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Tenn. Antiabortion-Rights Initiative Could Affect Access in Surrounding States

Tenn. Antiabortion-Rights Initiative Could Affect Access in Surrounding States

September 30, 2014 — A Tennessee ballot initiative (Amendment 1) that would declare there is no guaranteed right to abortion in the state could also affect abortion access regionally, the Tennessean reports (Wadhwani, Tennessean, 9/28).

Amendment 1, which will be on the November ballot, would amend the state constitution to include the statement, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion" (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/18).

Nearby States Rely on Tennessee Abortion Clinics

According to the Tennessean, abortion-rights supporters say that women from neighboring states with more restrictive abortion laws come to Tennessee to access care.

For example, abortion-rights advocates in Alabama are using an online crowdsourcing campaign to raise funds to help women travel to Nashville, Tenn., to obtain abortion services, while advocates in Kentucky arrange transportation for women to travel to clinics in Tennessee. Meanwhile, the National Organization for Women refers northern Mississippi women to an abortion clinic in Memphis.

Rebecca Terrell, director of a Tennessee abortion clinic called Choices, said, "This is the national line in the sand. Here we stand with this really strong constitution which is protecting women's rights and access to needed services. If that fails here, where else are women going to go?"

Meanwhile, supporters of Amendment 1 say they do not want Tennessee to be known as an abortion destination. Tennessee Right to Life President Brian Harris said, "We are at a historical crossroads. We have the first real concrete chance at this point in time to give lawmakers the ability to enact safeguards for abortion." He added, "Amendment 1 by itself doesn't make any policies. It simply restores to the people the right, through their elected officials, to enact or strike down statutes related to abortion" (Tennessean, 9/28).