- Will Amendment 1 ban abortion in Tennessee?
- What is the current abortion law in Tennessee?
- Why is a constitutional amendment necessary?
- How does the Amendment process work?
- How exactly does Amendment 1 read?
- In simple words, what is the thrust of the Amendment?
- Why isn’t it worded in more understandable terms?
- How many abortion facilities are there in Tennessee?
- How many abortions are reported in Tennessee?
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The amendment restores the Tennessee Constitution to where it was prior to the 2000 Tennessee State Supreme Court decision by making the constitution neutral on the question of abortion. Abortion would not be banned and remains legal across the United States due to the Roe v. Wade United States Supreme Court decision in 1973.
Although Tennessee has historically been a national leader in the passage of protective, pro-life legislation, the TN Supreme Court stripped away many of these protections with its finding of a fundamental right to abortion in our state Constitution on September 15, 2000. As a result, abortion policy in Tennessee has become basically ‘abortion on demand.’
The protective laws still on the books include a one-parent consent requirement for minors seeking abortions and a provision in the state budget which prohibits the use of TennCare dollars for abortion except in the cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. (The language does not address the possible use of state staff or facilities for abortion, or the subsidy of state employee health plans which include abortion.) Neither parental consent nor abortion funding were challenged in PP v. Sundquist and both could face being ruled unconstitutional if challenged by the abortion movement.
An opinion by the Tennessee Attorney General in 2008 regarding parental consent underscores this possibility: “The Tennessee Supreme Court has not had occasion to review the constitutionality of the Parental Consent for Abortion by Minors Act. However…we believe that the Act is defensible under the Tennessee Constitution, although the matter is not free from doubt.” Tennessee Attorney General, Opinion No. 08-40, February 28, 2008
With the Tennessee Supreme Court finding that the Tennessee Constitution provides a fundamental right to abortion, any laws which are interpreted to impact a “fundamental” right must be very narrowly written as to avoid infringing on the protected right. As Justice William Barker pointed out in his dissent, only by amending the Constitution can pro-life Tennesseans hope to positively influence public policy again. (See Barker Dissent, Section II)
In order to successfully amend the state constitution, a resolution must be introduced and then receive a simple majority of votes in both houses during any given two year session of the Legislature. The same resolution must then be reintroduced and passed by a 2/3 “super-majority” of legislators seated during the successive legislative session. Finally, after passing two sessions of the Legislature the language is placed on the ballot for voter approval during the next gubernatorial race. SJR 127 was passed by both the Tennessee House and Senate in 2009 and received second passage by the required 2 / 3 super-majority in 2011. As a result the language has been placed on the November 2014 ballot for voter approval or rejection as Amendment 1. The language must be approved by 50% of those casting a vote in the Governor’s race plus 1.
Nothing in this constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.
Voter approval of Amendment 1 in 2014 will allow the people of Tennessee and their elected representatives to restore common sense protections for women and the unborn, including inspection and regulation of abortion facilities by the Tennessee Department of Health.
The wording of this Amendment was carefully drafted by the nation’s top pro-life constitutional attorneys and organizations so that it would be compatible with what we are trying to accomplish. Each word was carefully placed so that it would enable legislation that will save the lives of unborn children and protect abortion-vulnerable mothers. Without passage of Amendment 1, Tennessee’s Constitution will continue to be interpreted as protecting a so-called ‘state right to abortion’ and denying the opportunity to enforce common-sense pro-life protections such as informed consent for women considering abortion and regulation of the state’s busy abortion facilities.
The following are documented as operating primarily as abortion facilities: Bristol (1) unlicensed, Elizabethton (1) unlicensed, Knoxville (2) one is unlicensed, Nashville (2) one is unlicensed, Memphis (3) one is unlicensed.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, for the most recent year available (2011), there were 12,368 abortions performed on women residing in Tennessee. Additionally, 3,747 abortions were performed on women residing from outside of Tennessee bringing the total to 16,115.
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