Tennessee Legislative Powers Regarding Abortion, Amendment 1 (2014)

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Amendment 1
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Tennessee Constitution
Referred by:Tennessee State Legislature
Status:On the ballot
2014 measures
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November 4
Amendment 1
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Local measures

The Tennessee Legislative Powers Regarding Abortion, Amendment 1 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in the state of Tennessee as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure, upon voter approval, would add language to the Tennessee Constitution empowering the legislature to enact, amend or repeal state statutes regarding abortion, including for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to protect the mother's life.[1]

Amendment 1 was placed on the ballot by the Tennessee General Assembly in two separate votes. It was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-6), who was a state senator at the time of introduction, and State Sen. Mae Beavers (R-17) as Senate Joint Resolution 127.[2][1]

In Tennessee, a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment must earn a majority of those voting on the amendment and "a majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor.”

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official ballot text is as follows:[3]

Shall 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.
□ Yes
□ No[4]

Constitutional changes

See also: Article I, Tennessee Constitution

The proposed amendment adds a new section to Article I of the Constitution of Tennessee to read:[1]

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.[4]

Fiscal note

The fiscal note developed by the Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee is as follows:[5]



• Notice of this resolution has already been published.
• The county election commission is currently required to publish the ballot. Any cost to add this one item to the ballot will be not significant and can be handled within existing budgetary resources.[4]


Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist

Amendment 1 supporters take issue with the Tennessee Supreme Court's 2000 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist. The court's ruling struck down multiple laws regulating abortion services, including:[6]

  • Requirement that second-trimester abortions be performed in hospitals as opposed to clinics.
  • 48-hour waiting period before receiving an abortion requirement.
  • Requirement of physician-only counseling before an abortion is performed.
  • Exemption to requirements only in circumstances where a woman’s life is threatened.
  • Mandate to prove residency.

Supporters of Amendment 1 believe the measure would allow the legislature to enact whatever regulations and restrictions are permitted by the United States Supreme Court. As Sen. Mae Beavers said, "[The amendment] is meant to neutralize the 2000 Supreme Court decision." Some proponents interpret the Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist ruling as stating that the Tennessee Constitution contains a stronger right to privacy and abortion than even the U.S. Constitution.[7]

The court said the ruling was informed by both the state and federal constitutions:[6]

Accordingly, we must determine whether the scope of the right of procreational autonomy is broader than the analogous right of reproductive freedom protected by the United States Constitution. The Tennessee Supreme Court has already noted that these rights spring from common constitutional roots -- the concept of liberty reflected in the state and federal constitutions...

The United States Supreme Court’s “reproductive rights” decisions are not binding on this court in this case because the challenge to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-15- 201, -202 is based on the Constitution of Tennessee... They can, however, provide helpful guidance for our decision… we should favor a construction of the Constitution of Tennessee that is harmonious with analogous provisions in the United States Constitution.[4]


The following data relates to abortions performed in 2010:[8][9]

  • 16,373 abortions were performed in Tennessee in 2010. This is a six percent decrease from a decade ago.
  • In 2010, 24.5 percent, or roughly one-in-four, abortions were sought by women from other states. This is a 30 percent increase from a decade ago.
  • The age group most likely to seek an abortion are 10-14. However, this does not mean that this age group has the most abortions, just that the group has the most abortions relative to live births.
  • The age group with the most abortions, through not the most relative to live births, is 20-24.
  • 47.9 percent of all abortions were performed on white patients. 73.8 percent of the total state population is white.
  • 52.1 percent of all abortions were performed on non-white patients. 26.2 percent of the total state population is non-white.



