Tennessee Pro-Life Constitutional Amendment Weakened by Senate Panel
by Steven Ertelt
February 25, 2004
Nashville, TN (LifeNews.com) — A state Senate committee weakened a pro-life measure that seeks to ammend Tennessee’s state constitution to ensure that a privacy clause can’t be used to declare an unlimited right to abortion and overturn pro-life legislation.
After an impassioned debate, members of the Senate Finance Committee amended the measure to cede authority on key abortion policy decisions back to the state courts.
Senator Roy Herron (D-Dresden) sponsored the amendment, which says, "Government shall not interfere with or prevent a woman from obtaining a medical procedure, including abortion, to protect her life or when she is the victim of incest or rape."
Chief Deputy Attorney General Andy Bennett, who unsuccessfully argued Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist before the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1999, said the ultimate result of the amendment was to restore a protected abortion right "under certain circumstances" that would likely be determined and defined by state courts.
Ed Albin of Tennesse Right to Life said his group was disappointed by the vote and said it was unnecessary to add rape or incest exceptions to the proposal.
"Such an amendment defeats the clear purpose of SJR 127 which is to restore to the people of Tennessee, through our elected officials, the right to determine the state’s abortion policy rather than judges legislating such matters from the bench," Albin said.
Albin said that the original proposal allows the state legislature to pass policy related to abortion without the state Supreme Court striking it down based on the privacy clause. If members of the legislature want to allow women to have an abortion option in cases of rape or incest, they could propose such legislation.
The sponsor of the constitutional amendment agreed with Albin, saying the change to the proposal gives too much power to the courts.
"Don’t put this matter to a supreme court which has already proven itself untrustworthy," urged sponsoring Senator David Fowler.
After changing the bill, members of the committee approved the proposal unanimously. It now heads to the full Senate where pro-life senators are expected to propose an amendment to remove the change.
Senators approved the change on a 5-4 vote and Senator Clabough (R-Maryville), disappointed pro-life constituents by supporting the gutting amendment.
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said his group opposes the proposal.
ACTION: Contact members of the Tennessee Senate with your opinion on the resolution. Go to https://www.legislature.state.tn.us/senate/members/smembers.htm
Related web sites:?
SJR 127 – https://www.legislature.state.tn.us/bills/currentga/BILL/SJR0127.pdf
Tennessee Right to Life – https://www.tnrtl.org