Tennessee is a pro life state, so when the ACLU and Planned Parenthood teamed up to sue the state in 2000 to throw out pro life protections voted into place by a bi partisan legislature, few thought they had any chance. However, four state Supreme Court justices agreed with them. The abortion advocates touted this victory to other states as a way to do an end run around the will of the people.
This disastrous ruling meant that the laws voted into place by our bi partisan legislature could not be enforced. Gone was informed consent, waiting periods and requiring late term abortions must be done in hospital settings. This ruling meant any future pro life law in TN must pass the "strict scrutiny" standard since these justices found a "right to abortion" in our state constitution. Really??
This decision emboldened an abortionist operating two facilities to sue when the Department of Health tried to inspect the centers and demand that he meet the standards of other 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. Could things get any worse?
The dissenting judge from the 2000 decision advised the only remedy for the people was to enact an amendment to the State Constitution, stating that it was silent on the issue of abortion – allowing the people to once again speak through their elected legislators to enact regulations around abortions. This was recapped in my article featured in Bound4Life.
"Amending the State Constitution is an arduous process. It must pass the General Assembly by a simple majority, followed by a super majority, appear on the ballot in a year that a Governor is elected and pass by at least 50 percent plus one (of the number of votes cast for Governor).
It took 14 years of pro-life advocacy for this measure, Amendment 1, to be on the 2014 ballot. Along the way, it was essential for the pro-life issue to be front and center in elections – changing the political landscape dramatically. The battle to pass this state measure received national attention.
The grassroots coalition “Yes on 1” was outspent 3 to 1, and all four major city newspapers endorsed the Planned Parenthood position. Funded by out-of-state pro-abortion interests, the “No on 1” campaign even produced what was named “the most dishonest TV ad of the 2014 election season.”
November 4, 2014 was the moment of truth. The pro-life Amendment 1 relied upon a strong grassroots effort in all 95 counties to win 53% to 47% in Tennessee. "
End of the story and a victory for life? Not so fast says the abortion industry. The Tennessean recaps the following:
"Vanderbilt law professor Tracey George, who also serves as board chair of Planned Parenthood of Middle & East Tennessee and was a coordinator of the Vote No on 1 campaign, filed suit along with seven other voters on Nov. 7, asserting that the state's vote tabulation methods were unconstitutional."
True to form, they judge shopped and filed it before U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp who has ruled against the state's request to dismiss the lawsuit. Again from the Tennessean...
"Since its passage, lawmakers have enacted two new abortion laws that take effect this week. One requires all abortion clinics that perform 50 or more abortions each year to be regulated as ambulatory surgical care centers. A second requires women seeking an abortion to receive in-person counseling by a physician and then wait 48 hours before undergoing the procedure.A separate lawsuit challenging those new rules was filed by three Tennessee abortion clinics and one obstetrician-gynecologist challenging those laws."
Alas, it is the same abortionist who refused the Dept. of Health to inspect his facility and refused to bring his facilities up to standards as other same day surgery centers is the one of the plaintiffs.
The Judge put on a temporary restraining order in June at the request of the doctor who argued that he needed more time to bring his centers up to standards. In August the same judge said he would lift the restraining order but warned that he may slap it back on later in the week. The Tennessean gives this account.
"Attorneys for the clinic operators said that physicians employed by the clinics were concerned about possible prosecution or the loss of their physician licenses should local district attorneys seek to file criminal charges on the basis they were not complying with the new state law.The attorney representing the state said that the respective district attorneys in the counties where these two abortion centers are not licensed as ambulatory surgery treatment centers had no plans to prosecute them. However, that was not good enough for Judge Sharp. He sided with the attorneys for the abortion doctors who said that they feared a "rogue" DA might prosecute.
The physicians are "not comfortable practicing," said attorney Scott Tift with the law firm Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison. Stephanie Toti, senior counsel for the New York City-based Center for Reproductive Rights, is also representing the clinics. fear"The concern on the part of these doctors is about the potential to lose their licenses or be charged with a crime," Tift said
On August 13th, the Judge placed an injunction on the District Attorneys in Davidson and Sullivan counties where the abortion facilities reside from enforcing the law since they would not sign a pledge not to prosecute. This is the same judge who is hearing the case to throw out the results of the November, 2014 election on Amendment One. This is part of a larger strategy to ask the Judge to set aside laws passed on informed consent, waiting periods, requiring abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges along with Amendment One.