|Pope John Paul II High School students and teachers join Bishop David Choby in showing their support for the Yes on 1 campaign. Amendment 1 on the upcoming Nov. 4 ballot, will restore the State Legislature’s authority to pass regulations concerning the abortion industry designed to protect the safety of women. Bishop Choby is urging Catholics in the Diocese of Nashville to vote yes on the amendment. Photo by Rick Musacchio
Bishop David Choby is encouraging Catholics in the Diocese of Nashville to vote yes on Amendment 1 in the upcoming Nov. 4 election, which would amend the Tennessee Constitution to return to the State Legislature the authority to pass laws regulating abortions.
That authority was stricken in 2000 by the Tennessee Supreme Court, which ruled that under the state Constitution, a woman’s right to privacy provides them a fundamental right to an abortion. The decision struck from the books several laws regulating abortions and have made others still on the books vulnerable to a legal challenge.
“The ruling has resulted in the state having a broader right to abortion than even under Roe v. Wade,” the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion across the country, said Lorene Steffes, a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Brentwood and a member of the board for the Yes on 1 campaign.
Even though the Roe v. Wade decision specifically allows states to regulate abortion, Steffes said, the Tennessee decision “makes it impossible to enforce meaningful regulations of abortion in our state.”
|Bishop David Choby and Father Ryan High School President Jim McIntyre are both supporting the Yes on 1 campaign. Bishop Choby has put up two signs in his yard supporting the effort to adopt an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution that will give the State Legislature the authority to adopt laws and rules regulating the abortion industry in the state to protect women. Photo by Andy Telli
“It’s my hope that Catholics in the Diocese of Nashville will become familiar with this issue and support the right of elected officials to enact laws which reflect the values of the citizens of the State of Tennessee,” said Bishop Choby.
He has sent a letter supporting passage of Amendment 1 – so named because it is the first amendment listed on the ballot – to all pastors in the diocese and has asked them to read it at all Masses during the weekend of Sept. 27-28.
Catholics across the diocese already are involved in the campaign, and several are serving as Yes on 1 coordinators in their home county.
Clara Hollmann of Loretto has been involved in the Right to Life movement for more than 30 years and is serving as the Yes on 1 coordinator in Lawrence County and the regional coordinator for Giles, Lawrence, Wayne, Hardin, Perry and Lewis counties.
For the last year and a half, she and her husband Joe, parishioners at Sacred Heart Church in Loretto, have been criss-crossing Lawrence County talking to clubs, community groups and churches to try to explain the amendment and urge their support.
“With this Yes on 1 stuff, I feel like I’ve got a 24-hour job. Good thing I’m retired,” Hollmann joked.
But her commitment to the issue is no joke. “This is very dear to my heart right now.”
Hollmann’s commitment is shared by Chris Melton, the music teacher at Holy Rosary Academy, president of the Nashville chapter of Tennessee Right to Life and the Davidson County coordinator of the Yes on 1 campaign.
“I’ve always been pro-life,” Melton said, dating back to her time as a high school student. “Then I had a friend who went to college and had an abortion. Later when she got married, she was so damaged by that abortion, she couldn’t have children,” Melton said. “It hit home. … Instead of being something that happened to other people, it was something that happened to my friend.”
Melton, Hollmann and the other county coordinators have been busy trying to explain the amendment and why it is needed.
“Most people haven’t heard much about it,” Melton said. “It was nice to give them information and the right information.”
Currently, abortion clinics do not have to be licensed by the state, nor is there a waiting period required before an abortion can be performed nor is informed consent required.
In part because Tennessee’s regulations are more lenient than those of surrounding states, one in four abortions performed here are for women from out of state. Tennessee is the third highest state in the nation in the percentage of abortions performed on women from another state.
“When people hear we’re a destination state for abortion … they’re concerned,” Steffes said.
The amendment states: “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.”
“The wording of the amendment … is a little bit confusing and we want to make sure people understand it,” Steffes said.
The first sentence in the amendment “just makes our Constitution neutral again,” Steffes said. “It doesn’t ban abortion,” which is protected by the Roe v. Wade decision, she said. But by making the Constitution neutral on the question, it allows the Legislature to debate and adopt regulations, she added.
The amendment also says there is nothing in the Constitution that requires state funding of abortions.
If the amendment is defeated and the court’s ruling that the Constitution includes a fundamental right to abortion stands, abortion rights advocates are sure to argue that the state should fund abortions, something the state doesn’t do now, said Regina Azzara, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksville and Yes on 1 Coordinator for Montgomery County.
“We do not want this to lead to taxpayer funded abortion,” Azzara said.
The second sentence of the amendment puts the decisions about regulating abortion back in the hands of the people through the votes of their elected representatives, Steffes said.
Even people who support abortion rights should vote this amendment so regulations that protect women can be put in place, Steffes said. “The debate should be on a regulation by regulation level, not block everything and lose all of our safeguards.”
In order for the amendment to pass, the yes votes must surpass 50 percent of the votes cast in this year’s governor’s race plus one. So not voting is the same as casting a no vote, Hollmann said. “Even if everybody votes yes, we could still lose by one vote,” she said.
“We’ve been working on this … almost 14 years to get this passed,” Azzara said. “If it does not pass, we will have no recourse. Even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, we will have abortions in Tennessee.”
The Yes on 1 campaign is still looking for volunteers who will put up a sign in their yard or business and to work outside polling places on election day. For more information about the Yes on 1 campaign, how to volunteer, or contact information for your county coordinator visit www.yeson1tn.org