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Planned Parenthood pushes TN for abortion


NASHVILLE (BP) — Out-of-state Planned Parenthood groups are pressing Tennesseans to reject limitations on abortion — more than $1.3 million in pressure in the nation’s most contentious abortion standoff on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Tennesseans are seeing a plethora of TV ads and direct mail pieces targeting a state constitutional amendment to enable the legislature to enact restrictions on abortion such as basic medical standards for abortion facilities and a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion.

Planned Parenthood groups are but part of a “Vote No on 1” campaign that outspent proponents of Amendment 1 by nearly a 3-1 margin in October, The Tennessean daily newspaper reported Nov. 1.

“Amendment 1 is of interest to Planned Parenthood because abortion is big business,” said Russell D. Moore, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, with offices in Nashville.

“They want an unregulated Wild West of abortion in Tennessee so they can shore up their bottom line,” Moore said in a Nov. 1 statement to Baptist Press.

Amendment 1 is an opportunity “to demonstrate that human dignity is not something that should be bought and sold,” Moore said.


Seattle’s Planned Parenthood affiliate has contributed $750,000 to defeat Amendment 1, according to The Tennessean.

Three Planned Parenthood chapters in California combined for a $500,000 contribution against the measure, while two Florida chapters contributed $101,000, the newspaper reported.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America is the nation’s top abortion and secular sex education provider, the organization states on its website, which lists 325,000 abortion procedures in 2012, the latest year for which statistics are available.

Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee also have given $50,000 to defeat Amendment 1, while the American Civil Liberties Union was a $100,000 contributor during October, The Tennessean reported.

The Vote No campaign spent $3.4 million in October in behalf of abortion, counting just over $2 million raised in October and earlier fundraising. The “Yes on 1” campaign, meanwhile, spent just over $1 million during the month, including a $150,000 donation by a pharmaceutical company CEO, John Gregory, and smaller donations by churches, individuals and pro-life organizations.

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 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.”

The amendment is a pro-life remedy to a Tennessee Supreme Court decision in 2000 that the state constitution implies a right to abortion.

Because Tennessee borders on eight other states, it has become “the abortion Mecca in the deep South,” as one commentator put it, for residents of other states where various abortion regulations are in force.

States surrounding Tennessee already have “common sense restrictions in place,” Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector state newspaper wrote in an Oct. 31 Internet email. “That is why we have become an ‘abortion destination.’ It is too easy to get an abortion in Tennessee and that needs to stop.”

In 2012, 23.6 percent of abortions in Tennessee were performed on women residing out of state, Wilkey had reported in an earlier article, citing the Tennessee Department of Health, Division of Policy, Planning, and Assessment, Office of Health Statistics, 2012.

In addition, Wilkey noted that The Tennessean had reported earlier in the year that Tennessee ranks third nationally in the percentage of out-of-state abortions.

“Tens of thousands of lives hang in the balance,” Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said in a letter coauthored with fellow Baptist advocate Gene Williams mailed to every pastor in the state in September.

Also in the balance: “the health, safety, and well-being of women and girls who can be better protected with the passage of Amendment 1,” Davis and Williams noted.

Because the issue is “a matter of policy,” the two men noted, compared to candidates running for office, “it is appropriate for you to encourage your congregation to vote yes on this amendment without fear of adverse scrutiny.”

Amendment 1, however, could face a second challenge stemming from state voting law, Wilkey, reporting in the Baptist and Reflector, has noted.

In order for Amendment 1 to pass, it will need 50 percent of the votes in the governor’s race cast plus one. For example, if 1 million people vote in the race for Tennessee governor on Nov. 4, Amendment 1 must receive 500,001 votes, according to cautionary information from Amendment 1 supporters.

Several examples, Wilkey noted, demonstrate the challenge:

Example 1

— Votes cast for governor: 1 million
— Votes cast on amendment: 900,000
— Votes FOR amendment: 480,000
— Votes AGAINST amendment: 420,000
Amendment FAILS because the Amendment did not garner minimum of 500,001 votes (half the votes cast for Governor, plus 1).

Example 2

— Votes cast for governor: 1 million
— Votes cast on amendment: 1.1 million
— Votes FOR amendment: 500,001
— Votes AGAINST amendment: 599,999
Amendment FAILS because it did not get a majority of the votes even though it did garner the required minimum number of votes of 500,001 (half the votes cast for governor, plus 1).

Example 3

— Votes cast for governor: 1 million
— Votes cast on amendment: 900,000
— Votes FOR amendment: 500,001
— Votes AGAINST amendment: 499,999
Amendment PASSES because it garnered a majority of the votes AND garnered the minimum required number of votes 500,001 (half the votes cast for governor, plus 1).

The challenge has not deterred pastors across Tennessee from advocating for life.

Clarksville pastor Larry Robertson, president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, observed that “nail salons in Tennessee are regulated and inspected, yet abortion clinics don’t have to be? How crazy and confused is that?”

Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, was among several dozen pastors who spoke out Oct. 29 in a news conference at one of the city’s Catholic churches. “The main ones that we’re representing today are the unborn,” Gaines said.

On Twitter, Gaines had urged, “Speak on behalf of unborn children who literally cannot speak for themselves. #true-social-justice.”