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Tennessee Attorney General Leads Efforts to Defend “Amendment 1” and Voters

by | Apr 6, 2016

Editor’s note. This update comes courtesy of Tennessee Right to Life, NRLC’s state affiliate.

Amendemnt1By way of background, in 2014, voters added “Amendment 1” to the state Constitution.

The key wording is in the beginning: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.” It was needed because in 2000 the Tennessee Supreme Court found, “A woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.”

The pro-abortion challenge is as arcane as it is preposterous.

Leaders of Tennessee Right to Life were among those present Tuesday morning in federal district court to hear arguments in the pro-abortion lawsuit brought against Amendment 1.

The suit was filed on November 7, 2014, by Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee Board Chair, Tracey George, three days after the measure was approved by the public. Before proceedings began, George was invited by pro-abortion counsel William Harbison to join him at the counsel table. Also in the courtroom was Mark Goins, state Coordinator of Elections, who is named as a defendant by the lawsuit.

By previous agreement, each side was given an hour to present their case. The state was ably represented by Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter who presented a spirited defense of the state’s electoral process, relevant precedents, and a clear historical basis for ratifying the pro-life Amendment.

“The (pro-abortion) plaintiff’s case is based on speculation and conjecture,” said Kleinfelter. “There is no injury nor are rights violated” in the state’s ratification of Amendment 1.

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood have asked Federal Judge Kevin Sharp to void the election. They said that to do otherwise would invite similar “abhorrent” campaigns in the future. Sharp took the case under advisement without offering a timeline for a decision.

On Friday, both parties will be in court again. This time, however, the venue will be state court (rather than federal) where the Attorney General’s office will seek an immediate judgment clarifying that the state’s actions in counting the votes, ratifying and certifying the election results on Amendment 1 were correct and constitutional. Circuit Court Judge Michael Binkley will hear arguments in this second lawsuit.

“Tennessee Right to Life is confident that Amendment 1 will ultimately be upheld,” said Brian Harris, the group’s president. “But pro-life Tennesseans will have to remain vigilant, focused and committed in the exact way that brought victory at the Legislature and ballot box.

Categories: Legislation