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Tenn. abortion measure upheld in appeals court

NASHVILLE (BP) — A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday (Jan. 9) to uphold the results of a 2014 statewide vote in Tennessee that provided for stricter abortion regulations in the state.

The vote will enable state legislators to enact restrictions on abortions that are already in place in neighboring states. A 48-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions was enacted by state legislators and signed into law by the governor in 2015.

A number of churches and religious organizations, including the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB), supported Amendment 1 through an effort called “Yes On 1.”

Randy C. Davis, executive director of the TBMB, applauded the ruling. “I am very pleased that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has chosen not to reverse the will of Tennesseans as expressed in the 2014 Constitutional Amendment vote. The opportunity to continue taking steps for the protection of the unborn in Tennessee continues.

“This is a major victory for life,” Davis said.

Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, echoed Davis’ sentiments. He called the ruling “a vindication of the state’s amendment process and victory for thousands of pro-life Tennesseans who sacrificed to see Amendment 1 passed.”

“We are grateful to the legislators who placed the amendment on the ballot, to voters who approved it, and to the Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Coordinator of Elections who all worked tirelessly to defend it,” he noted.

“The voices of Tennessee’s voters have been heard and, as a result, public policy decisions on the matter of abortion can be rightly debated and determined by the people’s representatives,” Harris said.

Because of Tennessee’s lack of restrictions prior to the vote on Amendment 1 in 2014, the state had become an “abortion destination,” ranking third in the nation in the number of out-of-state abortions.

Amendment 1, which added language to the state constitution that said, in part, “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to an abortion,” was approved by 53 percent of the vote in 2014.

Pro-abortion supporters challenged the vote, claiming how the votes were counted was unconstitutional, The Tennessean reported.

For Amendment 1 to pass it required a majority of the number of votes cast for governor, which it obtained. Pro-abortion supporters argued that voters had to cast ballots in both the governor’s race and on Amendment 1 to have their votes count, according to The Tennessean article.

Opponents of Amendment 1 argued that some voters abstained from voting for a governor while casting ballots on the amendment, which “diluted” the vote.

A federal judge in Nashville agreed with the pro-abortion activists though a judge in Williamson County reached the opposite conclusion.

According to The Tennessean, the Sixth Circuit decision “made clear the Williamson County ruling, which was not appealed, was the correct interpretation of vote counting methods.”