The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave Tennessee pro-lifers something to celebrate when they gathered Sunday to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. On Jan. 9, the court ruled in favor of state election officials in a three-year battle over a 2014 state amendment ending abortion’s status as a constitutionally protected right. The ruling clears the way for additional abortion regulations in the upcoming state legislative session.
In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled the state constitution guaranteed the right to an abortion and struck down all of the state’s pro-life regulations. Tennessee quickly became an abortion destination, with women traveling there to seek abortions that were illegal in their home states.
Fourteen years later, Tennessee lawmakers agreed to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to end absolute abortion protections. Voters passed the measure 53 to 47 percent. But pro-abortion activists sued, challenging the method the state used to count the ballots. The state constitution can only be amended if a “majority of all the citizens of the state” who vote for governor vote for the change. Pro-abortion activists claimed that meant only voters who’d participated in the governor’s election could vote on the amendment.
But the 6th Circuit declared accurate the state’s long-standing interpretation of the ballot requirement: For a measure to succeed, only a majority of the number of votes cast for governor is needed.
“Plaintiffs arguments amount to little more than a complaint that the campaigns in support of Amendment 1, operating within the framework established by state law, turned out to be more successful than the campaigns against Amendment 1,” the ruling stated. “Plaintiffs had the same ‘freedom’ as their adversaries to operate within the established framework to promote their opposition to Amendment 1.”
Conservative lawmakers greeted the news of the court’s decision, announced during the first session of the year, with a standing ovation.
“This is a great victory for the people of Tennessee whose compassion and concern for the protection of human life is vindicated again today,” Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, told The Tennessean. —Leigh Jones