Bredesen to Avoid Abortion Proposal

By ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press Writer

NASHVILLE (AP) - A Republican-sponsored effort to cancel a state Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights in Tennessee may go against Gov. Phil Bredesen's personal beliefs, but he said there's little room for him to get involved in the debate.

The Senate was scheduled to take up the proposal to amend the state constitution Monday evening. But the governor is not required to sign proposed constitutional amendments - and he has no power to veto them.

"As you know (the resolutions) don't even come to my desk," Bredesen told The Associated Press in an interview last week. "They're just something the legislature does, so I'll just let them do their thing on that subject."

Bredesen, a Democrat, supports abortion rights.

If the measure were to pass both chambers this session and gain two-thirds approval by lawmakers during the next two-year General Assembly, the proposed change would go before voters in the 2010 election.

The Supreme Court found in 2000 that the Tennessee Constitution offers greater protection of abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution.

The 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.

The proposed amendment would say that "nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion." The proposal has passed in the Senate before, but repeatedly has failed in a subcommittee of the Democratic-controlled House.

Abortion rights advocates see the measure as a stepping stone to prohibiting all abortions in Tennessee.

Bredesen said he would have a different stance on efforts to ban adoptions by gay couples, another hot-button topic that appears likely to arise this session.

The state attorney general last year wrote in a legal opinion that nothing in the state constitution addresses whether gay couples can adopt children. Some Republicans have said they plan to introduce legislation this session that would ban homosexual couples from adopting children.

Bredesen supported a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in 2006. But he said he considers gay adoption a different issue.

"The right of every young child to have a loving home - however you put it together - trumps any other feeling I would have on that subject," he said.

Judges currently have the discretion about whether to grant adoptions by gay couples.

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