TN Right to Life Planning Campaign Strategy for 2014 Referendum

 Press Release from Tennessee Right to Life, Nov. 9, 2011:

SJR 127 focuses on restoring rights of citizens to determine laws, not activist judges

Following Tuesday’s defeat of a ‘personhood’ amendment in strongly pro-life Mississippi, some pro-life Tennesseans may be confused or discouraged. The reality is, however, that many dedicated Right to Life advocates throughout the nation have expressed sincere concerns about the ‘personhood’ strategy and potential unintended consequences of the amendment language. Such concerns almost certainly contributed to yesterday’s defeat in Mississippi.

Respected pro-life constitutional attorneys have strongly urged against sending the U.S. Supreme Court a case of this magnitude at a time when there simply is not a pro-life majority to consider it. Among these attorneys are James Bopp who successfully defended Tennessee’s Choose Life plate statute and Paul Linton who has helped numerous states, including Tennessee, to draft proposed amendments to their own state constitutions.

In contrast to the ‘personhood’ strategy, Tennesseans will be asked to vote in 2014 on an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution which, rather than promoting an abortion ban or any other specific legislative agenda, overturns a radical 2000 pro-abortion decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court and restores to the people of Tennessee the right to determine state laws and policies on matters affecting human life.

Instead of continuing to allow activist state court judges to decide what protections are appropriate for Tennessee’s abortion-vulnerable mothers and their unborn children, passage of SJR 127 would leave such decisions to the state’s voters and their elected representatives to decide—just as it was prior to the Tennessee Supreme Court’s radical pro-abortion ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist. The language of SJR 127 is:

“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.”

Key points:

  • The Tennessee Supreme Court was wrong when it ruled that Tennessee’s Constitution includes a fundamental right to abortion and required that common sense protections be struck from Tennessee’s law;
  • Tennesseans cannot be required to fund elective abortions;
  • It is the people of Tennessee and our elected state legislators who should decide Tennessee’s abortion laws, including the difficult circumstances when a mother’s life is at risk or when abuse or crimes have occurred.

It’s unfortunate that pro-life Tennesseans and our elected officials have to devote the time, energy and resources to reclaim from activist judges the right and ability to enact legal safeguards and protections for our state’s most innocent and vulnerable. However, passage of SJR127 in 2014 will ensure that it is the people of Tennessee, through our elected representatives, who make the state’s laws affecting the fundamental Right to Life of every Tennessean.