Anti-Abortion Constitutional Amendment Approved by House, Now Goes to Voters

The House gave final approval today to a resolution that sets up a statewide vote in 2014 on whether to add an amendment to the Tennessee constitution that is advocated by anti-abortion activists.
The House vote on SJR127 was 76-18-1. The Senate had approved the measure 24-8 on April 18. In both cases, the vote was well over the required a two-thirds majority for approval of a constitutional amendment.
The next step will be in the November, 2014, general election. Voters will then decide – yes or no – on whether to insert the following language into the state 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.”
The amendment is aimed at overturning a 2000 state Supreme Court decision that declared Tennessee’s constitution grants women a greater right to abortion than the U.S. Constitution. The decision also threw out some abortion restrictions that had been enacted by the Legislature.
Proponents say the amendment will let the General Assembly enact “common sense” restrictions on abortion and block judicial activism on the subject. Critics said it is unnecessary and goes too far because would permit enactment of laws completely forbidding abortion, even in cases involving rape, incest or the life of the mother.
The final House vote came after rejection of amendments proposed by Democratic legislators that would have assured no future law could allow an abortion in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother. Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, argued that the wording of the amendment would mislead voters into thinking there could be no such future laws, though actually it leaves the door open for them.

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