By Dave Andrusko
With data sure to play a role in the debate over an amendment to the Tennessee state Constitution, figures from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that while the overall number of abortions has gone down in the state over the past decade, there’s been a steady increase in the percentage of out-of-state women having their abortions in Tennessee.
Literally years in the making, this November Tennesseans will vote on “Amendment 1” that reads, “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.” The amendment would nullify a 2000 decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court which wrongly claimed a “fundamental right to abortion” in the state Constitution.
“Amendment 1 supporters have begun circulating fliers that say ‘An abortion destination?’ and urging voters that passage of the ballot measure will give lawmakers more power to pass reasonable restrictions,” according to Anita Wadhwani reporting for The Tennessean.
And that is surely what new numbers demonstrate.
In 2010 there were 16,373 abortions performed in Tennessee, a drop of 6% from a decade ago, according to the CDC.
“Over the same time period, the percentage of women coming from outside Tennessee for abortions increased by more than 30 percent,” Wadhwani wrote. “One in four abortions in 2010 was sought by an out-of-state woman.”
The Tennessee Department of Health has data which is both more current and (unlike the CDC) tracks only Tennessee residents. Once again abortion’s disproportionate impact on minority communities comes through clearly.
“While non-white Tennesseans constitute just 17 percent of all state residents, non-white women were more likely to obtain abortions than white women,” Wadhwani writes. “Non-white women obtained 6,294 abortions in 2012 versus 5,376 sought by white women.”
STATE SUPREME COURT DECISION INVALIDATED COMMONSENSE PRO-LIFE PROTECTIONS
As National Right to Life News Today has reported, 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, according to Tennessee Right to Life, 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.
“To amend the Tennessee Constitution, separate sessions of the General Assembly must each pass the amendment language; first by a simple majority of legislators in each chamber, and then by a super-majority in the next legislative session,” explained Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life. “Once that threshold was met, the proposed language is placed on the ballot for public vote during the next gubernatorial election. In Tennessee, that election falls in November of 2014.”
At a benefit dinner hosted last November by Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, Ramsey told reporters, “This will be a hard fight and we can be sure that our opponents are going to do everything possible to defeat the amendment.”
He added, “Being pro-life, however, I obviously want to do everything possible to see that we run a strong campaign and restore the ability of Tennessee voters to protect the most basic right of all, the fundamental right to life.”