Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tennessee constitutional amendment 1 - What is it really saying?

Protester at a clinic, via Morguefile
In case you haven't heard, there are four amendments to our state constitution to be voted on next month. Some are not very major - an amendment outlawing state income tax, which is already the case, and an amendment allowing charities to hold lotteries - but Amendment 1 is potentially huge for women in our state.

Here is the text of the amendment:
Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 1for the November 4, 2014 General Election BallotShall Article I, of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by adding the following language as a new, appropriately designated section: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.

Supporters of this amendment say that this is no big deal, not restricting legal abortion at all, just using "common sense":
Voter approval of Amendment 1 in 2014 will allow the people of Tennessee and their elected representatives to restore common sense protections for women and the unborn, including inspection and regulation of abortion facilities by the Tennessee Department of Health.
In reality, though, facilities that provide abortion services ARE inspected and regulated. Also, protections are currently in place to protect women. Here is the current law in Tennessee.  Partial-birth abortions, always a talking point for anti-abortion groups, are already illegal. Even though these groups try to make it an issue every time, it is not even legal. Babies are not pulled out of the womb and killed, no matter how many graphic billboards these groups pay for. And there are restrictions in place - written consent from the mother (or parent if a minor), and a 48-hour waiting period after meeting with the doctor. The Yes On 1 organization also implies that women from other states flock to Tennessee to have abortions performed. In reality, women must prove state residency to receive an abortion. The amendment also mentions funding of abortions - this is not now, and never has been, in question. Taxpayer funds are not used to provide abortions and if this amendment does not pass, that will not change. 
In short, this amendment paves the way for the current law, decided by the State Supreme Court in 2000,  to be overturned at the whim of voters. Supporters want to take the decisions out of our hands and put them in the hands of the government. It is insulting to all women, to imply that our reproduction requires legislation for us to make the best decisions for ourselves and our families.
More information: Vote No on 1
And in case you don't want to follow the link above, here is the text of the state's abortion law:
Code Section
39-15-201 to 209; 37-10-301 to 307
Statutory Definition of Illegal Abortion
(1) Failure to meet standards for legal abortion including residency requirement; (2) attempted criminal abortion; (3) coerced or compelled abortion; (4) administering to pregnant woman medicine, drug, or any substance or instrument with intent to destroy such child(5) Partial Birth abortion: no person shall knowingly perform a partial birth abortion except when necessary to save life of the mother if endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury.
Statutory Definition of Legal Abortion
First trimester with woman’s consent upon advice of her M.D., after first trimester and before viability with same, but in a hospital. After viability, necessary to preserve life, health of mother
Impermissible abortion: Class C felony; mother attempting to procure a miscarriage: Class E felony; M.D. fails to use due care to preserve life of baby born alive or violation of 48-hour waiting period: Class E felony; abortion on non-Tenn. resident: Class C felony; coercion to obtain abortion: Class A misdemeanor; M.D. performs abortion on minor violating consent statute: misdemeanor
Informed, written consent of mother, 48-hour waiting period between M.D. giving mother information and consent; after viability, same as first trimester except M.D. must certify in writing to the hospital that procedure was necessary; by at least one parent must consent to abortion to be performed on minor; no parental consent necessary if emergency; minor may petition court for waiver
Mother must produce to M.D. evidence she is bona fide resident prior to procedure except in medical emergency, (but M.D. must still give information to mother)
First trimester, licensed M.D. upon his medical advice and woman’s consent; after first trimester to viability, licensed M.D., licensed hospital; after viability, only to preserve life of mother
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