Tennessee Pro-Life Legislators Fail to Revive Amendment to Limit Abortions
by Steven Ertelt
May 1, 2008
Nashville, TN (LifeNews.com) — Pro-life lawmakers failed to garner enough votes on Thursday to bring a constitutional amendment out of a committee and allow a full debate and vote. The proposed amendment would hopefully go before voters and make the Tennessee Constitution abortion-neutral, overturning a state Supreme Court decision.
The Senate has already approved the measure on a strong bipartisan vote, but the House Public Health and Family Assistance Subcommittee defeated SJR-127 on a 6-3 vote as the Democratic-controlled panel has done before.
Rep. Bill Dunn, a Knoxville Republican, led an effort to use a special parliamentary procedure requiring two-thirds of the legislature to get the bill out of committee and onto the House floor.
Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, a Democrat, tried to block the vote but the Tennessee House voted 47-46 to overturn his decision and allow a vote on the parliamentary tactic.
Ultimately, though, the eight Democrats and 43 Republicans who wanted to be able to debate and vote on the amendment were short of the two-thirds needed to get the amendment to the floor.
Pro-life advocates were disappointed after the vote to see the Associated Press use an editorial label in its news story on the vote calling the vote a "shenanigan" that supposedly threw the House "into chaos."
Before the vote, Tennessee Right to Life spokesman Ed Albin told LifeNews.com, "Passage of this resolution has been a primary objective of Tennessee Right to Life since 2001 and versions of SJR 127 have already passed the state Senate four times."
He said the House needs to allow a debate and vote on the bill so "the pro-abortion votes of 6 sub-committee members [won’t] silence the voices of 6 million Tennesseans."
Albin told LifeNews.com, "SJR 127 simply places responsibility for abortion regulation back into the hands of Tennessee’s voters and their elected representatives instead of continuing to allow activist judges to determine the state’s abortion policy."
The Tennessee amendment process requires the state legislature to approve a possible amendment by a two-thirds vote in two consecutive legislative sessions.
Pro-life advocates hope a successful vote can take place now so a second one can be lined up for the 2009 session and the measure can go before voters in 2010.
A vote to move the bill to the floor would follow a new poll showing most state residents either want all abortions illegal or want abortions limited to very few circumstances.
The latest Middle Tennessee State University poll finds almost 77 percent of state residents want more limits on abortions or abortions prohibited — which the amendment would allow.
In 2006, the full Senate signed off on the idea on a 24-9 vote but the same House subcommittee killed the measure.
The proposal says "nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion."
In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled 4-1 that the Tennessee Constitution contains a fundamental abortion right even broader than Roe v. Wade or the federal constitution. The decision struck down numerous pro-life Tennessee laws that were helping women and limiting abortions.
The measure would essentially nullify the decision and allow the state to enact limits on abortion or ban abortions if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.
In 2003, 14,933 abortions were reported performed on women residing in Tennessee. In 2004, the number dropped to 13,902, a 6.9% decline or 1,031 fewer abortions.
Related web sites:
Tennessee Right to Life – https://tennesseerighttolife.org