By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — The state of Tennessee has become a destination for women intent on having an abortion.
According to information provided by “Yes on 1,” Tennessee is the third leading state in the nation in providing abortions to women who live outside the state. In addition, one out of every four abortions in Tennessee are on out-of-state women.
Yes on 1 is a non-profit organization established to educate Tennessee voters about an upcoming amendment on the Tennessee ballot on Nov. 4, said Myra Simons, president of Yes on 1.
The effort is called Yes on 1 because there will be four constitutional amendments on the state ballot in November and the one dealing with abortion is the first one listed.
In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled 4-1 on a decision (Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee v. Sundquest) which gives a broader right to abortion in the Tennessee State Constitution than was even found in the U.S. Constitution, Simons said.
“If Roe v. Wade fell tomorrow, abortion would still be legal in Tennessee due to this ruling in 2000,” Simons said.
As it stands now in Tennessee, there is no informed consent, no waiting periods, and no inspection of abortion facilities, Simons said.
Tennessee is currently one of 16 states with a so-called right to abortion interpreted within the state’s constitution.
Simons noted that the eight states which surround Tennessee all have restrictions on abortion which causes women in those states who desire an abortion to come to Tennessee.
The only way to overturn the 2000 Supreme Court decision is through a Tennessee Constitutional Amendment, Simons noted.
She said efforts have been made ever since the initial ruling to get an amendment on the ballot, but efforts failed until 2008 when the Tennessee House of Representatives reached a pro-life majority.
The Tennessee House and Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 127 in 2009 and 2011 which placed the following Amendment 1 on the 2014 ballot:
“Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. 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.”
Simons said that voting yes on Amendment 1 “will enable us to enforce legislation restricting abortion and putting in place protective laws for women seeking abortions.”
Despite what opponents of Yes on 1 are saying, the amendment does not make abortions illegal in Tennessee, Simons stressed.
“We can’t make abortions illegal because of Roe v. Wade,” she said. “But we can restrict them.”
Simons and her organization have been seeking the support of Tennessee Baptists in this effort. She recently spoke at the Missions Get-Together in Gatlinburg which was sponsored by Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union.
Tennessee Baptists have already spoken in favor of “Yes on 1.”
At the Summit in Chattanooga last year, Tennessee Baptists overwhelmingly adopted a resolution in support of the passage of Amendment 1 to the Constitution.
The resolution noted that “whereas, the Tennessee Supreme Court’s ruling in 2000 found a right to abortion is implicit in the State Constitution; and whereas, Senate Joint Resolution 127 proposes an amendment to the Constitution of Tennessee to confirm that ‘nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion;’ and whereas Senate Joint Resolution 127 further retains the right of the people of Tennessee, through their elected representatives in the General Assembly to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion and the protection of life …, now, therefore be it resolved that the messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention … urge all Tennessee Baptists to work vigorously toward the passage of pro-life Amendment 1 in November 2014 as one step toward the protection of life.”
In a column written for the Baptist and Reflector on Jan. 22, TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis wrote: “People have fought for more than a decade to get this amendment before the citizens of Tennessee.
“It will be a massive, hard fought, and very extensive battle if we are to see SJR 127 win at the ballot box.
“The national pro-abortion crowd is expected to spend millions of dollars in an attempt to defeat this measure. We must plan, pray, and prepare now for a vote that, if passed, could be a major step toward saving babies.”
In order for Amendment 1 to pass, it will need 50 percent of the votes in the governor’s race cast plus one. For example if one million people vote for a candidate for governor in the November election, Amendment 1 must receive 500,001 votes, Simons said.
Simons noted that “it is expected that Planned Parenthood and the ACLU will spend millions upon millions of dollars to defeat this amendment because they know the national implications. Win in Tennessee. Take it across the country.
“However, the same can be true of us,” Simons said. “We win and the other 15 states will be empowered to follow suit. And, other states will have this precedent to fight Planned Parenthood and the ACLU,” she added.
Simons said plans are being made to purchase advertising airtime this summer to make people aware of the Yes on 1 effort. Her organization is in the process of raising funds. In addition, they are asking for prayer and volunteer support from Christians across the state, including Tennessee Baptists.
For more information on Yes on 1, visit www.voteYEStn.org or call 1-877-246-6735.