By C. Brent Boles, M.D.
The debate regarding abortion has always been an emotional and highly charged discussion. The people of Tennessee are not served well, however, by opinion pieces such as “Abortion amendment bad news for women,” June 4.
Nor are we served well by recent full-page advertisements that compared Amendment 1 supporters to the Taliban and wrongly implied that a state can ban the practice of abortion under Roe vs. Wade. So what would serve every Tennessean well? The truth.
The fact that most people in Tennessee do not realize is this: 14 years ago, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood regarding the laws enacted by the duly elected legislators of Tennessee and claimed that the state constitution contained a “fundamental right to abortion.” As a result, several meaningful restrictions and regulations on the abortion practice were struck down, and the enforcement of new legislation regarding abortion is certain to be similarly ruled as violating this newly identified “right.”
Our state now ranks third in percentage of abortions performed on out-of-state residents, with about 1 in 4 abortions sought by women and girls from elsewhere because it is easier to obtain an abortion here than in any of the eight states bordering Tennessee.
A recent opinion writer stated that passage of Amendment 1 will give carte blanche to all future politicians in regard to abortion. The reality is that Planned Parenthood vs. Sundquist gave carte blanche to the abortion facilities in our state that now operate with no oversight by the state of Tennessee. Women who went to get a manicure today entered a facility that is probably better regulated than some abortion facilities here.
States bordering Tennessee have stronger laws to protect the health and safety of women and girls by requiring that abortion providers offer accurate information about risks of the abortion procedure through an informed consent process. They provide short waiting periods so that every woman is assured enough time to weigh the information provided and to guard against coerced abortions. Our neighboring states also insist the enforcement of common-sense safeguards such as requiring that abortion providers submit to the same state health inspectors that regulate hospitals, surgery centers, nursing homes, restaurants, and even hair salons.
Women and girls in Tennessee do not have these safeguards because the Tennessee Supreme Court took the matter of abortion policy out of the hands of the people and gave all authority on the matter back to abortion providers. The end result of Planned Parenthood vs. Sundquist is that the people are left with no ability to regulate abortion in any meaningful way.
Voting yes on Amendment 1 will allow the people of Tennessee to debate and deliberate what common-sense policies are appropriate in our state regarding abortion. It will allow Tennesseans to once again protect the lives and health of women and girls as is being done in each of our bordering states.
C. Brent Boles, M.D., is an Ob/Gyn in practice in Murfreesboro and is active with the Yes On 1 campaign.
Editor’s note. This appeared in The Tennessean, June 16, 2014