|Rep. Susan Lynn photo|
Today saw landmark decisions in the state legislature when two bills were passed overwhelmingly in the House, having previously passed in the same overwhelming manner in the Senate. They are now on their way to Governor Haslam who is expected to sign these bills.
These bills will implement informed consent, 48 hour waiting period after receiving this information, and requiring that abortion facilities performing 50 abortions per year be licensed and inspected by the Department of Health.
Tennessee used to have these protections before being hit with a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. They sued to remove three regulations around abortion that had been voted into place by bi partisan legislators. These were informed consent, 48 hour waiting period, and that later term abortions must be done in hospital settings. The decision was announced September 15, 2000 in their favor by the TN Supreme Court, and with it the justices found a broad right to an abortion in our state Constitution. Their decision prevented any regulation from being enforced that could not pass a strict scrutiny standard.
This decision emboldened an abortionist operating two facilities to sue when the Department of Health when they tried to inspect the centers and demand that he meet the standards of same day surgery centers. He prevailed in court by saying he was operating under a doctor’s office license and did not have to meet these regulations unless he performed a substantial number of abortions. The court did not define what constitutes a substantial number leaving it unanswered; so he was free to operate using this loophole. Others followed suit. As a result Tennessee became known as the abortion mecca of the southeast and ranked third state nationally for out of state women coming to get their abortions.
It took 14 years to get to this point for it to be on the ballot. Along the way, it was essential for the pro life issue to be front and center in elections changing the political landscape dramatically. This battle received national attention. On November 4, 2014 despite being outspent 3-1 , having all four major city newspapers endorse the Planned Parenthood position, the pro-life amendment known as Amendment One relied upon a strong grassroots effort in all 95 counties and focused on the power of the pulpit to win 53% to 47% in Tennessee.
The first legislative session began in January, 2015 and today's landmark passage of these three protections was a sweet victory for many.
“Tennessee Right to Life thanks the people of Tennessee who supported Amendment 1 and the many legislative sponsors and supporters of these bills to protect the health and safety of women and girls,” said Brian Harris, the organization’s president. “Children will now be given a better chance at life because their mothers and families had the extra time and opportunity to make fully informed decisions.”
Today’s losers? “Those who profit from unregulated abortion in Tennessee,” said Harris. Winners? “Women, girls and families are empowered by the requirement that adequate and accurate information is provided to assure careful decisions to protect health and life in our state."