By Sharon Frankenberg,
Attorney at Law
Amendment 1 is a proposed change to the Constitution of Tennessee to add the following language to Article I: “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.”
This proposed amendment is the latest in a series of anti-abortion legislative actions responding to a decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court in the Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist case which is reported at 38 S.W.2d 1 (Tenn. 2000). The Tennessee Supreme Court held that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution. “As this right is inherent in the concept of ordered liberty embodied in the Tennessee Constitution, we conclude that the right to terminate one’s pregnancy is fundamental.” Any regulation of this fundamental right must be reviewed using a strict scrutiny standard. This is a higher standard of review and stronger protection than that contained in the Roe v. Wade decision regarding the right to privacy provided under the U.S. Constitution. Restrictions enacted by the state legislature requiring all abortions after the first trimester be performed at a hospital and requiring physicians to provide state-mandated information and counseling and then imposing a two-day waiting period before the abortion could be performed were found to be unconstitutional violations of the Tennessee Constitution. Hence, if any of these types of restrictions on abortion are to pass Constitutional muster, the Constitution itself must be amended.
Supporters of Amendment 1, specifically the group Yes on 1, assert that the amendment is necessary so that the legislature can pass the following “safeguards”: “informed consent to provide accurate information based on health history; 24 hour waiting period to avoid abortion-on-demand and coercion; inspection and regulation of abortion facilities; and hospitalization requirement for riskier late-term abortions.”
The U.S. Census Bureau reports the total Tennessee population in 2010 was 6,346,105. According to statistics compiled by The Tennessean, 16,373 abortions were performed in Tennessee in 2010. That is a six percent decrease from a decade ago. 24.5 percent of the abortions in 2010 were sought by women from other states. This is a 30 percent increase from a decade ago. The age group with the most abortions is 20-24. 47.9 percent of all abortions were performed on white patients. 73.8 percent of the total state population is white.
Changing our state Constitution is serious business and has long term consequences. There will be four amendments on the ballot this next election. Please consider all of your votes carefully. Early voting begins on October 15 and continues daily through October 30, excluding Sundays. The last day to vote will be on Election Day, Tuesday November 4.
You should always hire an experienced attorney if you need legal services. My office number in Knoxville is (865)539-2100.