Tennessee Senate Passes Amendment to Limit Expansive Court Ruling on Abortion
by Steven Ertelt
March 24, 2009
Nashville, TN (LifeNews.com) — The Tennessee state Senate has approved an amendment that would make the Tennessee Constitution abortion-neutral. The measure is necessary because the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled 4-1 in 2000 that the state constitution allows unlimited abortions.
The ruling claimed the Tennessee Constitution contains a fundamental abortion right even broader than Roe v. Wade or the federal constitution.
As a result of the decision, several pro-life laws were struck down that have been effective in other states in reducing abortions.
"SJR 127 will make the constitution neutral concerning abortion and will return the right to the people through their elected representatives to restore common sense protections to those choosing abortion," said prime sponsor Sen. Diane Black.
Every one of the Tennessee Senate Republicans supported the constitutional amendment along with five Democrats while eight Democrats opposed the measure.
The pro-life resolution now moves to the state House where it enjoys the support of a majority of House members.
Tennessee Right to Life applauded the fact that the Senate voted "for the fifth time since the wrong 2000 ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court establishing a ‘fundamental abortion right’ in the Tennessee Constitution."
The pro-life group told LifeNews.com is supports the bill’s call for a "public vote allowing for the restoration of common sense protections including informed consent, waiting periods and the regulation of abortion facilities."
A nurse by profession, Senator Black urged passage of the pro-life resolution saying, "Any other surgical procedure requires that a physician give you informed, solid information and consent."
"If you have a toenail removed, the physician must tell you what they are going to do, an alternative, the possible complications and currently we cannot require that in the case of abortion. That’s shameful whether you’re for abortion or you’re against abortion you should have the right to have all of the information before you make a very large decision," she added.
On the House side, pro-abortion Rep. Joe Armstrong gaveled to order a special-called public hearing of the full House Health committee to consider its version of the bill.
There, pro-abortion Rep. Henry Fincher is attempting to pass a pro-abortion alternative to pro-life SJR 127. The House panel did not take a vote on the measure.
Tennessee Right to Life says renowned pro-life attorney Paul Linton made the case for the pro-life side against the Fincher bill.
"Linton’s scholarly presentation was clearly one of the highlights of the hearing and at no time did pro-abortion supporters come close to matching his artful command of the constitutional and legal issues," the group said.
The constitutional amendment is needed to nullify the decision and allow the state to enact limits on abortion or ban abortions if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.
In 2006, the full Senate signed off on the idea on a 24-9 vote but a House subcommittee killed the measure. In 2008, the same subcommittee, the House Public Health and Family Assistance Subcommittee defeated SJR-127 on a 6-3 vote as the Democratic-controlled panel has done before.
However, Republicans won control of the state House following the elections and observers say that makes it very likely both the House and Senate will approve the amendment.
A favorable vote for the amendment this year is just the beginning.
After getting a simple majority in the 2009-2010 session, lawmakers must then approve it by a two-thirds margin in the 2011-12 session and then voters would have a chance to consider it on the ballot in the 2014 election.
A vote to approve the amendment would follow a 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.
The proposal says "nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion."
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
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