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Roe v. Wade remembered as historic state constitutional vote nears

By John Michaelson, Public News Service • Dec 15, 2015 at 2:16 PM

NASHVILLE – Jan. 22 marked the 41st anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion-rights decision, but an historic vote in Tennessee later this year could wash away those protections.

Residents will go to the polls in November to vote on Amendment 1, which states that nothing in the Tennessee Constitution protects the right to abortion and gives local lawmakers more power over abortion laws.

Among those leading the efforts to "vote no" is Rebecca Terrell, executive director of Choices.

"This basically puts the decision back in the hands of those very politically motivated actors who are worried about re-election," she said, "rather than real, reproductive health care for women.”

Those who are calling for a "yes" vote on Amendment 1 say elected officials should be able to decide abortion policy and implement waiting periods, informed consent and other restrictions which were previously struck down by the Tennessee Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Supporters of the amendment also cite their concern over the health of fetuses and their mothers. But Terrell said restrictions don't stop abortion; they just make it less safe and more difficult to access, especially for the most vulnerable women.

"For many women who have to manage child care, take off work, travel long, long distances in many cases to the nearest clinic – they're just increasing the financial burden on these women," she said, "so that ultimately it will become out of reach."

Meanwhile, as part of Wednesday's Roe v. Wade anniversary, screenings of the documentary, "After Tiller," were held in Nashville and Knoxville. The film mines the struggles of several close colleagues of Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered in 2009 by an anti-abortion extremist in Wichita, Kansas.

The text of Amendment 1 is online at capitol.tn.gov.

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