Sides gear up for Tennessee abortion battle vote in fall

Voters won’t decide this issue until November, but the fundraising, education and organizational battle is already in full swing over a proposed Tennessee constitutional amendment granting state lawmakers more power over abortion.
Jul 19, 2014


Voters won’t decide this issue until November, but the fundraising, education and organizational battle is already in full swing over a proposed Tennessee constitutional amendment granting state lawmakers more power over abortion.

Abortion opponents began working in November and report they are about a quarter of the way toward their $2.1 million goal to support Amendment 1. They had raised $518,000 as of June 30, state campaign finance disclosures show.

Supporters of abortion rights, meanwhile, who began a little later, have raised a little over $360,000 toward their $4 million goal, according to their state disclosure report.

The amendment seeks to make the Tennessee Constitution silent on abortion. If approved by voters, it would overturn a 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling declaring abortion is a “fundamental” right, thus giving state lawmakers more authority to regulate the procedure.

Brian Harris, a coordinator with the “Yes on 1” effort and president of Tennessee Right to Life, said state residents should decide the wording of their state constitution.

“Amendment 1 is over who will decide abortion policy in the state. Will it be a handful of judges or will it be the people, through their elected legislators, expressing the will through a fair debate on the floor of the Legislature?”

Jeff Teague, a director for “Vote No on One” and president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, countered the question belongs in the family, not the statehouse.

“I think pretty much any Tennessean is going to agree that these are private medical decisions best left to a woman in consultation with her family, her faith and her doctors and that this is no place for politicians to be involved.”

The Yes on 1 forces got a big boost in November when Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and others joined a fundraising event that brought in an estimated $250,000. Since then the Yes on 1 side has had a host of contributors.

Two of them, commodities broker Russell Preston of Brownsville, Tenn., and CoPart Inc. Chairman Willis Johnson of Franklin, each gave $25,000, according to the state’s Registry of Election Finance. A number of small Protestant church congregations and local Knights of Columbus, among others, have given smaller amounts.

So far, the Vote No on One group has raised most of its money from Planned Parenthood groups inside and outside Tennessee. Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee gave $189,500 and Planned Parenthood Advocates Midsouth (Memphis) gave $25,000. Other contributions have come from groups in the Northwest, Massachusetts, Kansas and the Midwest.

The organizations provide reproductive health services, including abortion, as well as maternal and child health services.

Harris attacked the groups’ contributions.

“They have a product that they market and sell. and that’s the killing of unborn children,” he said.

Other leaders in the Yes movement, like David Fowler, president of Family Action Council of Tennessee and a former Republican state senator from Signal Mountain, claim Tennessee has become a “destination state” for women seeking abortions.

He said the 2000 state ruling disallowed required waiting periods and “informed consent.” Pro-life groups also want stricter regulation of abortion providers, especially for services not provided by ambulatory surgical centers.

Teague said Planned Parenthood groups support Vote No because abortion opponents’ goal is to create so many obstacles that abortion “is technically legal but it is ... practically impossible to access services.”

He said such restrictions hit mostly poor women who can’t afford to travel to another state for the procedure.

Both sides also have begun organizing and outreach and training volunteers. The Tennessee Democratic Party, which opposes the amendment, has hired someone to direct their effort.

Fowler and Teague said they also see door-to-door canvassing, phone banking, television advertising and direct-mail campaigns this fall.

Vote Yes proponents, such as Ramsey, acknowledge advocates have their work cut out for the. A recent Vanderbilt University poll found only 23 percent of respondents wanted to give the state Legislature “more power to regulate abortions.” At the same time, 48 percent considered themselves “pro-life,” while 45 percent were “pro-choice.”

Both sides say the fight is coming to Southeast Tennessee.

“We believe these decisions are personal and private,” said Sandy Lusk of Signal Mountain, the state Democratic Party’s East Tennessee regional vice chairman. “Family planning should not be made up by [legislators] like [state Sen.] Stacey Campfield, who knows nothing about the issues and doesn’t even have kids or a wife.”

Pat Lindley, former executive director of the pro-life group Choices Chattanooga, said the issue “keeps getting miscast.”

“It’s really not nearly as complex as it sounds. It’s simply restoring the power to the Tennessee state Legislature to carry out the will of the people.”



Tennessee Vote No On 1 Facebook group page

Submit us not to papal law.


Neither the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) or the New Testament books of the Christian Bible explicitly prohibited abortion.

The Hebrew terms ruach (literally "wind"), and neshama (literally "breath") are used to describe the soul or spirit.

Jewish law holds that human life begins at birth, based on Genesis 2:7:
"And the Lord God made man from the dust of the earth, breathing into him the breath of life: and man became a living soul."

The rabbinical interpretation is (most often) that human zygotes, blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses do not have souls.

God never explicitly prohibited abortion.

Moses was born a Jew.

The six hundred and thirteen laws (commandments) found in the Old Testament that were revealed or attributed to Moses never explicitly prohibited abortion.

Moses never explicitly prohibited abortion.

Jesus was born a Jew.

Jesus never explicitly prohibited abortion.

Mary, mother of Jesus, was born a Jew.

Mary, mother of Jesus, never explicitly prohibited abortion.

The Twelve Disciples were born as Jews.

The Twelve Disciples never explicitly prohibited abortion.

Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul) never explicitly prohibited abortion.

Pope Innocent III (1161-1216) decreed that a monk who had arranged for his lover to have an abortion was not guilty of murder if the fetus was not "animated" at the time and that the soul enters the body of the fetus at the time of "quickening" - when the woman first feels movement of the fetus.

The image of Pope Innocent III was immortalized during 1950 as a one of 23 marble bas-reliefs of great historical lawmakers installed on the chamber walls of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The explicit prohibition of abortion is not biblical, but rather, papal in origin.


Log in or sign up to post comments.