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VOL. 123 | NO. 40 | Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Abortion Resolution Fails Again in House Subcommittee

By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press Writer

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A resolution that would change the state's constitution to allow more limits on abortion has failed again in a House subcommittee, but supporters say they aren't giving up hope this year.

The resolution sponsored by Rep. Dolores Gresham, a Somerville Republican, was voted down 6-3 Tuesday in the House Public Health and Family Assistance Subcommittee. The bill has repeatedly failed in the Democrat-controlled subcommittee.

"I will try every avenue I can to bring it back up," Gresham said.

Constitutional amendments in Tennessee must be approved in consecutive legislative sessions before going to voters in a gubernatorial election. The measure will not make the ballot in 2010 unless supporters can garner the 66 votes needed to bring it directly to a House floor vote - a maneuver Gresham said "remains to be seen."

Tennessee Right to Life president Brian Harris said he believes the resolution will pass if brought up on the House floor.

"This is our last opportunity to get this on the ballot in 2010," Harris said. "If we fail this time, there will be no reasonable regulation in our state on the practice of abortion until 2014. That is unacceptable."

The resolution, which passed the Senate last month, sought to nullify a state Supreme Court ruling that the Tennessee Constitution offers greater protection for abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution.

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

The last time a similar resolution passed the Senate was in 2006. That same year, however, it failed in the same subcommittee.

It failed Tuesday despite an amendment that would allow lawmakers to change statutes regarding abortion in cases of rape, incest or the mother's safety.

The 2000 ruling threw out state laws that required a 48-hour waiting period before abortions, that abortion clinics must provide detailed information about the procedure and that all but first-term abortions be performed in hospitals.

Democrats have criticized Republican sponsors of the resolution, saying it's a partisan issue that comes up almost every election year.

"Democrats and Republicans have worked together to create quality legislation," said Rep. Joe Armstrong, who voted against the resolution on Tuesday. "But it's funny this comes up ... when there's an election on the line and yet on an off year this is never mentioned."

The Knoxville Democrat emphasized the partisanship of the resolution by referencing a fellow Democrat who said he wasn't allowed to sign onto the legislation because of his party affiliation.

"By telling a pro-life Democrat he can't sign on, that proves it's not about saving life, it's about politics," Armstrong said.

Gresham, however, said the resolution had been killed down party lines in the past, which is "why I decided who signs onto it."

Nevertheless, Jeff Teague, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, said Tuesday's defeat of the resolution is reassuring.

"We're glad that the elected representatives of the people of Tennessee did their jobs," he said.

Read the full text of SJR0127 on the General Assembly's Web site at: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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