Tennessee Constitutional Amendment 1

September 30, 2014 • Posted in Blog

D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A.

Update: Tennessee voters approved Amendment 1 on 4 November 2014. 

From the outset, I need to remind the reader that I am not an attorney, and that our organization is an educational corporation. What follows is hopefully educational and helpful as you move through the next several weeks.

A Constitutional Amendment is a serious undertaking, as represented by the path necessary for an idea/concept to become an amendment in Tennessee. Amendment 1 is the first of several on our 4 November 2014 ballots. It is a long-term result of a State Supreme Court decision in the year 2000. That decision has been described thusly by the Tennessee Court of Appeals (in 2002):

In Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee v. Sundquist, 38 S.W.3d 1 (Tenn. 2000), the court held that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right of privacy guaranteed in the Tennessee Constitution. Accordingly, the statutes regulating this right must be subjected to a strict scrutiny analysis, and must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest.

What this has meant practically is that in Tennessee:

  • abortion is a protected entity: the state legislature cannot enact common-sense laws regarding abortion
  • abortion clinics are not inspected (unlike restaurants and nail salons)
  • abortion clinics do not have to be licensed
  • the state cannot collect information on abortions performed
  • clinics provide abortions to Tennesseans as well as many from other states that have less lenient laws

Justice Barker was the lone dissenter in the Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee v. Sundquist (2000) case cited above. He wrote, “Plainly stated, the effect of the Court’s holding today is to remove from the people all power, except by constitutional amendment, to enact reasonable regulations of abortion.

Fourteen years later, Amendment 1 would move our Constitution back to what is deemed a “neutral” stance on abortion. The legislature would then be able to enact laws regarding abortion. One law the legislature could not enact would be the banning of abortion, since that is the law of the land, per Roe v. Wade.

If Amendment 1 is not passed by the voting public, our state will continue not to be able to pass common-sense regulations relating to abortion. We as a society do not tolerate roaches on our restaurant’s salad bars, or rats in the their kitchens. Why should we make no demands on clinics where lives are at stake every day? By not inspecting abortion clinics, we leave ourselves open to the possibility of a Gosnellian future.

Your vote matters; please take full advantage of this opportunity to make your voice heard.