The measure will almost certainly be killed in the state House, but the Senate Judiciary Committee has just voted in favor of stripping women of abortion rights under the Tennessee constitution.
By a 6-3 vote, the committee adopted a resolution to amend the state constitution to negate a 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling. That decision found a right to abortion in the state constitution and limited the legislature's ability to restrict the procedure. If the state constitution is amended and Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, the legislature could then make abortions illegal in Tennessee.
Sen. Diane Black, a Republican from Gallatin, portrayed her measure as an attempt to protect the health of women by allowing tighter restrictions on abortions, including a mandatory 48-hour waiting period. “The dangers of removing these commonsense protections places us back in the days when abortions were not legal and where we did have concerns about whether they were done in a setting where someone was getting the best medical help,” Black told the committee.
But Sen. Beverly Marrero, a Democrat from Memphis, called it “really flagrant attempt to try to have the government intervene in a procedure that should be between a woman, her doctor, her family, her husband, those people who are close to her.”
The committee rejected one amendment that would have written into the constitution an absolute right to abortion in the case of rape, incest and to save the mother's life. Another amendment by Sen. John Wilder, a Democrat from Somerville, also failed. It would have prohibited abortions without the husband's consent.
The resolution would place the question on the 2010 ballot. It cleared the GOP-run Senate last session, but in the House, Speaker Jimmy Naifeh sent it to be killed in one of the subcommittees that he controls. He has already told reporters that he'll send it to the same subcommittee this session.