To The Editor:
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Tennessee is the third leading abortion destination in the United States; astonishingly, nearly 24 percent (1 of 4) of the average total 17,000 abortions performed in Tennessee each year are done so on women and girls coming from another state.
Why do they come?
They come as a result of a 4-1 ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court justices in September 2000. In that decision, a broader right to abortion was claimed to exist in the Tennessee State Constitution than in the U.S. Constitution (or, Roe vs Wade).
Their ruling also struck down existing protective policies already practiced in Tennessee such as informed consent and reasonable waiting periods. Their ruling also prohibited any legislative enactment of such future policies.
Further, since each of our eight bordering states have active policies requiring informed consent, waiting periods and mandated regulation and licensing of abortion facilities, Tennessee, with the fewest abortion restrictions of any state in the Southeast, has become an abortion destination.
Today, there is a growing awareness across our state that a balance is needed with regard to the practice of abortion in Tennessee. The effect of the court’s ruling in 2000, based on their definition of the state’s constitution, removed from the people of Tennessee all power to enact common-sense protections for abortion-vulnerable women or unborn children, except by constitutional amendment.
The voices of Tennesseans have been muffled, almost silenced, and our state’s ability to regulate abortion policies has been severely limited and restricted to only that vehicle of amending the state constitution.
Do we really want our state, the state of Tennessee, to continue to be known as a principal abortion destination, wide open of limits, and without any common-sense provisions of reason or licensing and regulations on such facilities?
What argument could reasonably be made for not having protective policies and safeguards? For not requiring any expectant mother, Tennessee resident or not, to be provided with accurate information regarding her abortion procedure, or asking her to wait 24 hours before a final and irrevocable decision is made?
What about a reasonable expectation that the facility where she will undergo surgery has been licensed, inspected and is operating under proper medical regulations, or of having a hosital affiliation should the need arise or if this abortion is a late-term abortion?
Not having, and not allowing Tennessee to provide, any one of these policies available to expectant women seeking abortion in Tennessee, is what has made us an abortion destination. Further, consider the possibility that our state tax dollars might be required to fund elective abortions for anyone from any state?
If you are in favor of having any of the above common-sense policies and safeguards made available to women and girls seeking abortion in Tennessee, then vote “YES” on Amendment 1 in November’s election.
Passage of Amendment 1 would return the state constitution back to “neutral” on abortion while still subject to the abortion rights rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court. Passage of Amendment 1 would once again restore the authority back to the people, represented by their elected legislators, to enact common-sense policies in this sensitive area; policies that are fully consistent, and in accordance, with the rulings on abortion by the United States Supreme Court decision under Roe vs. Wade ... the same common-sense policies practiced in the eight states surrounding Tennessee.
Remember, vote “YES” on Amendment 1.
— Barbara Gilbert