Early voting has gotten underway in Tennessee (it began this past Wednesday), and it continues until October 30th. Election Day itself is Tuesday, November 4th. Those dates on the calendar are not something you would normally find us discussing here at Life At 25, as this is a blog about Church affairs, and it is a blog for the Diocese of Knoxville. This year, however, things are just a little different because there is an issue on the ballot in Tennessee that should be important to every person in our State that believes in protecting the dignity and the sanctity of every human life from conception to natural death. That issue is Amendment 1, which was known before it came to the ballot by its legislative name, Senate Joint Resolution 127.
Because of a 2000 decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist, all of the reasonable restrictions which Tennessee had on abortions up to that point were wiped away. Indeed the justices of the State Supreme Court said that there is a broader right to abortion in the Tennessee Constitution than exists in the United States Constitution. Nevermind that abortion is not mentioned in the United States Constitution or, presently, in the Tennessee Constitution.
As Catholics, we are a people who believe in the idea of social justice. For us, it is incompatible with our faith in Jesus Christ for us to ignore the plight of the poor, the sick, the aged, the disabled, and those who cannot defend themselves. The most defenseless in our society are the unborn. The proposed Amendment 1 would place back into the hands of the Tennessee General Assembly the ability to regulate abortion in our State, and to enact laws such as waiting periods (one existed prior to Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist), viability standards, informed consent laws, and regulation of abortion facilities by the Tennessee Department of Health. Tennessee currently ranks 3rd in the nation in the number of out-of-State abortions, and number one in the South in that unfortunate category.
We can’t ignore the plight of the defenseless, and that means that we can’t ignore the need to protect the unborn from the scourge that is abortion. Tennessee had protections of both women and the unborn in place insofar as federal law and the courts would allow before the Tennessee Supreme Court discovered this “broader” right to an abortion in our own State constitution. Amendment 1 would not outlaw abortion, although to hear some speak about this amendment, you might falsely think that it does so. What it does do is allow for the members of the General Assembly, the people who we elect to represent us in Nashville, to effectively regulate the practice.
We are obligated to so what we can to fight injustice and to do all we can to prevent the violation of the sanctity of human life. Laws such as waiting periods, health regulations, parental consent laws, and informed consent laws can save lives from the tragedy of abortion by helping women who are dealing with an unplanned or difficult pregnancy think again, and especially cause young girls facing an unplanned pregnancy consider other options.
Here at Life At 25 and the Diocese of Knoxville, we do long for the day when the “hidden holocaust” of legal abortion will come to an end in our community, our State, and our nation. Until that day comes (and in faith we believe that it will), we can do our part to save the lives of women and their unborn children now by voting YES on Amendment 1.