The organization leading the campaign in support of the initiative is Yes On 1.[10]

The measure was introduced into the legislature by US Rep. Diane Black (R-6), who was a state senator at the time, in 2009 and by Sen. Mae Beavers (R-17) in 2013.[1]



Former officials

  • Former Sen. David Fowler (R-11)[18]


  • Tennessee Right to Life[19]


  • Alveda King[20]
  • Jim Bob Duggar
  • Bishop Richard F. Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville[21]


Dan McConchie, VP of Government Affairs at Americans United for Life, called Amendment 1 "one of the most important ballot measures in the country" and said it would "protect women and children..." The following is an excerpt from an opinion article he wrote for The Tennessean:

Voters will decide whether to take back control of the abortion issue or leave it in the hands of unelected state judges... This is necessary due to the most egregious Tennessee Supreme Court decision on the issue of abortion in U.S. history that has made Tennessee an outlier in the effort to protect women and children from industry overreach and abuse.

For those thinking that a state constitutional amendment may be overkill, in fact its need comes from the state court itself. In his dissent in Sundquist, then-Justice William Barker noted that the only way to allow the people to again, through their elected representatives, re-establish common-sense standards for abortion in Tennessee was for a constitutional amendment...

What the Tennessee Supreme Court did in Sundquist was to eliminate the ability of the people to place virtually any common-sense limits on abortion. In doing so, the court essentially declared that abortion can only be properly exercised when it is almost completely unfettered, resulting in an abortion industry free to exploit women in virtually any way it wants.

Given this, it is clear that the opponents of Amendment 1 are not really defenders of women; they are defenders of an industry that profits off women. [4]

—Dan McConchie[22]

Other arguments in support of the amendment include:

  • Leslie Hunse, the education director for Tennessee Right to Life, argued, “We want our constitution to go back to neutral on the issue of abortion, so we can pass some common sense regulations to protect mothers and children. We are here because there are women who call us everyday who are sad about the abortions that they've had.”[23]

Campaign contributions

Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of June 30, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $278,209
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $359,305

As of June 30, 2014, Yes on 1 has received $278,209 in contributions.[24]

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Yes on 1 $278,209 $97,147
Total $278,209 $97,147

Top 5 contributors:

Donor Amount
Wiley Russell, Jr. $25,000
Willis J. Johnson $25,000
Yes on 1, Inc. $15,000
Tennessee Right to Life Knox County $13,650
Curt Sheldon $10,500

Tactics and strategies

Run for 1 Life

Run for 1 Life 2014.png

On June 28, 2014, supporters held a 5 kilometer walk and run in Murfreesboro to support Amendment 1. Known as "Run for 1 Life," all proceeds from the run went to Vote Yes Tennessee. The purpose of the event was to:

[S]pread the word about pro-life legislation and serve as a fundraising platform to put these laws in place. While there is a time and place for debate, it is often felt that too much talking and too little doing goes on around common sense issues. We’re using fun, positive energy like walking and running to pass legislation that will guarantee our children, and grandchildren’s most basic God-given right is protected – the right to life!


—Run for 1 Life[25]

The run was sponsored by Family Action of Tennessee, Tennessee Right to Life, Joe Carr for US Senate, Jim Tracy for Congress, Rick Peppers for State Representative, Wil-Ro, Inc., Smoothie King and Chick-fil-A of Smyrna.[26] The event was directed by Tim Hooper.[25]



Vote NO On One Tennessee, Inc. is leading the campaign against the amendment.[27]

Lisa Carter, a political strategist, was hired by the Tennessee Democratic Party to aid their campaign against Amendment 1.[28]



Former officials



  • Rev. Adam Kelchner of Belmont United Methodist Church[34]
  • Rabbi Micah Greenstein of Temple Israel[21]
  • Rev. Rosalyn Nichols of Freedom's Chapel Christian Church


Vote NO on One Tennessee, the organization leading the campaign against Amendment 1, argued the following on the group's website:

Amendment 1 is carefully worded in order to deliberately confuse voters about the real intention and motives of those behind the amendment. The people and organizations supporting Amendment 1 have clearly said that they believe all abortion should be illegal, no matter what. When many people read the Amendment, they believe that there will be guaranteed exceptions for women who are victims of rape or incest, or when a woman’s health is in danger.

