Battle kicks off over pro-life Amendment 1 to Tennessee Constitution

By Dave Andrusko

Amendemnt1Literally years in the making, proponents and opponents of Amendment 1 are gearing up for a vote on an amendment to the Tennessee constitution November 2014.

The proposed language to be added says “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”

As Tennessee Right to Life explains, as a result of a ruling in 2000 by the Tennessee Supreme Court, Tennessee now boasts a broader right to abortion than that recognized by Roe v. Wade or the U.S. Constitution.

In that 4-1 ruling the Court found, “A woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.”

As a result, common sense pro-life protections were immediately stripped from state law books, including informed consent for women considering abortion, a 48-hour waiting period and requirements that second trimester abortions be performed in equipped and regulated hospitals rather than abortion facilities.

This 2000 ruling was subsequently used to justify striking down the Tennessee law which had required licensure, inspection and regulation of abortion facilities the same as other outpatient surgical facilities.

Getting the measure on the ballot was immensely difficult. Part of the reason the fight went on so long is that “Tennessee’s amendment process requires a resolution to win approval by majority votes in one two-year term of the state legislature, then by two-thirds majorities of both legislative chambers in the following two-year term before it can be sent to a statewide referendum at the next gubernatorial election,” according to Richard Locker, a reporter for the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The two separate years turned out to be 2009 and 2011.

According to published accounts, the “Yes on 1” campaign will be launched today with a reception and dinner. The two principal opponents are busy as well, according to The Tennessean.

“Planned Parenthood affiliates in Tennessee and the American Civil Liberties Union have conducted polling and focus groups, secured commitments for donations and begun working with local and national groups to get organized and develop a plan,” reported Anita Wadhwani.

To Wadhwani’s credit, she did not simply uncritically repeat the pro-abortion talking point—”It’s just false to say our legislature cannot pass laws,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of ACLU Tennessee. The Legislature “is able to pass legislation as they have for some years, and right now there are numerous laws on the books regulating abortion in Tennessee.”

Instead she makes two crucially important points: “While abortion restrictions do exist, the Tennessee constitution bars other laws that neighboring states have enacted, including waiting periods, bans on later trimester abortions and required ultrasounds.

“Those added restrictions have led more women from other states to come to Tennessee to have abortions, a Tennessean special report in May 2012 found. More than 1 in 4 abortions in Tennessee were sought by women from out of state, according to an analysis of abortion data.”

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