Right to Life revokes endorsement of recently re-elected Sen. Briggs

Senators reach to their voting buttons during a floor session on March 16, 2020. Seated from left are Republican Sens. Mark Pody of Lebanon, Paul Rose of Covington, Richard Briggs of Knoxville, Janice Bowling of Tullahoma, and Paul Bailey of Sparta. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee Right to Life’s PAC says it is revoking its endorsement of state Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) over his recent comments questioning a sweeping abortion ban enacted in the state. Briggs was elected to a third four-year term last month.

The anti-abortion group’s move came as a poll by Vanderbilt University showed broad support for including exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.

Briggs, a physician, in a recent interview with ProPublica took issue with a provision of the state law requiring a doctor to mount an “affirmative” defense about why the termination of a pregnancy was necessary to save the life of the mother.

“Here, the defendant is guilty until he can prove that he’s not guilty,” Briggs told the publication. “In my opinion, that is a very bad position to put the doctors in — why should this doctor have to pay his own legal bills for saving a woman’s life?”

Here’s the release from Tennessee Right to Life.

Knoxville, TN – Yesterday, the Tennessee Right to Life Political Action Committee (PAC) notified State Senator Richard Briggs, of Knox County, that it was revoking his endorsement due to his public reversal of political stances which he pledged earlier this year during his respective contested primary and general election campaigns. The organization made the rare move because of public comments the Senator has made about the Human Life Protection Act, which was passed in 2019 and went into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.   

“Senator Briggs pledged to us in writing that he would protect unborn children by protecting the Human Life Protection Act from hostile amendments. Despite making similar pledges to our legislative liaison after the Dobbs decision was issued, Senator Briggs now claims that he does not support the HLPA because he never believed it would be enacted because he never believed Roe v. Wade would be overturned,” said former State Representative and Tennessee Right to Life PAC President Roger Kane.

The voters of the 7th Senate District deserve to know the truth. Senator Briggs ensured support of the law on June 14, which was a time when the Dobbs decision had been leaked and, therefore, the overturning of Roe seemed like a probability rather than a distant dream.

The Tennessee Right to Life PAC endorses candidates who pledge to support legislation that will protect our most vulnerable citizens and to defend existing protections from future legislative attacks.  The PAC did its due diligence in the endorsement process and received assurance from Senator Briggs of his continued support of the HLPA, which he voted for and even co-sponsored in 2019. 

“The candidate endorsement process only works if those answering the questions are honest and forthright. Obviously, Senator Briggs was not honest in his answers and can no longer be trusted by the voters,” said Kane.   

“I applaud the PAC’s decision to revoke Senator Briggs’ endorsement,” said Will Brewer, Director of Government Relations for Tennessee Right to Life. “While I respect disagreements from trusted colleagues, Senator Briggs’ mass publicity tour is more than a mere disagreement. Once his election was over and he had secured the political benefit of the PAC’s endorsement, he reversed course on his views. He has engaged in a media tour to justify his actions and has even posed for photo shoots to make himself the headline for hostile articles set out to tear down the Human Life Protection Act. His constituents deserve better than a legislator who only votes for legislation because he never believes it will come to fruition and then reverses his philosophy only when it is least consequential,” said Brewer.

“The Human Life Protection Act is doing exactly what members of the General Assembly intended – saving an estimated 900 lives every month in our state. We are grateful to all the members who voted for the legislation and now stand behind that vote. That is what integrity looks like. We hope Senator Briggs will work to regain our trust and use his medical expertise to recognize the unborn child as a patient deserving of care,” said Kane. 


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