State Senate Republicans waste little time in taking up abortion bill
By ERIK SCHELZIG
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Senate Republicans are trying to keep their promise to speed up the legislative session by taking up a controversial proposal to change the state’s constitutional stance on abortions on the first day of the session.
Sen. Diane Black, a Gallatin Republican and a main sponsor of the proposal, said Monday she hopes to have the measure up for a full Senate vote by as early as next week.
“I have been for changing the culture down here at the Legislature for a lot of years and we need to do our business, get it done and get out of here,” she said.
The proposed amendment would say that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.” The Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to evaluate the measure today — the session’s first day.
The Senate last adopted the resolution in 2006, but it has repeatedly failed in a House subcommittee.
Democrats say it’s no coincidence that the proposal is being pushed again in an election year.
“Republicans have generally tried to put some kind of wedge issue on the ballot during most elections,” said House Majority Leader Gary Odom, D-Nashville.
Odom also turned back arguments that House Democrats take advantage of their control of the committee system to kill off the proposal.
“We’ve got a committee system that’s worked for a long time and will continue working,” he said.
The resolution aims to nullify a 2000 ruling by the state Supreme Court that the Tennessee Constitution offered greater protection of abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution.
Black said the proposal would allow the state to restore laws that require a 48-hour waiting periods before abortions, detailed disclosure about the abortion process and that all but first-term abortions be performed in hospitals.
“This is about protecting women,” Black said.
Abortion rights advocates see the measure as a stepping stone to prohibiting all abortions in Tennessee if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark abortion decision in Roe v. Wade.
Constitutional amendments have to pass each chamber of the Legislature by a simple majority, and then have to pass again — by a two-thirds vote — in the next General Assembly.
If those hurdles are cleared, the proposed amendment would be put before the voters during the next gubernatorial election in 2010.
If both chambers don’t pass the resolution this year, there’s no chance it will be eligible for the ballot until at least 2014.
On the Net:
See SJR0127 at: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us
Published in The Messenger 1.8.08