Tennessee Leg. OKs Pro-Life Ballot Proposal Limiting Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 20, 2011   |   12:57PM   |   Nashville, TN

The state legislature has approved a state ballot proposal that will allow Tennessee voters to run back a pro-abortion ruling by the state Supreme Court that prevents lawmakers from putting in place any pro-life laws to limit abortion.

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.

The Tennessee state House voted today 76-18 vote for the state ballot proposal sponsored by Republican Rep. Debra Maggart of Hendersonville. The text of SJR 127 returns authority for abortion regulation to the people of Tennessee and their state legislators and reads as follows: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

Proposed amendments in Tennessee must be passed by two consecutive general assemblies, the second time by a two-thirds supermajority. with today’s vote, SJR 127 will now be placed on the ballot for approval by Tennesseans during the next gubernatorial election in 2014.

Brain Harris, the Tennessee Right to Life president, told LifeNews.com, “Tennessee is a pro-life state and it’s only appropriate that the people of Tennessee—not a handful of judges—decide what protections will be enacted for women and children in our state.”

Harris said the 2000 ruling in Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee v. Sundquist made it so “common sense protections were immediately stripped from state law books including informed consent for women considering abortion, a 48 hour waiting period and a requirement that second and third trimester abortions be performed in regulated hospitals rather than out-patient abortion facilities.”

Subsequently the 2000 ruling was also used as precedent to strike state law requiring the inspection, regulation and licensure of abortion facilities in Tennessee, he explained. All of those pro-life protections — which have reduced abortions in some states by as much as 50 percent — could be restored if the amendment is approved.

State Representatives passed the resolution in 2009 by a vote of 77-21 when a simple majority was required and the 2010 elections added more pro-life advocates to the legislature. 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.

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.