The amendment pro-life groups have fought for to limit the reach of a pro-abortion state Supreme Court ruling received a boost last week after legislative gains in the 2010 state elections.
The amendment is necessary because the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled 4-1 in 2000 that the state constitution allows unlimited abortions. It is necessary, pro-life advocates say, to be able to pass laws to limit and reduce abortions.
The ruling claimed the Tennessee Constitution contains a fundamental abortion right even broader than Roe v. Wade or the federal constitution and it resulted in the striking down of numerous pro-life Tennessee laws that were helping women and limiting abortions.
“Simply put, passage of pro-life SJR 127 was a key issue in many state House races across Tennessee, especially in rural areas where pro-life candidates defeated longtime incumbents,” Tennessee Right to Life president Brian Harris told LifeNews.com. “In a battle that began in 2001, many of these incumbents initially opposed SJR 127 but had recently begun to vote in favor of the pro-life resolution in order to diffuse a powerful campaign issue.”
He said some of the legislators who were defeated were those who backed the amendment but used every procedural and amendment tool in their arsenal to weaken or kill it.
Only candidates pledging to actively support passage of the resolution were endorsed by Tennessee Right to Life PAC and 73 of 81 endorsed candidates won their races. That includes a number of sincere pro-life Democrats who have assisted since 2000 in helping to move the resolution forward for a public vote, Harris said.
If passed by the Tennessee state House and state Senate in the upcoming session, SJR 127 would be placed on the ballot for approval by Tennesseans during the next gubernatorial election in 2014. Proposed amendments in Tennessee must be passed by two consecutive general assemblies, the second time by a two-thirds supermajority.
After the defeat of longtime pro-abortion House leadership in 2009, the resolution received its first approval by large majorities of 77-21 in the state House and 24-8 in the state Senate.
Following pro-life gains in Tuesday’s elections, Harris says chances for passage with even more than the required two-thirds majorities seem very good.
“This has been a long struggle to bring this matter to the ballot in Tennessee,” he said. “It’s a testament to the commitment and convictions of so many pro-life Tennesseans that a radical decision by the state Supreme Court was not left unchallenged. To the contrary, the Court’s pro-abortion edict has played an key role in energizing pro-life voters and reshaping the makeup of Tennessee’s General Assembly.”
Last year, pro-life state Senator Dewayne Bunch (R-Cleveland) reflected on the centrality of the pro-life resolution in Tennessee politics.
“In the time I’ve served in the Legislature it’s been an honor to serve with a lot of wonderful people. In those twelve years there have been just a few votes that define who we are and define who makes us up,” he said. ” “SJR 127 has made a difference about who serves.”
When the next General Assembly convenes in 2011, SJR 127 will need 22 votes in the state Senate and 66 votes in the state House. [related]
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.