Fight Over Tenn. Antiabortion Ballot Measures Begins With Election One Year Away

October 31, 2013 — Although voting is a year away, abortion-rights opponents and supporters in Tennessee are launching campaigns to sway voters' opinions on a proposed constitutional amendment that would restrict abortion access, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

The proposed amendment states, "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."

If approved by voters, the amendment would void a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling that struck down provisions such as 48-hour waiting periods before abortions, requirements that abortion clinics provide certain information and a mandate that all abortions after the first trimester be performed in hospitals. The ruling has prevented state lawmakers from re-enacting the laws or from passing new restrictions.

Abortion-rights opponents on Monday will hold a fundraiser to jumpstart their campaign to enact the amendment. State Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey (R) will host the fundraiser.

In invitations for the event, Ramsey asked supporters to pay between $1,000 and $50,000 for tickets and said the amendment would help stop the state from becoming an "abortion destination." Event organizers said $250,000 has been raised so far.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee President Jeff Teague said abortion-rights advocates will launch their own campaign opposing the amendment, adding, "It's absolutely going to be a fight. It's been our experience that when people find out about it they get very concerned. They get concerned about privacy rights and an attack on women's rights" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/30).