NASHVILLE (BP) — Evangelical Christians and others are urging voters to approve constitutional amendments Nov. 4 in Tennessee and North Dakota aimed at protecting the lives of expectant mothers and their unborn children.
In Tennessee, Amendment 1 would establish constitutional grounds for informed consent laws, mandatory waiting periods for abortions and requirements that second and third trimester abortions be performed in hospitals. The measure would effectively overturn a 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court decision that found the state constitution preserves access to abortion services and limits the legislature’s ability to regulate them, the Tennessean in Nashville reported.
In North Dakota, Measure 1 would declare the inalienable right to life at every stage of human development, preventing frequent attempts to declare that the state’s constitution guarantees the right to an abortion, and protecting pro-life measures already enacted by the North Dakota Legislature.
In neither state would the measures overturn Roe v. Wade, which declares a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
“Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion,” Tennessee’s Amendment 1 states. “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.”
Already approved by the Tennessee legislature, Amendment 1 must not only be approved by a majority of voters, but must also receive more than half as many votes as are cast in the governor’s race, as Tennessee law stipulates.
Going into the election, polls indicate a slight majority of voters approve the measure. A Tennessee Right to Life poll found 53 percent of likely voters support for the amendment; while a Middle Tennessee State University poll indicates 39 percent approve the measure, compared to 32 percent who disapprove. Both polls have a 4 percent margin of error, and many voters remain undecided.
Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, urged in an Oct. 31 blogpost that voters learn the facts of the measure to avoid being swayed by misinformation.
“Don’t listen to the misinformation and, in some cases, outright lies by those opposing the amendment. Amendment 1 does not take away a woman’s right to choose and it has nothing to do with rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is at risk,” Wilkey wrote. “What Amendment 1 does do is offer a means to provide for informed consent, a waiting period, and inspection of abortion facilities. States surrounding Tennessee already have these common sense restrictions in place. That is why we have become an ‘abortion destination.’ It is too easy to get an abortion in Tennessee and that needs to stop.”
Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said Tennessee “is in danger of becoming the Mecca for abortion in the deep South, or even in the Mid-South” because its legal protections of abortion exceed those in neighboring states.
“Some of the abortion clinics in Tennessee are glad to be destinations for those coming for abortions from other states,” Mohler said in his daily podcast Oct. 1. “One abortion clinic in Nashville even offers discount coupons for those coming from out of state, a rather perverse demonstration of the business behind abortion. At present, the state of Tennessee has seven abortion clinics — that’s down from 16 in 2000, but still more than any of its neighboring states with the singular exception of North Carolina.
“We’re looking here at the fact that once again geography matters, and when it comes to abortion, geography can matter profoundly. But the citizens of Tennessee have an opportunity to make their geography matter differently than it does now…,” Mohler said.
Protestant and Catholic churches are among the amendment’s strongest supporters, with 10 Tennessee denominations, including the Tennessee Baptist Convention, passing resolutions or making official statements in support of the measure.
“The inalienable right to life of every human being at every stage of development must be recognized and protected,” reads the North Dakota measure, also known as the Human Life Amendment.
The measure would protect laws already on the books that regulate abortions, ensuring women are given full disclosure of information prior to an abortion, allowing only licensed physicians with hospital admitting privileges to perform abortions, making sure parents are notified if their underage daughter seeks an abortion, and prohibiting partial birth abortions.
The laws are threatened by a state judge’s ruling that North Dakota’s constitution contains an implicit right to abortion, ND Choose Life said, although that ruling is being reviewed by the state Supreme Court.
Measure 1 is supported by more than 300 North Dakota churches and pastors, according to the ND Choose Life website, and would have no impact on end-of-life care, IVF procedures or care for women suffering a pregnancy emergency, as opponents of the amendment have erroneously claimed.