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Tenn. Ballot Measure Could Reshape Legislature's Ability To Restrict Abortion

Tenn. Ballot Measure Could Reshape Legislature's Ability To Restrict Abortion

September 16, 2014 — Tennessee voters in November will decide on a ballot measure (Amendment 1) that would declare there is no guaranteed right to abortion in the state, Mother Jones reports.

If passed, the ballot measure would amend Tennessee's constitution to include the statement, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion." The amendment specifically states that such rights include circumstances involving pregnancies "resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother."

Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and other opponents of the amendment have launched the Vote No on One campaign, while supporters are campaigning under the Yes on 1 initiative.

Effort Dates to 2000 Court Decision

Mother Jones reports that abortion-rights opponents in the state Legislature have been trying to amend the state constitution's abortion language since a 2000 state Supreme Court decision blocked three antiabortion-rights laws passed in 1998: a mandatory delay before a woman may obtain an abortion, a requirement that second-trimester abortions be performed in hospitals and a requirement that abortion providers read women a state-written script.

In 2011, the state Legislature approved a measure (SJR 127) that authorized putting the amendment before voters. Although Tennessee lawmakers have passed other antiabortion-rights laws over the years, passage of the amendment would give them more leeway to implement other restrictions that might otherwise run astray of the 2000 ruling.

Likewise, Elizabeth Nash, a researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, explained that passage of the amendment would not mean that the 1998 laws would automatically take effect, but it would clear the way for antiabortion-rights lawmakers to pass them again (Redden, Mother Jones, 9/12).