NASHVILLE -- State Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Rep. Rick Womick (R-Rockvale) announced in a joint press release Wednesday they will not seek passage of a bill this year to require abortion providers show or describe an ultrasound image to a woman before the procedure can be performed.
The lawmakers said they will focus on passage of Senate Joint Resolution 127, a constitutional amendment initiative that is expected to come before voters in 2014. If passed, the resolution would allow the legislature to put abortion laws into place within the bounds of Roe v. Wade.
“This constitutional resolution is the cornerstone of future legislation to protect life in Tennessee,” Tracy said. “We will be focusing all of our efforts on promoting its passage on the 2014 ballot.”
Tracy was a co-prime sponsor the resolution, which was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly during the past two sessions.
It addresses a Tennessee Supreme Court decision in 2000 that struck down provisions in state law allowing women to receive “informed consent” information about the surgery and to wait 48 hours before receiving an abortion.
The high court also ruled against a state requirement that all abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital.
That ruling made Tennessee more liberal than the U.S. Supreme Court required in Roe v. Wade and made the right to an abortion a “fundamental right” in Tennessee, according to the legislators.
“Given the fact that most abortion clinics in Tennessee already administer an ultrasound before performing an abortion, it only makes sense that we as legislators should be allowed to ensure that the pregnant mother is given the opportunity to see the video and hear the heartbeat,” Womick said. “Actively seeking adoption of SJR 127 to our state Constitution will afford lawmakers that opportunity.”
If adopted, the resolution would also provide that the right to an abortion is only protected under the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, said he strongly supports the resolution.
“Pro-life Tennesseans are especially grateful for Sen. Tracy’s resolve to ensure that the focus is not distracted from what remains the single most important pro-life objective: public approval of SJR 127 by voters in 2014,” Harris said.
Harris was joined by several other anti-abortion groups in praising the efforts of Tracy and Womick, both of whom represent a portion of Rutherford County in the state legislature.
“We are very blessed in Tennessee to have legislators who are firmly and unequivocally committed to life,” said Bobbie Patray, president of Tennessee’s chapter of the Eagle Forum. “Tennessee Eagle Forum commends Sen. Jim Tracy and Rep. Rick Womick for recognizing the foundational impact of SJR 127.
"They clearly understand the educational challenge before us, and we are grateful that they will be focusing their time and energy on the passage of this proposed amendment the State Constitution. Tennessee is an overwhelmingly pro-life state, and they are setting an example that we hope the voters will follow as we approach the vote in November of 2014.”
Former state lawmaker David Fowler, who was the original sponsor of the resolution said he has "always had the strong support of Sen. Tracy and Rep. Womick," noting they are "cut from the same cloth."
“I applaud their desire that all pro-life efforts for the next year be focused on the most important pro-life issue in Tennessee history, the passage of SJR 127," said Fowler, who now serves as presient of the Family Action Council of Tennessee. "I appreciate their leadership in making sure that nothing distracts from that overarching objective upon which all pro-life legislation in the future depends."