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

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 insert constitutional language 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 mortality.[1]

The amendment was sponsored in the Tennessee General Assembly by US Representative Diane Black, who was a state senator at the time of introduction, and State Senator 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 reads 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

2014 measures
Flag of Tennessee.png
November 4
Amendment 1
Amendment 2
Amendment 3
Amendment 4
Local measures

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 reads 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]


In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist that the Tennessee Constitution contained a stronger right to privacy and abortion than even the U.S. Constitution.[6] SJR 127, according to proponents, will modify the state constitution thus allowing the legislature to enact whatever regulations and restrictions permitted by the United States Supreme Court.[7]


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 measure was introduced into the legislature by US Rep. Diane Black, who was a state senator at the time, in 2009 and by Sen. Mae Beavers (R-17) in 2013.[10][1]

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R) launched a campaign organization supporting the measure called "Vote Yes Tennessee."[11]




  • Tennessee Right to Life[17]


  • Alveda King[18]
  • Jim Bob Duggar


  • 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.”[19]

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.[20]

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, [21]

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.[22] The event was directed by Tim Hooper.[21]



Vote No On One Tennessee, Inc. is the organization leading the campaign against the amendment.[23]

Lisa Carter, a political strategist, was hired by the Tennessee Democratic Party to lead the campaign against Amendment 1.[24]





  • 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.”[26]
  • 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.”[29]

Campaign contributions

As of June 30, 2014, Vote No on One Tennessee, Inc. has received $359,305 in contributions.[20]

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


See also: Polls, 2014 ballot measures
Tennessee Amendment 1 (2014)
Poll Favor OpposeUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Vanderbilt University
4/28/2013 - 5/18/2013
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."[28]

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."[28] 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."[30]

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."[28] 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."[31]

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."[28] 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."[30]

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. SJR 127 was approved by the Tennessee Senate for a second time on April 18, 2011. The amendment was approved by the Tennessee House of Representatives for a second time on March 20, 2011.[32]

Senate vote

April 18, 2011 Senate vote

Tennessee SJR 127 Senate Vote
Approveda Yes 24 75.00%

House vote

May 20, 2011 House vote

Tennessee SJR 127 House Vote
Approveda Yes 76 80.95%

See also

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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 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. Tennessee Supreme Court, “Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee v. Don Sundquist, Governor of the State of Tennessee”, accessed 22, 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. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named fistmotion
  11. Vote Yes Tennessee, "Homepage," accessed June 20, 2014
  12. Wall Street Journal, "Abortion Fight Hits Tennessee," November 24, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 USA Today, "Campaigns begin push ahead of Tenn. abortion vote," November 4, 2013
  14. Knoxville News Sentinel, "Political notebook: Alexander backs proposed amendments on Tennessee ballot," July 21, 2014
  15. Nashville Public Radio, "Anti-Abortion Amendment to Go on Ballot in 2014," May 20, 2011
  16. WATE, "Activists launch campaigns for and against Tenn. abortion amendment," November 4, 2013
  17. Tennessee Right to Live, "Homepage," accessed June 20, 2014
  18. Life News, "Duggar Family Rallies for Pro-Life Amendment on Abortion in Tennessee," October 9, 2014
  19. WBIR, "Abortion battle looms in East Tennessee," January 22, 2014
  20. 20.0 20.1 Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, "Registered Referendum Committee," accessed July 21, 2014
  21. 21.0 21.1 Run for 1 Life, "The Cause," accessed June 27, 2014
  22. Run for 1 Life, "Sponsors of the 5k Walk / Run June 28," accessed June 27, 2014
  23. Vote No On One Tennessee, Inc., "Homepage," accessed June 20, 2014
  24. The Tennessean, "TN Democrats hire strategist for abortion amendment," June 9, 2014
  25. Chattanooga Times Free Press, "New group will fight Tennessee abortion amendment in 2014," accessed March 11, 2013
  26. 26.0 26.1 Macon County Times, "‘Yes On 1’ campaign in full swing," January 29, 2014
  27. American Civil Liberties Union, "I Stand for Reproductive Freedom in Tennessee," accessed June 20, 2014
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 The Tennessean, "Ad likening Tennessee legislature to Taliban draws fire," May 27, 2014
  29. The Tennessean, "Abortion services must not vanish," January 21, 2014
  30. 30.0 30.1 Nashville Scene, "New Ad Opposes 'Tennessee Taliban Amendment,' Draws Criticism," May 27, 2014
  31. The Wire, "Don't Try to Win the Abortion Debate by Comparing the Other Side to the Taliban," May 27, 2014
  32. 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