Tennessee Pro-Life Constitutional Amendment Dies in State Senate
by Steven Ertelt
March 12, 2004
Nashville, TN (LifeNews.com) — Members of the Tennessee state Senate on Thursday effectively killed a pro-life proposal to amend the state constitution to guarantee that nothing it in provides an unlimited right to abortion.
Senators approved an amendment to the bill that allows a right to abortion in cases of rape or incest. That amendment drew opposition from pro-life groups and prompted the leading sponsor of the proposal to pull the resolution.
State Sen. David Fowler says it is "highly unlikely" he will bring up the constitutional amendment again this session.
The amendment came as a response to decisions by the Tennessee Supreme Court that misused the privacy clause in the state constitution to guarantee an unlimited abortion right and strike down pro-life legislation.
Fowler and pro-life groups want to keep abortion law out of the hands of the state Supreme Court and they say the rape and incest exceptions give the power right back to judicial activists.
Fowler said, "The point is policy should be made here. That’s the whole purpose of this resolution."
Sen. Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey) added the rape and incest exceptions and, when pressed to clarify the confusing language of the amendment, she later admitted she didn’t understand it herself.
"I don’t know. I can’t answer those questions. I can only tell you what my intentions were. I trust the lawyers that helped me draft this," Burks said.
Fowler and pro-life groups are not happy with Burks and those senators who voted for what is being called a "gutting amendment."
"Further action on SJR 127 at this point would be meaningless," Fowler said.
"Tennessee Right to Life holds Senators Burks, Cooper, Kilby, and Wilder directly responsible for taking away our right to vote and decide these matters for ourselves," Tennessee Right to Life president Brian Harris said in response to the vote.
Harris said, "The people of this state — not activist judges — [should] determine this state’s abortion policy."
Voting for the pro-abortion Burks amendment were Senators: Burks, Clabough, Cohen, Cooper, Crutchfield, Dixon, Ford, Graves, Harper, Haynes, Herron, Jackson, Kilby, Kurita, Kyle, McLeary, Trail, Wilder.
Voting against the pro-abortion Burks amendment were Senators: Atchley, Beavers, Bryson, Burchett, Crowe, Fowler, Henry, Ketron, McNally, Miller, Norris, Person, Ramsey, Southerland, Williams.
ACTION: Contact your state senator at (615) 741-3011 with your views on the vote.