More than a decade after the Tennessee Supreme Court issued a wrong and radical ruling claiming a ‘fundamental’ right to abortion in the Tennessee Constitution, bi-partisan super majorities in the General Assembly have sent the matter for Tennesseans to decide in a public vote during the next governor’s election in 2014.
“At long last the people of Tennessee will have their say in this matter of life and death,” said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life. “Should a handful of activist judges make Tennessee’s laws on abortion or should it be the people acting through their elected representatives in the state Legislature? We are confident that when it’s all said and done, the power for deciding such questions will be returned to the people,” Harris said.
As required for every proposed amendment to the state Constitution, SJR 127 passed for the first time in 2009 by votes of 77-21 in the state House and 23-9 in the state Senate. Requirement for super-majority during second passage was achieved in 2011 by votes of 76-18 in the state House and 24-8 in the state Senate. Click here to view video of the Tennessee House discussion and final vote.
SJR 127 by Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville) and Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mount Juliet), the resolution calling for a public voters to approve inclusion of the following language in the Tennessee Constitution:
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.
As written the proposed amendment does not criminalize abortion but overturns the Court’s pro-abortion ruling, returns the Tennessee Constitution to a position of neutrality on abortion and allows the people of the state and their elected legislators to again enact meaningful protections for women and unborn children in our state.
While the Court’s 2000 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist makes it impossible to enforce protections that violate the state’s newly discovered ‘right to abortion,’ Tennessee Right to Life has encouraged passage of policies which do not directly challenge the Court’s holding. Several such pro-life protections were passed by overwhelming bi-partisan majorities in the final days of the legislative session including:
State Budget Amendment to Bar Funding for Planned Parenthood by Senators Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville), Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), and Lt. Gov. Ramsey (R-Blountville.) Further tightens 2009 effort by requiring that federal Title X family planning funds shall be used fully by local, county or municipal health departments and that no funds shall be disbursed to private non-profit organizations or agencies. Diverts $1.2 million tax dollars from Planned Parenthood affiliates in Nashville and Memphis. Passed unanimously as part of final budget approval.
Expansion of Tennessee’s Unborn Victims of Violence Act by Rep. Joshua Evans (R-Springfield) and Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet.) Extends current state law to include unborn children prior to viability as victims of assault or homicide. Previous statute was only enforceable following establishment of child’s viability. Passed House 80-0 and Senate 26-0.
Ban on Webcam Abortions in Tennessee by Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) and Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City.) Brought in response to Planned Parenthood’s aggressive plan for inducing RU 486 abortions through Internet connections without a physician present. In Iowa trials more than 2,000 such abortions have already been performed with plans for expanding the practice in “underserved” and rural areas throughout the country. Passed House 86-6 and Senate 29-1.
House Resolution Honoring the Work of Life Affirming Pregnancy Resource Centers by Rep. Jim Gotto (R-Hermitage) Passed unanimously and without debate by the full House 95-0.