News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Representative Rick Womick (R-Rockvale) announced today they will not seek passage of a bill this year to require abortion providers show or describe an ultrasound image to a woman before the procedure can be performed. The lawmakers said they will focus on passage of Senator Joint Resolution (SJR) 127, a pivotal constitutional amendment initiative which will come before voters in 2014 that would allow the legislature to put abortion laws into place within the bounds of “Roe v. Wade.”
“This constitutional resolution is the cornerstone of future legislation to protect life in Tennessee,” said Senator Tracy. “We will be focusing all of our efforts on promoting its passage on the 2014 ballot.”
Tracy was a co-prime sponsor of SJR 127, which was passed by the General Assembly in the 106th and 107th General Assemblies. It addresses a State Supreme Court decision in 2000 that struck down provisions in Tennessee law allowing women to receive “informed consent” information about the surgery and to wait 48 hours before they receive an abortion. The state’s high court also ruled against a state requirement that all abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital. That ruling made Tennessee more liberal than the U.S. Supreme Court required in “Roe v. Wade” and made the right to an abortion a “fundamental right” in Tennessee. SJR 127, if adopted, provides that the right to an abortion is only protected under the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The number of abortions performed in Tennessee declined even as the state remained a destination for out-of-state women traveling here to end their pregnancies, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported by The Tennessean.
Tennessee mirrored the nation in the declining abortion trend. Nationally, abortion rates that had remained steady for several years dropped 5 percent to an all-time low in 2009, according to the data released last week.
In Tennessee, the number of abortions fell 4 percent from 2008 to 2009 — from 18,253 to 17,474 — after several years in which they climbed slightly.
But Tennessee remained a standout as a destination for abortions, with 23 percent of all abortions performed here in 2009 sought by women who lived elsewhere. Only three other states and the District of Columbia saw a larger share.
…In 2014, driven by a decade of activism by pro-life advocates, Tennessee voters will decide whether to amend the constitution to strip away the abortion protections that have made Tennessee a standout state for abortion rights in an increasingly abortion-hostile South.
Changes are already under way that could affect Tennessee’s future as an abortion-friendly state.
In August, the Volunteer Women’s Medical Center in Knoxville closed after 38 years, citing a new state law that requires doctors to hold admitting privileges at local hospitals.
Statewide pro-choice advocates have begun to organize for the ballot fight ahead. A loose coalition of abortion clinic operators, women’s rights activists and others held an organizing meeting in October.
State pro-life advocates have focused their energies on supporting pro-life candidates in the recent election, but have said in the past that the 2014 ballot fight is their No. 1 priority.
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.
The Senate voted 24-8 Monday night – three votes more than the two-thirds majority needed — in favor of an amendment to the state constitution that would allow future legislatures to enact law putting new restrictions on abortions in Tennessee.
The vote marks the sixth – and perhaps final — time the Senate has approved an amendment aimed at negating a 2000 state Supreme Court decision that declared Tennessee’s constitution provides greater abortion rights than does the U.S. Constitution.
The resolution, SJR127, was approved by both the House and Senate during the 106th General Assembly. Rules for adopting a constitution amendment now require it pass by two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate during the 107th General Assembly — and Monday’s vote got it halfway there.
If the House, as expected, now echoes the Senate’s solid approval later in the session, there will be a referendum on the statewide ballot in 2014 that, if approved by voters, will insert this language into the state constitution:
A proposed amendment to the state constitution on abortion has begun what is likely to be its final journey through the Legislature after almost a decade of efforts. SJR127 was approved on a party-line vote — Republican for Democrats against — in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
The Senate Republican Caucus marked the occasion with a news release. Here it is:
(NASHVILLE, TN), March 29, 2011 — The Senate Judiciary Committee today voted 6 to 3 to give Tennesseans the opportunity to restore their voice in determining what state law should be regarding commonsense protections for abortions.
The measure, Senate Joint Resolution 127, addresses a State Supreme Court decision in 2000 that struck down provisions in Tennessee law allowing women to receive “informed consent” information about the surgery and to wait 48 hours before they receive an abortion.