Tennessee voters will be asked to decide the legislative powers regarding abortion in the state. Amendment one, a proposed constitutional amendment, will be on the Nov. 4 ballot.
A rally for “Yes on 1” was held at First Baptist Church encouraging residents to vote in favor of the amendment. The guest speaker was Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life.
“This is a historic opportunity for the state of Tennessee,” said Harris. “It has been a long time coming. Many of you have worked for years to see amendment one on the ballot so we have to make the very most of this opportunity and do everything we can to see protections restored for the moms and the unborn children here in our state.”
The ballot text will read “Shall Article 1, of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by adding the following language as a new, appropriately designated section:
"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.”
Voters will select “Yes” or “No” on whether they want the language added to the state’s constitution.
Tennessee’s current laws regarding abortion are so lax we have become “an abortion destination” for women seeking to terminate a pregnancy, says Harris.
“Unfortunately, Tennessee has become an abortion destination,” he said. “That is not rhetoric that we have come up with. The Tennessean established we are the third leading state in terms of out-of-state abortions. Percentage wise, we are the third leading state in the number of women who come from some place else into the state of Tennessee to terminate their pregnancy.”
The amendment will also prevent tax-funded abortions, unless voters want fund it, says Harris.
“Tax-funded abortions will likely be the next step in the pro-abortion movement, if this amendment fails in our state,” said Harris. “That’s not just a phrase. It’s based in the reality of what’s happening in the other 15 states that have a fundamental right to abortion. Look at Minnesota. It has a fundamental right to abortion identified in their state constitution. Today, they are paying for 30 percent of the state’s abortions. If this passes, does that mean the citizens of the state cannot decide they want to fund abortion or in certain circumstances fund abortion? No, it doesn’t. The people retain the right through their state representatives and senators to decide policies.”
Opponents of the amendment say the measure is the first step in making abortion illegal. Harris denies the allegation.
“Can we criminalize abortion or make it illegal for the people in our state? Absolutely not under the federal guidelines,” he said. “What we want, like our eight neighboring state have, is a voice in enacting and restoring informed consent, licensing for abortion clinics and a waiting period.”
Getting his wish has been an uphill battle that began years ago. In order to successfully amend the state constitution, a resolution must be introduced and then receive a simple majority of votes in both houses during any given two-year session of the Legislature. The same resolution must then be reintroduced and passed by a two-thirds supermajority of legislators seated during the successive legislative session. After passing two sessions of the Legislature, the language is placed on the ballot for voter approval during the next gubernatorial race.
“We have been working on this for more than 10 years,” said Harris.
What seems like insurmountable odds will continue on Election Day.
“Most people don’t realize this, but amendment one has to be approved by 50 percent of those casting a vote in the governor’s race, plus one voter,” said Harris. “It doesn’t matter if we get more votes than the other side. If we do not meet the threshold of 50 percent plus one, we failed.”
Because the amendment is tied to the votes cast in the governor’s race, individuals who vote in the governor’s election and decide not to vote either way on amendment one will be casting a “no” vote.
“You don’t have to vote in the governor’s race to vote on amendment one. However, if you do vote in the governor’s race, we need half those votes, plus one, for amendment one to pass,” said Harris.
The “Yes on 1” campaign has identified county coordinators in all 95 counties in the state. Local resident Jean Ware has agreed to coordinate the effort in Warren County. A weekly meeting has been scheduled for Tuesdays at 6 p.m. at Locust Street Church of God, located at 204 Locust Street across from the Warren County Administrative Building. Meetings are open to the public.
For more information about the campaign or to request a yard sign supporting “Yes on 1,” visit www.yeson1tn.org or send an email to email@example.com.