Amendment 1 passes in Tennessee

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Voters have decided to amend Tennessee’s constitution in regards to abortion, with 53 percent supporting Amendment 1.

The amendment reads:

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.

Its passage enables lawmakers to enact more abortion restrictions, and may impact privacy protections that the state Supreme Court has ruled extend to women seeking abortions.

Tennessee lawmakers have already passed some regulations, including one in 2012 that says doctors who perform abortions must also have hospital admitting privileges.

Also, as of July 1, doctors can’t call or video conference patients who have been prescribed medication to induce abortion, a minor’s parent must consent before an abortion is performed, health plans offered on the state’s health exchange can’t provide abortion coverage, and public funding for abortion is only available in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

The state Supreme Court has, on constitutional grounds, struck down three measures passed by Tennessee lawmakers: mandatory waiting periods, mandatory distribution of materials about fetal development to women seeking abortions, and a requirement that second-trimester abortions be performed in hospitals.

Tennessee currently has seven abortion clinics, most of which, including CHOICES in Memphis, are licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers. Two are classified as private practices due to a 2002 court ruling.

Cathy Waterbury, the Yes on 1 Shelby County coordinator, said, “Certainly our hope is that the abortion facilities would be regulated, they would be licensed, they would be inspected as any other stand-alone surgery center is required to be by out state. Abortion would then, as a result, be safer for women in our state that are seeking to have abortions.”

Ashley Coffield, CEO of Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region, said, “Any legislation that comes down the pipe that puts barriers between women and their healthcare, we are going to fight it. We are going to keep our coalition together and our army across the state, and we are going to keep standing up to women and their rights for legal healthcare.”

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said in a statement, “With tonight’s narrow passage of Amendment 1, we know state legislators are poised to begin restricting access to comprehensive reproductive health care in Tennessee during the next legislative session.  But we are prepared to mobilize against measures that serve only to create barriers to health care service.  The robust, statewide grassroots coalition we’ve built throughout this campaign will continue to amplify constituents’ voices to our elected officials. Politicians need to know that extreme, medically-irrelevant laws will be strongly opposed by voters.”

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