As you may or may not be aware, the State Supreme Court altered the state abortion law this past summer by ruling that the two day wait requirement and the counseling requirement that had been passed by the General Assembly was unconstitutional. There was also a provision in the law that required all second trimester abortions to be performed in a hospital instead of a clinic which was also struck down by the Supreme Court this past summer. Right to life groups are decrying the decision of the Supreme Court as providing a broader “right to abortion” than we have under the federal decision of Roe v. Wade. As Justice Mickey Barker from Chattanooga wrote in his lone dissenting opinion on the court, “This court has consciously decided to ignore two centuries of settled constitutional interpretation concerning the proper scope of our constitution…” He continued, “Rather than leaving policy decision regarding reasonable abortion regulation to the General Assembly, this court has converted itself into a roving constitutional convention…”
Senator David Fowler (R-Signal Mountain) along with 15 other Senate co-sponsors, filed a resolution providing for a constitutional amendment process to simply state that the Tennessee Constitution shall in no way offer a higher right to an abortion than that is protected under the United States Constitution as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court, from time to time. Further, a prohibition against the State Constitution being interpreted against requiring any state funds to be appropriated by the state to fund or pay for any abortion is included in the language.
The proponents of this resolution say that whether or not you are for or against abortion, the proper place to make decisions regarding these matters are within the legislative branch of government and your General Assembly, not the Supreme Court or the judicial branch. The pro-choice groups are saying that the Supreme Court’s four to one decision sends the message that the legislators have no right to interfere with a woman’s constitutional right to seek an abortion. The four State Supreme Court Justices wrote in their majority opinion, “we specifically hold that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.”
The process to amend the State Constitution requires the General Assembly to pass the resolution by a majority vote during the 102nd General Assembly and by a two-thirds vote in the next General Assembly for this question to be placed on the ballot in the Governor’s Election in 2006.
While I am seeking your input, I must inform you that I am a proud co-prime sponsor of this measure and I have been working to make sure that state funds are not used for abortions for several years now. I am interested in hearing your opinions on whether or not you believe the judicial branch of government is the proper place to reform and reshape our State Constitution or whether or not you believe this power rests with the people through the referendum process and through their elected officials in the General Assembly.
Sen. Jeff Miller
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