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Millions Spent on Tenn. Ballot Initiative That Could Restrict Abortion Rights

November 3, 2014 — More than $5 million has been raised by supporters and opponents of a Tennessee ballot initiative (Amendment 1) that will ask state voters on Tuesday whether to amend the state constitution's wording on abortion rights, the Tennessean reports (Boucher, Tennessean, 10/31).

The amendment, if approved, 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, 10/27).

A Middle Tennessee State University poll last week suggested that voting could be close. According to the poll, 39% of respondents support the measure, 32% oppose it and 15% remain undecided. Poll organizers interpreted the results as "too close to call" (Tennessean, 10/31).

However, a Vanderbilt University poll from earlier this year found that 71% of respondents oppose making it easier for the state Legislature to regulate abortion further (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/27).

Amendment Draws National Attention

Overall, opponents of Amendment 1 have outspent and outraised supporters. Through Oct. 25, supporters had raised $1,580,071 and spent $1,440,114, while opponents had raised $4,022,436 and spent $3,781,389.

Since Oct. 1, both sides spent a combined $4 million on advertisements. However, opponents' advertising spending was nearly triple supporters' ad spending during that time period.

Planned Parenthood chapters from across the country contributed a majority of the more than $2 million that opponents raised in October. Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee contributed $50,000, compared with $750,000 from the Seattle chapter, $500,000 from three California chapters and $101,000 from two Florida chapters. The American Civil Liberties Union contributed $100,000.

The outside contributions underscore the national significance of the Tennessee's amendment, according to the Tennessean.

"There's a large interest nationally in making a statement that here in the South, it's not OK for politicians to strip away personal, private medical decisions," said Steven Hershkowitz, a spokesperson for the Vote No campaign.

Most contributions supporting the amendment have come from in state from organizations like churches and antiabortion-rights groups, according to Yes on 1 campaign finance director Jason Albin. Pharmaceutical industry investor John Gregory, a conservative political supporter, also donated $150,000 toward the campaign (Tennessean, 10/31).