TN voters to decide abortion issues at the ballot box - WSMV Channel 4

TN voters to decide abortion issues at the ballot box

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Forty years after the Roe v. Wade ruling made abortion legal in the U.S., wording in the Tennessee constitution is about to trigger a huge battle locally.

Other states, such as Mississippi, have had ballot measures on abortion issues in recent years, and next year will be Tennessee's turn to test abortion rights at the ballot box.

"We've started our work already on that. We've already started educating people across the state," said Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee.

Back in 2000, the state Supreme Court ruled that abortion was protected in the state constitution. That ruling struck down existing laws on a waiting period, informed consent and a mandate that second trimester abortions be performed in a hospital.

"Obviously, I would disagree with the court. I don't think it's one of those basic fundamental rights. So what we're doing in the legislature is we are putting the question in front of the voters of the state," said State Rep. Glen Casada, R-Thompson's Station.

Lawmakers passed a bill to change the constitution to remove abortion protections, but now it's set to go to a vote of the people in November 2014.

"This is an important issue - the way that we handle the children that have yet to be born in our state," Casada said.

Despite a governor's race and some potential congressional matchups in that same election, many believe this will be the big battle that you'll hear a lot about in the coming months.

Supporters of the ballot measure said it's not meant to ban abortions, but opponents disagree.

"I think what they are truly trying to do is set up a situation, a trigger situation, that in the event if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned that they can make abortion illegal in Tennessee," Teague said.

In the past two years, state lawmakers have passed some new restrictions on abortion. One bans the use of telemedicine for prescribing ru-486, the so-called abortion pill, and another requires doctors who perform abortions to have hospital privileges.

That law has been cited by both sides of the abortion debate as the reason for a Knoxville clinic's closure.

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