Big Fight Looms Over Amendment 1

Of all the amendments up on November’s ballot, the first one is likely to be the most contentious.

It reads: 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 circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.

State Senator Brian Kelsey explained to our Midtown Republican Club Tuesday night that he expects Tennessee Right to Life to spend a million dollars on this with Planned Parenthood matching them.

Even though we are a red state with pro life leaning constituents, “we are an abortion destination. Abortion rights are greater under our state constitution than even Roe vs. Wade. We are one of the most liberal states in the country. Parental consent and a waiting period that other states enact are not allowed in Tennessee.” In fact, according to The Tennessean, one in four abortions here are on out of state women because our laws have fewer restrictions.

We also have more abortion providers than elsewhere in the South with little oversight on the doctors and facilities that perform these abortions.

The Family Action Center of Tennessee explains how this happened.

During the last few decades of the 20th century, the Tennessee Legislature passed a series of sensible laws regulating abortion, including waiting period and informed consent laws, creating an environment where innocent human life was protected as much as legally possible.

That environment changed dramatically in the year 2000 when the Tennessee state Supreme Court “found” a broader right to abortion in the state constitution than exists in the U.S. Constitution.

Plainly stated, the effect of the Court’s holding . . . is to remove from the people all power, except by constitutional amendment, to enact reasonable regulations of abortion. – Justice Mickey Barker

As a consequence of this decision, our state’s informed consent law was struck down as well as our law that required women to wait 48 hours from the time they were informed to the time they had the abortion. In addition, the Court struck down the requirement that riskier later-term abortions be performed in a hospital.

The decision sent shock waves through the state’s pro-life community. In effect, the Court’s ruling said that there can be no restriction on abortion in Tennessee, no matter what the people want.

Justice Mickey Barker, who dissented from the Court’s decision, said, “Plainly stated, the effect of the Court’s holding today is to remove from the people all power, except by constitutional amendment, to enact reasonable regulations of abortion.”

In addition, in the spring of 2008, the state’s Attorney General issued a formal opinion stating that a ban on partial-birth abortion, using the same language approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007, would be “constitutionally suspect” under Tennessee’s Constitution.

As a result of our state Supreme Court’s ruling, Roe v. Wade could be reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow, yet abortion would still be a constitutional right in Tennessee under our state constitution.
“. . . except by constitutional amendment . . .”

In response to the Court’s overreaching action, state legislators finally adopted Senate Joint Resolution 127 (SJR 127). This resolution will allow Tennesseans to vote in 2014 to amend the state constitution to again make it “neutral” on abortion while still subject to the abortion rights rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court. When SJR 127 was added to the ballot for this coming November, it officially became Amendment 1.

Amendment 1 would once again allow common-sense abortion regulations to protect women and children, including the following:

Informed consent to provide accurate information related to women’s health issues and fetal development,
24-hour waiting period to avoid coercion and reduce the likelihood of an ill-considered decision,
Inspection and regulation of abortion facilities
Hospitalization requirement for riskier late-term abortions.

You can see why this will be a hotly contested issue. As Senator Kelsey said, prepare to have it “characterized and portrayed as radical” even though it will not ban abortions in our state.

If you are pro life you will want to vote “yes” on 1. For more information, their website is

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