Life goes on at the Supreme Court, vacancy or no. Last Monday, on the opening day of the term, the Court announced that it will not hear a challenge to a 2014 Tennessee ballot measure, Amendment 1, which stated “nothing in this [state] Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion.” Or, if you prefer, look at the news through the lens of The Tennessean: the Justices declined to hear a challenge to “a ballot measure that eliminated the right to an abortion from the Tennessee state constitution.”
Thumbs up to the Supreme Court on this one.
The ballot measure approved by Tennessee voters four years ago was a corrective measure to a state court’s 2000 “discovery” in the state constitution of a right to abortion that was broader than the abortion rights covered under Roe v. Wade. Courts in several states have made similar rulings. The remedy to such rulings is an abortion-neutrality constitutional amendment like the one passed by Tennessee voters four years ago: nothing in our Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion.
More from The Tennessean: the executive director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood called Amendment 1 “another attack on women’s rights and the ability of individuals to make personal decisions for themselves.” That claim might or might not have come as a surprise to the women who made their own decisions to support Amendment 1.
According to the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT), a pro-life advocacy group, the passage of Amendment 1 led to swift adoption of some pro-life legislation.
During the 2015 legislative session, we made progress on a couple of measures related to Amendment 1 that were signed into law: first, a 48-hour waiting period with in-person counseling by a physician prior to an abortion, which was signed into law by Gov. Haslam on May 18, 2015, and, second, the new requirement that all clinics in Tennessee performing more than 50 surgical abortions per year be regulated as ambulatory surgery treatment centers. The new regulations took effect July 1, 2015.
So are abortions banned in Tennessee? Hardly. What Amendment 1 restored, and what the U.S. Supreme Court just tacitly endorsed, is the situation that prevailed in the Volunteer State before 2000: abortion is legal, and so are state regulations consistent with Roe.
Ellen Kolb is a New Hampshire writer who blogs about the life issues at leavenfortheloaf.com and ellenkolb.com.
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