In simple terms, Amendment 1 says two things:

  1. There is absolutely no right to abortion, and Politicians can pass laws for exceptions in case of rape or incest, or when a woman’s life is in danger, if they choose to.
  2. There is no requirement that they do so. There is not even an exception for extreme cases like when a pregnant women needs treatment for cancer.


Vote NO on One Tennessee, Inc.[35]

David Harper, an executive official for the state’s Democratic Party, said:

What it does—the bill is written very deceptively. And the bill effectively turns over all rights to the state legislature. If you look at that bill and look at what it says, it says exactly that. And the way it’s written is very hard to ascertain what it’s about. It’s not only about the abortion… there’s a real distinct difference between the right to birth and the right to life. So we are opposed to that bill in every way. And the reason for that is just simply, we trust people to have good judgments for themselves and we do not think that the state legislature should be the one making those decisions. They’re very personal and they’re very private. And we respect people to have their own judgments. Now we don’t necessarily agree with them—but we respect them, and we do not think that we should turn that over to the government.


—David Harper[31]

Rev. Adam Kelchner, pastor at Belmont United Methodist Church, criticized the amendment, saying:

We should turn our hearts and our resources to empowering young people with the education and tools necessary to experience the sacred gift of sexuality with health and wholeness. We should value the rights of women and families to follow their conscience when making important decisions about reproductive health care with health-care professionals. We should work to ensure greater dignity and equity for all Tennesseans. The ballot initiative in November rejects a compassionate and just approach to abortion care and reproductive health. That is why I’ll be voting no on the initiative.


—Rev. Adam Kelchner[34]

Other arguments against the amendment include:

  • Former Sen. Roy Herron (D-24) critiqued pro-amendment advocates, saying, "Their pitch is that this would make the constitution neutral on abortion. How would they like the Constitution neutral on the Second Amendment so legislators could outlaw the right to bear arms? How about making the First Amendment neutral?"[30]
  • Rebecca Terrell, director of the Choices abortion clinic in Memphis, said, "This is the national line in the sand." In Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi abortion clinics are more limited in number than in Tennessee. Women seeking abortions may come to Tennessee, where there are less restrictions. Terrell argued, "Here we stand with this really strong constitution which is protecting women’s rights and access to needed services. If that fails here, where else are women going to go? The bottom line is they don’t want women to have access to abortion here — or anywhere in the South."[36]
  • Rabbi Micah Greenstein of Temple Israel asked, "Who decides what's best for a woman's health? A rape victim and her minister, or a religious zealot who would impose his will on all Tennessee women and families? Who decides what's best for a woman's health? Some political candidate or the female cancer patient herself in consultation with her doctor and priest?"[21]

Campaign contributions

As of June 30, 2014, Vote No on One Tennessee, Inc. has received $359,305 in contributions.[24]

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Vote No on One Tennessee, Inc. $359,305 $9,268
Total $359,305 $9,268

Top 5 contributors:

Donor Amount
Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee $189,500
Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest $50,000
American Civil Liberties Union $35,000
Community Action Fund of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties $25,000
Planned Parenthood Advocates Mid-South $25,000

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Tennessee ballot measures, 2014


  • The Tennessean said, "Making any type of law immune from a court challenge is shortsighted, prejudicial — and in the case of what should be a woman's own decision about her health — downright dangerous. For those reasons, The Tennessean recommends a vote of NO on Amendment 1."[37]


See also: Polls, 2014 ballot measures
Tennessee Amendment 1 (2014)
Poll Favor OpposeUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Vanderbilt University
4/28/2014 - 5/18/2014
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org.


Tennessee Taliban Amendment

Tennesseans For Preservation Of Personal Privacy put out the above ad. The image is only part of the ad. The full ad can be seen here.

