Abortion resolution passes Senate again
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 again passed the Senate but still may face challenges in the lower chamber.
The measure sponsored by Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, passed 23-9 on Wednesday. It has passed the Senate before, but repeatedly failed in a subcommittee of the Democrat-controlled House.
The measure 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.”
However, an amendment added to the resolution would allow lawmakers to change statutes regarding abortion in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s safety.
“I’m pleased with the passage,” Black said. “This is a good day for the people of Tennessee; to restore to the people the power of their constitution.”
Before the vote, lawmakers debated over several proposed amendments to the resolution, all of which failed or were withdrawn.
One proposal by Sen. Beverly Marrero said in part that “the government shall not punish a woman for ending a pregnancy” when she is the victim of incest, rape, or to save her life.
“The majority of people in this state are not in favor of a woman carrying a baby to term that’s been raped,” the Memphis Democrat said before the vote on her amendment. “The majority of the people in this state are in favor of the language of this amendment.”
The last time a similar resolution passed the Senate was in 2006. That same year, however, it failed in the Public Health and Family Assistance subcommittee, which was chaired by Rep. Mary Pruitt.
The Nashville Democrat currently heads the panel and said earlier Wednesday that she’s unsure about its chances this year.
“I’m waiting to see what the bill will look like when it’s sent to us,” she said.
Nevertheless, Black said after the vote that she’s optimistic about the resolution’s chances given the display of bipartisanship in the Senate.
“I’m hoping that this year will be the year given the kind of bipartisan support we had today, and I think we will have that same support over in the House,” she said.
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.
If the resolution 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.
“Today the Senate laid the groundwork to move toward outlawing abortion in Tennessee,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. “What’s additionally disturbing is that the senators chose not to protect the women of Tennessee by providing exceptions for women who were victims of rape or incest and became pregnant, or whose lives were in danger.”
Sen. Roy Herron said he voted against the resolution because it lacked such protections. The Dresden Democrat is sponsoring his own legislation that calls for certain requirements before an abortion, such as a 24-hour waiting period and informed consent prior to an abortion.
“What will be interesting now is to see whether those who voted for SJR0127 allegedly to restore those protections, will vote for this bill,” Herron said.
Published in The Messenger 1.31.08