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VOL. 123 | NO. 6 | Wednesday, January 09, 2008

State Senate Committee Passes Abortion Resolution

By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press Writer

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Tennessee lawmakers began the first day of the session Tuesday with a renewed effort to change the state's constitution to allow more limits on abortion.

The majority-Republican Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 for a resolution that would nullify a 2000 ruling by the state Supreme Court that the Tennessee Constitution offered greater protection of abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution.

It would say that "nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion."

The Senate last adopted the resolution in 2006, but it has repeatedly failed in a House subcommittee.

Sen. Diane Black, a Gallatin Republican and a main sponsor of the proposal, said the proposal would allow the state to restore laws that require a 48-hour waiting period before abortions, detailed disclosure about the abortion process and that all but first-term abortions be performed in hospitals.

"The only way to restore these common-sense protections is to place language in our Constitution that allows us to do that," Black said.

Abortion rights advocates have said the measure is a stepping stone to prohibiting all abortions in Tennessee if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark abortion decision in Roe v. Wade.

"This is a flagrant attempt to try to have the government intervene in what should be between a woman and those people that are close to her," said Sen. Beverly Marrero, a Memphis Democrat and committee member who voted against the resolution.

Supporters of the measure say it's not an attempt to outlaw abortions.

Karen Brukardt, legislative liaison for Tennessee Right to Life, said the resolution puts "abortion regulation in the hands of the people and their legislators, not in the hands of judges."

Constitutional amendments have to pass each chamber of the Legislature by a simple majority, and then have to pass again - by a two-thirds vote - in the next General Assembly.

If those hurdles are cleared, the proposed amendment would be put before the voters during the next gubernatorial election in 2010.

If both chambers don't pass the resolution this year, there's no chance it will be eligible for the ballot until at least 2014.

On the Net:

See SJR0127 on the legislative Web site at: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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