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Both Sides Mobilize Over 2014 Abortion Referendum in Tenn.

Both Sides Mobilize Over 2014 Abortion Referendum in Tenn.

November 26, 2013 — Abortion-rights supporters and opponents in Tennessee are launching campaigns over a November 2014 ballot initiative (SJR 127) that would change the state constitution's language on abortion rights, the Wall Street Journal reports.

If the initiative is approved, the state constitution would be amended to state that nothing in it "secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion." The amendment would apply to all abortions, including in "circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother."

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, Tennessee is among 11 states that provide constitutional protection for abortion rights. In 2000, the state Supreme Court said that abortion is a right guaranteed by the state's constitution and ruled that several state laws restricting the procedure violated women's privacy rights.

Support for the Amendment

Tennessee Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R) headlined a $250,000 fundraiser this month to launch the campaign in support of the amendment. In addition, the state's Baptist Convention passed a resolution urging members to "work vigorously" to pass the amendment.

According to the Journal, although the state Legislature is dominated by the GOP, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed support for the amendment. Backers of the measure have said it will make the state constitution "neutral" on abortion.

Amendment co-sponsor state Sen. Jim Tracy (R) said it will authorize the state Legislature to pass "common sense" limitations on abortion and "protect women's rights."

Opposition to the Amendment

Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Civil Liberties Union are leading efforts against the amendment, which they said will allow the state to pass laws severely restricting abortion. ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said, "We are preparing to aggressively mobilize voters to vote no" on the amendment.

According to Jeff Teague, president of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, "[Amendment supporters'] ultimate goal in Tennessee is to be able to pass any restriction or regulation on abortion that they want to" (McWhirter, Wall Street Journal, 11/24).