Tennessee Could Be the Next Abortion Battleground

Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 12.27.57 PMThis Nov. 4 will be critical in the battle over abortion rights that’s been brewing in Tennessee. In these midterm elections, Tennesseans will be casting their vote on a ballot measure that can decide the future of reproductive rights in the state.

The ballot measure, called Amendment 1, will change the state’s constitution to read:

Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.

Amendment 1 would allow state politicians to pass laws that ban abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the health or life of the woman. It would also allow politicians to pass laws denying life-saving treatments to pregnant women with critical illnesses like cancer. The proposed change even gives state politicians the power to restrict or even ban access to common forms of birth control—like the Pill, IUDs and emergency contraception. Some legislators consider these contraceptive options to be abortifacients, contrary to widely accepted medical knowledge.


It’s important that young people and women in Tennessee make themselves heard this November. Tennessee Republicans have been pushing to bring this amendment to a vote since the state’s Supreme Court blocked a slew of anti-abortion measures from going into effect back in 2000. The endgame of this amendment is to overturn that state Supreme Court decision that protected abortion rights, and eventually make legal abortion impossible in Tennessee.

Amendment 1 would enable politicians to take away the right to make decisions from women and their doctors. If it passes, it would clear the path for the state’s legislature to push through more laws like mandated biased counseling, waiting periods, forced ultrasounds and other restrictive TRAP laws that have successfully shut down clinics in states like Texas and Ohio.

This ballot measure represents an unprecedented attack on the reproductive rights of women not only in Tennessee but also in nearby states. In a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, increasing numbers of women from neighboring states head to Tennessee to terminate their pregnancies—a natural consequence when anti-abortion laws in neighboring states like Alabama and Mississippi have closed down abortion clinics, forcing women to travel to other states to exercise their right to an abortion. In 2010, one in four abortions in Tennessee was performed on an out-of-state woman, and abortions for women coming from outside the state have increased by more than 30 percent in the past decade. Amendment 1 passing in Tennessee could have negative reverberations throughout the region.


National organizers from the Feminist Majority Foundation have been on the ground on college campuses in Tennessee mobilizing students and helping them register to vote. Young Tennesseans may be the state’s last stand against the passage of this draconian amendment that would have wide-ranging consequences for women. It could hurt college women especially since most women seeking abortions in the state are in their 20s, according to the CDC.

Edwith Theogene, an organizer with the FMF who spent time at several universities throughout Tennessee, said that young voters showing up to the polls to defeat this ballot measure is essential.

Amendment 1 goes too far, and the danger it poses to women is far-reaching. It threatens access not only to abortion, but also to birth control, and is a major political interference into the private lives of women.
Theogene went on to say that since the registration deadline has passed, it’s now all about getting voters to show up to the polls to vote no on Amendment 1.
We have been organizing vans and carpools to ensure students can to get to off-campus polling locations and making sure they’re aware of what is required to vote. They can’t use a student ID.

Thanks to voter suppression laws that have been sweeping Republican-controlled states, Tennessee is just one of a growing number of states where young people are no longer allowed to use a student ID as valid voter identification, but instead must have a government-issued photo ID. States like Wisconsin, North Dakota and Iowa—where college students can register on Election Day and vote with a student ID—are becoming few and far between.

For Tennessee voting information, check out this resource from the FMF, and cast your vote in favor of women making their own reproductive decisions. Election Day is Nov. 4, but Tennesseans can vote early in person until Oct. 30.

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Photo of student organizers in Tennessee courtesy of Edwith Theogene 



Anita Little is the associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.



  1. Seriously, vote YES…. Tennessee is a still a Christian state. We still believe in the commandment THOU SHALT NOT COMITT MURDER. Those of you who think abortion is fine and dandy, well, then I guess it’s okay with you if someone walks up and kills your sister or brother point blank on the streets… I cannot tolerate those who think murdering a baby is okay, but hey, lets protect the whales and cbald eagle, and by no means use Styrofoam and hurt the environment.. But, while you are avoiding the Styrofoam and going green, make your way on to the abortion clinic and kill a baby… I cannot believe that you think that is okay. But if you can sleep at night believing babies aren’t all that important or precious, that’s your problem.. The Christians with moral values and conscience could in no way vote for abortion. VOTE YES and end the slaughter…. Those of you who have kids, look at that baby and decide if you think it would be okay for someone to murder your child….. Hmmmm

    • T. Joy Nichols says:

      Your argument about Christians not needing, wanting, or having abortions does not hold water.
      Check out Catholicsforchoice.org
      They’re Christians, too.

    • Gina – Tennessee has the death penalty. That is not pro-life and a politician making medical decisions for any one is ludicrous.

  2. T. Joy Nichols says:

    Abortion is not murder. Murder is killing a person. Abortion is constitutionally-protected. If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one and quit ranting like an ignorant lunatic.

  3. T. Walker says:

    To the anti abortion person who posted – clearly you are not a parent. Were you to be a mother you would realize a baby is a real person from about 16-20 weeks but the decision to continue a pregnancy is for the woman and only the woman to make. It is nobody else who will spend the next two decades caring for the child and knows whether she can reasonably do so. Also your measure here will interfere with birth control and that is totally illogical and foolish.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Little; it is imperative that all young women who value our reproductive rights get out and vote NO on this draconian legislation.

    To the best of my knowledge, the Dept. of Motor Vehicles is where TN residents are able to get government-issued identification, whether they are just plain ID cards or driver’s licenses, if they don’t have these forms of ID already.

  5. Anita Little is your article about defeating Amendment one in Tennessee or anti voter ID cards or are you just anti-republican. So how do I vote if I think that Amendment one is too vague in its second part but I favor voter ID cards and vote both democratic and republican in local and state elections.
    And who (you?) determined that Wisconsin is a model state that Tennessee must emulate?

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