Tennesseans for Preservation of Personal Privacy, a pro-choice organization, purchased full-page or nearly full-page ad slots in the state's four largest newspapers. The Tennessean and the Memphis Commercial Appeal declined to publish the image accompanying the ad. The Knoxville News Sentinel and The Chattanooga Times Free Press published the image alongside the ad. The ad's image depicts a man whose head and face are mostly covered by a turban. The turban reads, "Tennessee Legislature." He is holding a scroll, which states, "Amendment #1." He is standing on a woman whose hair says, "Tennessee Women."[33]

The ad was heavily criticized by pro-life and other pro-choice organizations, as well as civil rights groups.

Jennifer Hicks of Yes On 1, the amendment's supporting campaign organization, stated, "It is unfortunate that pro-abortion opponents of Amendment 1 have chosen to open their campaign in such an offensive manner. Taliban rule relates to rape, slavery, murder and brutal degradation of women, not to social policy debates in the state of Tennessee. Those placing the ad should apologize to Tennesseans but especially to those refugees in our state who have been the victims of such cruel regimes."[33] Barbara Moss, treasurer of the group putting out the ad, replied to such criticisms. She argued, "The people that formed this group felt like it was an attempt to control the bodies of women. So that's where they came from with the Taliban part of it."[38]

Jeff Teague, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, stated, "I think the images are disturbing and offensive, and they don’t have any place in this debate."[33] Abby Ohlheiser, journalist for The Wire, criticized the ad. She said, "The amendment, essentially, would give the legislature the ability to pass laws restricting abortion despite those protections. It should go without saying, but the negative effect this measure could have on abortion rights in the state is hardly comparable to what the Taliban actually does."[39]

Remziya Suleyman, Director of Policy and Administration for The American Center for Outreach, said, “Comparing the Tennessee legislature to the Taliban is absurd. What they don’t realize is the image is offensive, unnecessary and violent. If we care about women, why use such scare tactics and demeaning images to get your message across?” The American Center for Outreach is an educational and advocacy organization for Muslims based in Tennessee. Michel Kaplan, an attorney representing Tennesseans for Preservation of Personal Privacy, replied to Suleyman, saying, "No offense was ever intended to the Muslim community. The cartoon was the expression of the Taliban and Taliban’s treatment of women, and the fear that there are those in the legislature who would like to control women’s rights."[33] Barbara Moss further commented, "Before I would sign off on it, I contacted a dear friend of mine who's a Muslim to ask her if she would be offended and she said no... That could be a Christian man. Anybody who's been to the Middle East — Arab culture, Middle Eastern culture, everyone wears a turban. For goodness' sake, I mean the Sikh community wears turbans. So, I think for me it's that the image itself is depicting men, whether you're Muslim, Sikh, Christian, any man in a turban is equated with violence against women."[38]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the Tennessee Constitution

The Tennessee General Assembly was required to approve the amendment in two successive sessions. In the first session, the measure required a simple majority for approval. In the second session, the proposed amendment needed to earn a two-thirds vote for approval.

During the first session, SJR 127 was approved by the Tennessee Senate on March 23, 2009. The amendment was approved by the Tennessee House of Representatives on May 23, 2009.[40] During the second session, SJR 127 was approved by the Tennessee Senate on April 18, 2011. The amendment was approved as well by the Tennessee House of Representatives on May 20, 2011.[41]

Senate vote (1st Session)

March 23, 2009

Tennessee SJR 127 Senate Vote
Approveda Yes 24 75.00%

House vote (1st Session)

May 18, 2009

Tennessee SJR 127 House Vote
Approveda Yes 76 77.55%

Senate vote (2nd Session)

April 18, 2011

Tennessee SJR 127 Senate Vote
Approveda Yes 24 75.00%

House vote (2nd Session)

