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Tenn. Senate Leader Prioritizes Three Abortion Restrictions

December 16, 2014 — Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey (R) expects several antiabortion-rights measures to be introduced this legislative session, but he only plans to prioritize certain ones, the AP/Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

Lawmakers in the state likely will propose more abortion restrictions this year because of the passage of a ballot measure (Amendment 1) seen as giving the state Legislature more leeway to enact such bills, according to the AP/News Sentinel (Schelzig, AP/Knoxville News Sentinel, 12/12).

Background

Amendment 1 revised 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. 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" (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/7).

Ramsey: Three Restrictions Will Be Priorities

Ramsey said the Legislature likely will focus on three abortion restrictions that were struck down in a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling that held that abortion rights were protected in the state constitution as part of a woman's right to privacy.

Specifically, Ramsey expects the state Legislature to work toward passing clinic regulations, as well as requiring a mandatory delay and counseling before an abortion. "I campaigned and told people there were three things that we wanted to basically put us back where we were before the year 2000," he said.

State House Speaker Beth Harwell (R) has also backed implementing the measures that were in place prior to the 2000 decision.

In addition, Ramsey has said he does not support a measure proposed by state Rep. Rick Womick (R) that would require a woman to undergo an ultrasound one to three days before an abortion. The bill would mandate that doctors show the image to the woman and describe it to her if she chooses not to look, as well as require technicians to make the fetal heartbeat audible (AP/Knoxville News Sentinel, 12/12).