By Kayla Frye, junior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Reposted with full permissions from The Daily Beacon.
Many have heard about Amendment 1, the new proposed amendment to the Tennessee State Constitution that will appear on the ballot this election cycle. Distressingly, however, is that many, if not more, have also heard misleading or blatantly untrue things about its intent and possible consequences.
The wording of the amendment itself is tricky, causing many to misinterpret its meaning. The first sentence states that “Nothing in this constitution. . . . requires the funding to an abortion.” This is a straw man argument, as no such law exists in Tennessee. To the uninformed reader however, it implies that tax payer dollars are financing the elective procedure.
Further on it reads “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.” This means that our state legislature would retain the right to pass any legislation they want restricting access to abortion services and reproductive health clinics in Tennessee. While they cannot outright ban abortions due to Roe v. Wade, they would be able to pass harsh and medically unnecessary laws about when, where and how the service is performed so that it is virtually inaccessible. Even more frightening is the final sentence, which gives politicians the right to pass laws without protections in place for cases where abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother, or when a woman or girl is the victim of rape or incest.
So for example, under Amendment 1, the constitution would protect legislation lowering the limit for when someone can seek an abortion without exceptions for women who discover they have a life threatening illness past that specified point in their pregnancy. Victims of rape or incest would likewise be forced to follow those limits, regardless of when they discovered they were pregnant or were able to seek help.
Passage of the amendment would reverse a 2000 state decision granting Tennesseans some of the broadest medical privacy rights in the nation. We in Tennessee have been largely protected from the onslaught of legislation designed to close clinics, inhibit providers, and interfere with patient access to abortion services like that seen in other states. This type of legislation includes innocuous sounding, but often intentionally prohibitive, laws. These often consist of policies requiring clinics to be remodeled needlessly into miniature hospitals at great expense, two to three-day waiting periods which burden the patient, or required reading of debunked myths about the service to patients. Make no mistake, these changes and many more would be up for grabs if Amendment 1 passes, with no way for the people to step in and protect themselves from their negative consequences.
Frequently, supporters of Amendment 1 have outright lied to people about the amendment’s purpose. Claims that abortion is unregulated and unsafe in Tennessee are common, as are claims that the reproductive health clinics which provide them are unmonitored by the health department. All of these are blatant lies. Abortion is the most regulated out-patient procedure in the world, and several studies, including those done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, maintain that it has a 99 percent safety rate. To put that in perspective “the mortality rate associated with a colonoscopy is more than 40 times greater than that of abortion,” said Jeanne Conry, the former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Furthermore, reproductive health clinics which provide abortion services are routinely monitored by the Tennessee Department of Health and are subject to surprise visits to ensure on-going safety and sanitation. Another claim often made is manipulative at best—that Tennessee is an abortion destination. Due to the location of our major cities, and the unchecked attack on clinic access in our border states, many women are forced to cross state lines in search of a safe, legal service.
Claims that Tennessee lacks informed consent laws are similarly unfounded. All patients are given counseling on their decision, informed of the steps and risks involved, and encouraged to report it if they are being coerced into their decision.
Amendment 1 grants politicians the unlimited authority to restrict abortion access in Tennessee without exceptions for the life of the mother, or victims of rape or incest. Whether you are pro-life, pro-choice, democrat, republican or anywhere in between, we can all agree that this amendment goes too far. The decision of whether or not to seek any medical procedure, including abortion, should be left up to the individual with the consultation their family, their faith and their doctor.
Amendment 1 greatly jeopardizes Tennesseans’ ability to make those decisions safely. When you go to vote in this election cycle, each and every one of you has a choice: you can vote yes, and put our safety and right to privacy in the hands of politicians, or you can vote no and keep politicians out of our private medical decisions.