MEMPHIS, Tenn. – This November, Tennessee voters will decide whether or not to amend the state constitution in regards to abortion.
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.
Women from neighboring states that have restricted abortion access often travel to Tennessee for the procedure, a fact that both opponents and supporters of the amendment are using in their arguments.
Supporters say they don’t want Tennessee to be a destination for abortions and argue Tennessee currently can’t “enforce common sense protections,” while opponents say the fight against Amendment 1 is both about protecting a woman’s right to make a personal decision without political interference, as well as ensuring women in the South continue to have access to legal abortions.
Tennessee lawmakers can and 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.