You’ve probably noticed those pink Yes on 1 and blue No on 1 signs on the side of the road by now. Still wondering what they mean?

Here’s a brief rundown of this hotly debated amendment to the Tennessee constitution, which will be on the ballot in this November 4 election (early voting starts today). We originally gathered this information for a piece in Wilson Living Magazine, but the timing of publication was so close to the end of voting that we decided against the print version. Here it is for you, at a more convenient time!

If you already know the basics, skip this and scroll down to hear what the No on 1 and Yes on 1 camps have to say.

  • 1973: With Roe v. Wade, abortion was made legal throughout the U.S.
  • 1973-2000: Tennessee passed multiple guidelines for the abortion industry. These included provisions for informed consent, a two day waiting period between first office visits and the performance of abortions, and second trimester abortions being performed at a hospital.
  • 2000: In Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist, the TN Supreme Court struck down most of these abortion regulations, saying that the constitution contained a fundamental right to privacy, and that all abortion procedures fall under this umbrella. Because of that, they said, Tennessee could only pass very narrow restrictions on abortions.
  • 2000: One member of the Supreme Court, William Barker, wrote a long dissent to the ruling, which he had voted against. He told NPR recently that “the majority had invented a law that wasn’t there.” In the document, he said that the only way to reverse the ruling would be to amend the wording of the constitution to make it explicit that the stated fundamental right to privacy does not refer to abortion practices.
  • 2000-2014: Tennessee has the most relaxed abortion regulations in this region of the US. 1 in 4 abortions performed here are on women from other states.
  • 2011: The proposed Amendment 1 passes in TN Legislature, 11 years after a version of it is first drafted by a TN Senator. It has to wait for the next governor election to be passed or rejected by the people of Tennessee.
  • Wording is added to the amendment that explicitly addresses cases of rape and incest, ostensibly to ensure that the constitution will revert to complete neutrality. The amendment does not make abortion illegal in these or any other cases—and cannot, because of Roe v. Wade. However, it does make it possible for elected representatives to pass legislation regarding abortion.
  • 2014: The amendment is on the ballot for the November 4 election.

Here is the full wording of Amendment 1:

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.

Note: The amendment is one of four that will be on the ballot. In order to pass, it will require a majority of those voting on the amendment, as well as a majority of all the total votes cast in the governor’s race (for example, if 2,000,000 people vote for any candidate in governor election, at least 1,000,0001 ‘yes’ votes would be needed to pass an amendment).

Op-ed pieces provided by opposing campaigns

Vote No on Amendment 1

-Provided by the ‘No on 1’ Campaign

On Election Day, Tennesseans will vote on Amendment 1, a ballot initiative that would grant state legislators the ability to pass unlimited restrictions on abortion. Passage of this amendment would open the door to burdensome, medically unnecessary barriers to access. Amendment 1 is a dangerous proposition that is purposely confusing to trick voters and disguise the true intent.

At its core, Amendment 1 is about privacy. It would take away our right to make medical decisions free from government interference. When we make medical decisions, we consult our doctors, our family, and our faith. Not our government. No government has the right to make your healthcare decisions for you. Keep government out of the exam room.

Amendment 1 would not just impact access to abortion. It would open the floodgates to government interference in our other parts of our private lives—like marriage and child rearing. Amendment 1 is an assault on Tennessee families’ privacy rights with far reaching consequences on thousands of laws. If we give government an inch, they’ll take everything. Amendment 1 just goes too far.

Politicians in support of Amendment 1 argue that it gives them power to regulate abortions and keep women safe. But the language currently in the constitution does nothing to stop medically necessary regulation. While these politicians have claimed they were powerless to pass abortion laws, they actually passed several over the past decade—including one requiring doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Amendment 1 does not come down to being pro-life or pro-choice. It comes down to protecting our rights. Even if you do not agree with abortion, we can all agree that government interference in our private medical decisions is wrong. Amendment 1 is government overreach at its worst. You do not have to be pro-choice to agree that Amendment 1 goes too far.

This is why people all over Tennessee oppose Amendment 1. We all have to make difficult decisions during our life—some of them right and some of them wrong—and we live with the consequences of those decisions. We make these choices with our families and our faith, and we do the best we can. We were all given the ability to make decisions and it is not for us to judge others. These decisions are not for government to make on our behalf.   

This dangerous amendment is wrong for Tennessee women and their families. Whether it is to protect exceptions in devastating circumstances, stop government interference, or keep our privacy rights, we all have a reason to vote against Amendment 1. Please vote “No” when you go to the polls.


Vote Yes on Amendment 1

-Provided by the ‘Yes on 1’ Campaign

By State Senator Mae Beavers

As a state legislator who is proud to represent our great state each and every day, there is one label synonymous with Tennessee of which I am not proud: abortion destination.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, Tennessee currently ranks 3rd in the nation in of out-of-state abortions, with one in every four abortions being sought by an out-of-state female. 

Yet, I am part of an overwhelming majority of Tennesseans who believe in the dignity and sanctity of human life, and who support policies to protect abortion-vulnerable girls and women, such as providing them with practical support and resources.

I was also proud to serve as the prime sponsor of the legislation placing Amendment 1 on the ballot for public vote this November.  Amendment 1 was brought out of deep concern that common sense protections for women in Tennessee have been stripped away by an activist judiciary without the consent of the people.

In a 2000 ruling, the Tennessee Supreme Court claimed abortion to be a fundamental right, elevating it to the same level as other rights such as the right to assemble, worship, or bear arms.  As a result, our protections for abortion are even greater than those proscribed by the United States Supreme Court, and have caused common sense safeguards to be struck down by state courts.  Those previous safeguards included ensuring that those considering abortion have more information about the gestational age, development and characteristics of their unborn child, knowledge of the potential physical and psychological risks of the abortion, and resources available to assist them during pregnancy.

A 48-hour waiting period was also struck down which allowed women and girls to consider all the information available and to protect against coerced abortions. Similarly, requirements that later-term abortions be performed in regulated hospital environments were struck down, and abortion facilities were made exempt from certain licensure and inspection requirements.

Unless Amendment 1 is passed, it is possible that Tennessee tax-payers could be required to fund abortions, as they are in some states. The argument is made that a so-called ‘fundamental right’ is meaningless if a woman is unable to pay the cost to exercise it. 

In essence, Tennessee has become an abortion-on-demand state and an abortion destination.

Yet, contrary to the claims of pro-abortion activists, Amendment 1 will not ban any abortion under any circumstance. According to federal rulings under Roe v Wade, there is no state which can ban abortion. In reality, passage of Amendment 1 does not enact any particular policy or law except to restore our Tennessee Constitution to neutrality as it relates to abortion.

This is a historic opportunity for Tennessee voters to make their voices heard and I encourage visiting to educate yourself and your family on this issue. Please vote YES on Amendment 1 so that the people – and not the courts – can again have the final say to “enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion” in our great state.


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