The AP reported yesterday that “opponents of Amendment 1 are asking a federal judge to void the vote that amended the Tennessee Constitution to make it easier for lawmakers to restrict abortions.” (For a refresher on Amendment One, see here.)
The complaint was filed yesterday afternoon in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville). The plaintiffs are eight residents of Middle Tennessee—professors at Vanderbilt, medical professionals, government workers, and a reverend among them—who voted “no” last Tuesday. The voter-plaintiffs allege that the method by which state officials chose to tabulate the votes on November 4 violated their constitutional rights to Due Process and to Equal Protection under the law, and they are asking the court to invalidate the results of the referendum on Amendment One.
What is Amendment One?
In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist that the Tennessee Constitution offers more protection than even the United States Constitution to Tennesseans making personal reproductive decisions. As a result–while legislators in most states search for more and more ways to prevent access to safe abortion–Tennesseans have been notably free from some of the unnecessary restrictions that have popped up in the past few years and under which the rest of America is buckling. (It is telling that by 2010–even as the abortion rate for Tennesseans dropped–women from out-of-state sought roughly one of every four abortions performed in Tennessee.)
For anyone who was thinking, “SB5 sounds okay to me,” but maybe felt embarrassed to ask what the fuss was about. I just spent about 20 minutes writing out a response for my “nana,” Diane Nunley. She reacted with a basic question: “What’s the problem?” And based on a superficial understanding of the law, it’s a question a lot of people have that is not being answered. So I’ll try to answer it here.