Tennessee Pro-Life Constitutional Amendment May be Dead Again
by Steven Ertelt
April 21, 2004
Nahsville, TN (LifeNews.com) — Like a patient whom doctors can’t stabilize, a pro-life constitutional amendment at the Tennessee state legislature thought dead keeps coming back to life. But this time, it may be dead for good unless pro-life advocates can find support from more state legislators to pull it from a committee.
After being approved by the state Senate, an unrelated state House subcommittee defeated the proposal.
State Rep. Mike Turner, a Democrat, had hoped to revive the measure and place it up for debate in the full House Health Committee. However, he failed to come up with the final vote he needed and dropped his request for a vote.
”When we started this process, I said I would (try to pass) this only if I had the votes,” Turner told the committee. ”I do not have the votes to move this bill forward.”
Turner said he is certain the amendment would be approved if it could get to the House floor.
Now, pro-life advocates are looking to a parliamentary procedure on the House floor to pull the bill from the subcommittee.
Brian Harris of Tennessee Right to Life tells LifeNews.com that his group will do everything possible to move the pro-life measure through the legislative process.
"It promises to be a bloodbath but we have no other choice and we’re not going away without a fight," Harris told LifeNews.com.
The vote requires support from two-thirds of the members, but Turner says he has only 62 of the 66 votes needed.
"If somebody comes to me and tells me we have 66 votes, I’ll run it. If we have 65, I won’t,” he told the Tennessean newspaper.
The constitutional 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.
The amendment reads: ”Nothing in this constitution secures or protects the right to an abortion or the funding thereof. The legislature shall have the sole authority to make and shall make such provisions for abortion as it determines are reasonably necessary for victims of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.”
Meanwhile, a House subcommittee will vote today on restoring some of the pro-life laws struck down by the court.
Sen. Roy Herron D-Dresden, and Rep. Phillip Pinion, D-Union City have sponsored legislation that would make sure abortion facilities provide women about abortion’s risks and alternatives 24 hours prior to performing the abortion.
But backers of the amendment say it’s futile to pass any legislation without the constitutional amendment because the Tennessee Supreme Court will only strike it down again.
"The people of this state — not activist judges — [should] determine this state’s abortion policy," Harris told LifeNews.com.