May 20, 2011

Tennessee SJR 127 House Vote
Approveda Yes 76 80.95%

See also

Suggest a link

External links

Basic information



Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Tennessee General Assembly, "Senate Joint Resolution 127," accessed January 22, 2014
  2. Tennessee Legislature, "Bill Information for SJR0127 (2009)," accessed June 20, 2014
  3. Tennessee Secretary of State, "Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 1 for the November 4, 2014 General Election Ballot," accessed June 12, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  5. Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee, "SJR 127 Fiscal Note," accessed April 12, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tennessee Supreme Court, "Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist," accessed October 2, 2014
  7. Commercial Apparel, "Tennessee Senate advances abortion amendment," April 18, 2011
  8. The Tennessean, "Tennessee abortion numbers drop in past decade," February 18, 2014
  9. The Tennessean, "Database: Tennessee Abortion Statistics," April 18, 2012
  10. Yes On 1, "Homepage," accessed June 20, 2014
  11. Wall Street Journal, "Abortion Fight Hits Tennessee," November 24, 2013
  12. 12.0 12.1 USA Today, "Campaigns begin push ahead of Tenn. abortion vote," November 4, 2013
  13. Knoxville News Sentinel, "Political notebook: Alexander backs proposed amendments on Tennessee ballot," July 21, 2014
  14. Nashville Public Radio, "Anti-Abortion Amendment to Go on Ballot in 2014," May 20, 2011
  15. WATE, "Activists launch campaigns for and against Tenn. abortion amendment," November 4, 2013
  16. Chattanooga Times Free Press, "Hamilton County commissioners pass abortion resolution; crowd debate comes after 5-2 vote," October 2, 2014
  17. Herald-Citizen, "Commission resolution on Amendment 1 is legal," September 26, 2014
  18. Chattanooga Times Free Press, "Sides gear up for November abortion battle vote in Tennessee," July 18, 2014
  19. Tennessee Right to Live, "Homepage," accessed June 20, 2014
  20. Life News, "Duggar Family Rallies for Pro-Life Amendment on Abortion in Tennessee," October 9, 2014
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 The Tennessean, "Clergy denounce Amendment 1 on abortion," October 2, 2014
  22. The Tennessean, "Amendment 1 vital for women's health, safety," September 30, 2014
  23. WBIR, "Abortion battle looms in East Tennessee," January 22, 2014
  24. 24.0 24.1 Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, "Registered Referendum Committee," accessed July 21, 2014
  25. 25.0 25.1 Run for 1 Life, "The Cause," accessed June 27, 2014
  26. Run for 1 Life, "Sponsors of the 5k Walk / Run June 28," accessed June 27, 2014
  27. Vote No On One Tennessee, Inc., "Homepage," accessed June 20, 2014
  28. The Tennessean, "TN Democrats hire strategist for abortion amendment," June 9, 2014
  29. Chattanooga Times Free Press, "New group will fight Tennessee abortion amendment in 2014," accessed March 11, 2013
  30. 30.0 30.1 The Daily Beast, "Tennessee Voters Face a Loaded Abortion Question," October 4, 2014
  31. 31.0 31.1 Macon County Times, "‘Yes On 1’ campaign in full swing," January 29, 2014
  32. American Civil Liberties Union, "I Stand for Reproductive Freedom in Tennessee," accessed June 20, 2014
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 33.4 The Tennessean, "Ad likening Tennessee legislature to Taliban draws fire," May 27, 2014
  34. 34.0 34.1 The Tennessean, "Abortion services must not vanish," January 21, 2014
  35. Vote NO on One Tennessee, Inc., "Learn More," accessed July 25, 2014
  36. The Tennessean, "TN abortion rights at crossroads," September 28, 2014
  37. The Tennessean, "Amendment 1 a power grab, insult to women," October 16, 2014
  38. 38.0 38.1 Nashville Scene, "New Ad Opposes 'Tennessee Taliban Amendment,' Draws Criticism," May 27, 2014
  39. The Wire, "Don't Try to Win the Abortion Debate by Comparing the Other Side to the Taliban," May 27, 2014
  40. Tennessee Legislature, "Bill Information for SJR0127," accessed October 6, 2014
  41. Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus, "SJR 127 to restore the people’s voice on state’s abortion laws receives super majority needed in Senate to be placed on ballot," April 18, 2011