SJR 127.