Expect the fight over abortion in Tennessee to heat up quickly. The two sides battling over November’s Amendment 1 are about to launch a big media push. They’ve been holding their fire until after the August primary.
Both sides will be canvassing, sending out mailers and launching advertisements. Taken together, their campaigns have already raised nearly $1 million, and if the campaigns hit their fundraising goals, many millions more will flood in.
But each campaign’s messaging on what exactly Amendment 1 will accomplish is vastly different.
Planned Parenthood’s Jeff Teague, who’s campaigning against it, said the amendment will open the door to letting lawmakers take away abortion access:
“Creating a situation in the state where, yes, abortion would be technically legal, as long as Row v. Wade is in place, but it would be virtually impossible for women to access the service.”
Another way to frame it is put forth by Lorene Steffes, whose pro-life group supports the measure:
“Well, Amendment 1 is really all about restoring our constitution, so we can pass some reasonable regulations, really more than pass, because obviously we can pass regulations, but we want to be able to enforce regulations of the abortion facilities here in our state.”
What Amendment 1 will really do, if it passes, is strip away language from the state’s constitution that makes having an abortion a woman’s fundamental right. Supporters contend this will make the constitution “neutral” on abortion, while critics maintain that this law tweak will give state lawmakers the latitude to pass abortion restrictions, as many other Southern states have done in recent months.
The Amendment, according to Teague, is essentially an attack on a 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court decision in which this claim was held up: “a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.”
A Vanderbilt poll from May found that majority of voters, 71 percent, are against Amendment 1. At the same time, though, the majority of Tennesseans oppose abortion.