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Victory Step in TN: SJR0127

April 7, 2009

Tennessee House Panel Passes Amendment
to Limit Court Decision on Abortion

by Steven Ertelt, Editor
April 7, 2009

Nashville, TN ( — A Tennessee state House committee today approved a state constitutional amendment that would make the Tennessee Constitution abortion-neutral. The amendment is necessary because the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled 4-1 in 2000 that the state constitution allows unlimited abortions.

The ruling claimed the Tennessee Constitution contains a fundamental abortion right even broader than Roe v. Wade or the federal constitution.

The decision resulted in the striking down of numerous pro-life Tennessee laws that were helping women and limiting abortions.

The House Health and Human Resources Committee after the amendment after failing to get the bill out of committee in previous legislative sessions.

The approval vote came after the panel killed a pro-abortion amendment on a 16-11 vote that would have made the amendment not apply to abortions in rare cases, such as rape and incest or threats to the life of the mother.

The vote also came on the sixth annual Pro-Life Women’s Day, which saw hundreds of pro-life Tennessee residents at the state capitol.

“It was a great moment for our grassroots to be present for Women’s Day to witness the victory first hand—after eight long years and lots of grassroots work to educate voters and elect pro-life legislators in both parties,” Brian Harris, the Tennessee Right to Life president, told

“Pro-life leaders in both parties have demonstrated a shared commitment to moving the resolution forward and toward allowing Tennesseans a voice and a vote in the matter of abortion in our state,” said Harris. “We thank those who moved the resolution out of the committee and we look forward to a full and fair vote on the House floor.”

The Senate approved the amendment, SJR 127, on a 24-8 vote on March 23.

Every one of the Tennessee Senate Republicans supported the constitutional amendment along with five Democrats while eight Democrats opposed the measure.

The constitutional amendment is needed to nullify the decision and allow the state to enact limits on abortion or ban abortions if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.

In 2006, the full Senate signed off on the idea on a 24-9 vote but a House subcommittee killed the measure. In 2008, the same subcommittee, the House Public Health and Family Assistance Subcommittee defeated SJR-127 on a 6-3 vote as the Democratic-controlled panel has done before.

However, Republicans won control of the state House following the elections and observers say that makes it very likely both the House and Senate will approve the amendment.

A favorable vote for the amendment this year is just the beginning.

After getting a simple majority in the 2009-2010 session, lawmakers must then approve it by a two-thirds margin in the 2011-12 session and then voters would have a chance to consider it on the ballot in the 2014 election.

A vote to approve the amendment would follow a poll showing most state residents either want all abortions illegal or want abortions limited to very few circumstances.

The latest Middle Tennessee State University poll finds almost 77 percent of state residents want more limits on abortions or abortions prohibited — which the amendment would allow.

The proposal says “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”

In 2003, 14,933 abortions were reported performed on women residing in Tennessee. In 2004, the number dropped to 13,902, a 6.9% decline or 1,031 fewer abortions.


Please consider writing to thank the legislators who finally passed this amendment out of the House committee that previously held it back. See votes at

See more information at

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