Senate delays abortion resolution
By: By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — A resolution that would change the state’s constitution to allow more limits on abortion has been delayed in the Senate so lawmakers can review an amendment added to the measure.
The resolution seeks to nullify a state Supreme Court ruling that the Tennessee Constitution offers greater protection for abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution.
The proposal would say that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”
Some critics are concerned that the proposal could lead to an effort to ban abortions completely in the state. If so, the amendment considered on Thursday would allow lawmakers “to enact, amend or repeal statutes regarding abortion” in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s safety.
Sen. Diane Black, a Gallatin Republican and the resolution’s sponsor, told reporters outside the chamber that she believes the amendment, offered by Sen. Douglas Henry, a Nashville Democrat, actually strengthens her legislation by making it more appealing to Democrats.
“I think that it helps to clarify that when the people do have the right to vote on this, that it is the people’s right to retain that authority on those three very important issues that are the most emotional issues of all,” she said.
However, Sen. Roy Herron of Dresden and two other Democrats — Beverly Marrero of Memphis and Thelma Harper of Nashville — opposed the amendment because they said such protections for women should be constitutional and not left up to lawmakers.
“The reality is, there’s no protection,” Herron said. “Whatever the Legislature decides to give you get, whatever the Legislature decides not to give you, you’re without.”
The 2000 ruling threw out state laws that required a 48-hour waiting period before abortions, that abortion clinics must provide detailed information about the procedure and that all but first-term abortions be performed in hospitals.
The proposed resolution has passed in the Senate before, but has repeatedly failed in a subcommittee of the Democratic-controlled House.
If it were to eventually pass both chambers this session and gain two-thirds approval by lawmakers during the next two-year General Assembly, the proposed change would go before voters in the 2010 election.
Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat and supporter of abortion rights, is not required to sign proposed constitutional amendments — and he has no power to veto them.
Abortion rights advocates in general have said the measure is a stepping stone to prohibiting all abortions in Tennessee.
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said the amendment added to the resolution is “meaningless and will not provide the protection that women in Tennessee deserve.”
“The Senate is laying the groundwork to outlaw abortion in Tennessee,” she said. “It’s a well-thought-out strategy and they recognize they have to amend the state constitution and take away the right to privacy for women as it pertains to abortion. It’s very troubling.”
Read SJR0127 on the Legislature’s Web site at: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us
Published in The Messenger 1.25.08
abortion resolution, Tennessee