The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on Tuesday upholding the choice of Tennessee voters on Amendment 1 in 2014. Amendment 1, which was placed on the statewide ballot that year by the Tennessee General Assembly as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, passed with 53 percent of the vote, and amended the Tennessee Constitution to read, in part:
Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion.
“The Tennessee Legislative Powers Regarding Abortion, Amendment 1 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in the state of Tennessee as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved,” Ballotpedia reported:
The measure added 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.
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. . .
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. During the second session, SJR 127 was approved by the Tennessee Senate on April 18, 2011. The amendment was then approved by the Tennessee House of Representatives on May 20, 2011.
According to a statement by Beavers, now a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, the lawsuit — filed by eight Tennessee voters — claimed the method of counting the votes was not consistent with the provisions of the State Constitution that require a proposed Constitutional Amendment to secure the votes of “a majority of all the citizens of the state voting for Governor” voting in favor of the amendment.
The decision before the court was whether that vote-counting provision refers to a majority of the number of votes cast for governor, rather than requiring a determination of the precise votes cast by individuals who voted in the governor’s race producing a majority from those who also cast votes on the amendment itself.
Pro-life politicians and organizations hailed the ruling.
In response to the 6th Circuit ruling upholding the passage of the Amendment, Beavers said:
As the Senate sponsor of Amendment 1, I am thrilled that the 6th Circuit has applied a common sense reading of the Tennessee Constitution to affirm that the vote counting procedure was both appropriate and legal. While Amendment 1 doesn’t change current law regarding abortion in Tennessee, it does insure that if and when Roe v. Wade is overturned and states are allowed to set their own laws regarding unborn life, Tennessee will already have the Constitutional basis in place for us to act to protect the lives of the unborn children in our state. A lot of elected officials and candidates claim to be pro-Life, I am proud to have been among those who have actually stood up to take the actions necessary to implement pro-Life policies and protections for Tennesseans.
Representative Diane Black also released a statement praising the court’s decision on what her campaign described as “the most important pro-life provision in Tennessee history”:
I’m thrilled that the court sided with the unborn in our state and upheld Amendment 1. As a lifelong advocate for life, I was proud to sponsor Amendment 1 in Nashville and as a private citizen, I fought hard to get it passed by the voters in 2014 so that our Tennessee constitution reflects our state’s pro-life values. The unborn do not have powerful lobbyists or special interests, but as long as I have breath in my body, I will fight for them. Today is a great victory for all Tennesseans who care about life.
Nicknamed the “Iron Lady of Tennessee,” Mae Beavers resigned her seat in the State Senate to focus on her run for governor. She is one of five Republicans vying for the nomination, which includes Representative Diane Black (R-TN-06), State Speaker of the House Rep. Beth Harwell, businessmen Bill Lee and Randy Boyd, and conservative activist and realtor Kay White.
A recent Tennessee Star/Triton Poll shows Beavers trailing in the state-wide gubernatorial contest behind front-runner Black and runner-up Boyd.
The Family Action Council said in a statement the ruling is possibly the first of its kind: “To our knowledge, it is the first-ever vote in the United States to overturn a ‘constitutional right’ to abortion at the state level. This victory began 17 years ago this month when the first resolution that would become this constitutional amendment was filed. It took 10 years to get it through the legislative process.”
Tennessee Right to Life called the ruling “a resounding victory.”
“It was made necessary by a radical pro-abortion decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2000 which wrongly declared a so-called ‘fundamental right to abortion’ in the Tennessee Constitution thereby making enforcement of common-sense protections impossible in Tennessee,” Tennessee Right to Life said on its website.
“Today’s ruling is vindication of the state’s amendment process and victory for the thousands of pro-life Tennesseans who sacrificed to see Amendment 1 passed,” said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life.
Yes on 1, a grassroots drive that rallied support of the amendment in 2014, said the vote was critical “because each of Tennessee’s 8 border states enforced active policies requiring informed consent, waiting periods and regulation of abortion facilities by state Department of Health, Tennessee quickly became a destination for women, girls, spouses, partners and parents seeking unregulated abortions.”
Passage of the amendment makes the Tennessee Constitution “neutral” on abortion and leaves decisions on regulations up to Tennesseans and their representatives, Yes on 1 says.
Read the 6th Circuit Court’s decision here: