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Abortion measure on ballot

Caitlin Rickard crickard@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:39 PM

With several proposed constitutional amendments set to appear on the ballot, it’s important to know what’s at stake and what a simple “yes” or “no” vote could change.

In Article XI, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution, the process for approving amendments is outlined, giving voters the opportunity to vote “yes” or “no” on each proposed amendment. To be approved, each amendment would need “yes” votes from more than half of the total number of people who vote in this year’s governor’s race. The constitutional amendments and gubernatorial election are set to be on the same ballot.

Four proposed constitutional amendments are set to be on the ballot for Tennessee voters for the Nov. 4 General Election. 

“Although these amendments will not appear on the ballot until November, voters are starting to debate their merits,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. 

One proposed amendment to the state constitution garnering a lot of attention is Amendment No. 1, which deals with the topic of abortion in Tennessee. 

The legislatively referred amendment is intended to put the state constitution back to where it was in days past and on a more neutral stance on abortion by reversing a court decision from 2000. 

That year, a state Supreme Court decision struck down several law provisions previously approved by legislature that mandated informed consent, a waiting period for women seeking an abortion and added requirements women review information on abortion before going through the abortion. The 2000 decision also found Tennessee’s Constitution provides a stronger right to abortion than the U.S. Constitution.

If approved in November, Amendment No. 1 would add the following language as a new, appropriately designated section: 

“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.”

Arguments for the amendment contend by overturning the 2000 court ruling and adding the language to the constitution, it would also restore the ability of citizens and elected officials to give them the power to be able to vote and determine Tennessee’s abortion policies, as well as allow regulations to protect mothers and children.

Several legislators, as well as Gov. Bill Haslam, have voiced their support in favor of Amendment No. 1.

However, opposition from the Democratic Party, Planned Parenthood and others claim the amendment would, in effect, take power away from the people and turn people’s rights over to the state legislature, allowing legislators to make decisions or stricter abortion laws for people in the future.

Amendment No. 1 and the other three amendments set to be on the Nov. 4 ballot are available for viewing at tn.gov/sos/election.

“Now these amendments are readily accessible on our website to give people the opportunity to learn about them so they can make well-informed decisions at the ballot box,” Hargett said.

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