Local lawmakers hail ruling on abortion amendment


Posted 1/14/18

Bradley County’s representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly are lauding a federal appeals court ruling that Tennessee won’t have to recount votes on a constitutional amendment passed in 2014 that allows tougher abortion restrictions.

This item is available in full to subscribers

Local lawmakers hail ruling on abortion amendment


Bradley County’s representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly are lauding a federal appeals court ruling that Tennessee won’t have to recount votes on a constitutional amendment passed in 2014 that allows tougher abortion restrictions.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion Tuesday says the state’s vote counting method on Amendment 1 was reasonable and true to the meaning of the Tennessee Constitution. It also says the count didn’t infringe on the voting rights of the plaintiffs, eight abortion rights advocates who sued the state.

The order overturns an April 2016 district court that called Tennessee’s vote-counting on Amendment 1 unconstitutional and fundamentally unfair and ordered a recount, which was put on hold pending the appeal.

State Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), who represents the 9th Senatorial District, said “this decision is a clear victory for the rights of the people of Tennessee.”

 “Amendment 1 restored the right of the people to decide what Tennessee law should be regarding abortions within the bounds of federal court decisions and I am very pleased that it has been upheld by the 6th Circuit,” Bell said.

State Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland), who represents the 24th Legislative District, called the court ruling a victory for Tennesseans.

“The recent Federal Court Ruling to uphold the 2014 Votes Cast for Amendment One in Tennessee, upholds by faith in the rule of law," Brooks said. "This is a victory for life in Tennessee, not just right to life, but life itself.”

 He added, “There is a lot of talk recently about those disenfranchised in our country. This lawsuit and the request to the Federal Court was to nullify the 2014 vote ... basically, to throw away the 53 percent of Tennesseans who voted 'Yes On One' in 2014.”

Brooks also pointed out, "Talk about being disenfranchised, having your vote and your voice invalidated by a court would be the ultimate disenfranchisement. Thankfully, the voters and the voices of Tennessee were heard and have now been validated in court.”

 State Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown), who represents the 22nd Legislative District, posted the following on his Facebook page, DanForTennessee: “GREAT NEWS! It was just announced on the House floor that the Federal Court in Cincinnati has ruled AGAINST Planned Parenthood in their attempt to overturn Tennessee Amendment One, voted on and approved by the people of Tennessee. #SanctityOfLife”

Howell also posted an announcement from the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT) on his Facebook page, commenting that is “Some very good news.”

FACT commented Tuesday on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision. In its announcement regarding the ruling, FACT – listed as “Advocates for Family, Life, and Religious Liberty” – noted “To our knowledge, it is the first-ever vote in the United States to overturn a ‘constitutional right’ to abortion at the state level.”

FACT offered special thanks  “to the legislators who voted to put it on the ballot and to our friends at Tennessee Right to Life and those who served on the Amendment 1 campaign committee. And a special thanks to the Author of Life for His faithfulness in defending and vindicating the value of that which He created – human life.” 

The full text of Amendment 1 states: 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 or 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.

Vanderbilt University Law School professor Tracey George, one of plaintiffs, had said there is a good chance the amendment would fail if the votes were recounted as ordered.

The case had remained in limbo for years, offering lawmakers no certainty of whether new or proposed restrictions would ultimately later be wiped from the books.

“Although the subject of abortion rights will continue to be controversial in Tennessee and across our nation, it is time for uncertainty surrounding the people’s 2014 approval and ratification of Amendment 1 to be put to rest,” the opinion states.

The Republican-led state House of Representatives gave a standing ovation Tuesday when Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) announced the decision, and Tennessee Right to Life applauded the ruling.

The ruling gave state election officials validation that they have been counting amendment votes correctly.

“This opinion confirms what we have known all along,” Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said in a statement. “Tennesseans should take pride in knowing their votes are counted in a fair, impartial and trustworthy manner.”

After the amendment’s adoption, lawmakers passed a 2015 restriction that made abortion clinics meet hospital-level surgical standards, only to see that law permanently halted in spring of 2017 in a federal lawsuit. In the same lawsuit, the state is still defending a 2015 restriction that requires counseling and a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.

And in spring 2017, Gov. Bill Haslam signed a law that bans abortions after 20 weeks on fetuses determined to be viable.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment


Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE

Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE

We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.

If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.

Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE