Congratulations, Tennessee! While the rest of us were worrying over the GOP’s takeover of the Senate, you managed to sneak in a little coup d’ etat of your own. Sorry it took us so long to notice. But, yes indeed: Tennessee just passed an amendment granting itself permission to do things the Supreme Court already said were unconstitutional. Cause screw the U.S. Constitution — this is the SOUTH, by Gawd!
Amendment 1 passed by a margin of 54-46 in Tennessee. Which sounds like a lot of support…at least, until you realize that only 629,485 people voted in the entire state. Yes indeed; that’s less than 10 percent of the state’s population. The margin of victory for Amendment 1, then, came down to about 75,000 people, out of the state’s 16.5 million. That’s less than half the population of Chattanooga — and they say every vote doesn’t count.
But, back to the story. So, what did 1.2 percent of Tennessee decide for the other 98.8 percent? Here’s the wording:
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.
In other words, Tennessee’s heavily GOP government now has the right to do…well, whatever it wants with abortion clinics. Shut them down, turn them into Fried Mayonnaise stands, set them on fire. Whatever the government feels is in the “best interest of women’s health.”
Of course, Amendment 1 doesn’t actually do any of those things. Don’t be silly — that would be unconstitutional. It just gives the Tennessee government the power to do all those things whenever and wherever it wants to. Though we’d hazard a guess that that whenever is “yesterday,“ the wherever is “everywhere in Tennessee.“
Tennessee already has a “viability term limit” on abortions, meaning that abortions are already illegal after the embryo is considered viable. In other words: by the time you see it, it’s too late for an abortion. Other measures that officials have spoken about publicly include:
- A waiting period before a woman seeking an abortion can obtain one.
- A requirement that doctors give women specifically worded information about abortions and fetal development crafted by lawmakers.
- A ban on abortions past a certain stage of fetal development.
- A requirement that abortion clinics meet the stricter standards of ambulatory surgical centers where typically more complex medical procedures are performed.
- An end to exceptions to abortion restrictions for women who are victims of rape or incest, or in cases in which a woman’s health is at risk.
Jeff Teague, CEO of Planned Parenthood in the area said that Amendment 1 could make it:
“…virtually impossible for women to access safe, legal abortions in Tennessee.”
So, the lesson here is this, people of Memphis and Nashville who didn’t bother voting in 2014: half of Chattanooga did.
Watch this report from WBIR: