East Tennessee Catholic faithful instrumental in passage of pro-life measure as state’s churches get out the vote
In a constitutional battle watched closely by pro-life and pro-abortion groups around the country, Tennessee voters approved Amendment 1 on Election Day, Nov. 4, giving state legislators the ability to better regulate facilities that perform abortions.
The amendment to Tennessee’s constitution was identified as a critical moral and life issue by the dioceses of Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis, as well as other religious denominations around the state.
Support for the measure from the Catholic Church and other churches around the state was cited by political analysts as a key reason Amendment 1 passed.
Supporters of the new amendment say it will neutralize the extreme interpretation taken by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2000 in which it declared that the state constitution guarantees abortion rights above and beyond what the U.S. Constitution provides in the Roe v. Wade decision. Supporters also maintain that passage of Amendment 1 restores to voters the “life” decision taken from them by the state Supreme Court decision.
The amendment had widespread support from religious leaders, including Bishop Richard F. Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville.
“Tennessee voters made the right decision on Nov. 4 when they showed their overwhelming support for life by approving Amendment 1,” Bishop Stika said in a statement.
“As leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville, I am grateful that a vast majority of Tennessee voters agreed that Amendment 1 was a moral issue of the greatest magnitude,” Bishop Stika added.
The amendment passed with 52.6 percent support, or 728,751 votes, versus opposition of 47.4 percent, or 656,427 votes.
To become law, the amendment had to be approved by 50 percent of the voters casting ballots in the governor’s race plus one, so it required 676,305 votes to pass.
While the measure failed in the state’s four largest metropolitan areas — Shelby, Davidson, Hamilton, and Knox counties — it passed in every other county in Tennessee, due in large part, according to observers, to people of faith voting.
“I was proud to join religious leaders of all faiths in the Volunteer State, encouraging prayerful reflection and education on a matter that protects the unborn and their mothers from an industry that, until now, was largely left unregulated and without proper oversight,” Bishop Stika said. “Please join me now in prayer that state lawmakers understand the responsibility they have to their voters — and the unborn lives that they also represent.”
Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life and state coordinator of the Yes on 1 campaign, gave special credit to clergy and religious leaders throughout the state who made support for the amendment a priority.
“In the end this could be characterized as pastors and pulpits in opposition to Planned Parenthood’s abortion-profiteering. We owe a debt of gratitude to men and women of faith who refused to accept Tennessee’s designation as an abortion destination and who actively used their influence to promote the protection of innocent human life,” he said.
Stacy Dunn, executive director of the Knox County chapter of Tennessee Right to Life and East Tennessee regional coordinator for the Yes on 1 campaign, praised faith-based voters across the state and the three Catholic bishops, including Bishop Stika, for helping lead the effort to get Amendment 1 approved.
“God granted us a miracle with the passage of Amendment 1, and we are grateful. Despite being outspent by abortion activists by more than two to one with millions spent to flood our airwaves with deceptive ads, the people of Tennessee held firm and voted for life,” said Mrs. Dunn, who is a member of Holy Ghost Parish.
“Much of the credit for this victory has to go to the Yes on 1 county coordinators who worked to raise awareness across the state through the churches and civic organizations in their communities. Their hard work and dedication made the difference in this campaign,” she added. “The overwhelming support of churches and faith communities of a variety of denominations carried the amendment to victory. We are extremely grateful for the strong stand that was taken by many of Tennessee’s pastors and church leaders, including the support of all three Tennessee bishops.
Mrs. Dunn said Tennessee Right to Life now will work with pro-life legislators to accomplish important legislation debated throughout the campaign: restoring common-sense protections that were stricken by activist, pro-abortion judges, including:
■ Informed consent for women and girls considering abortion;
■ Hospitalization requirement for late-term abortions;
■ Required inspection and licensure of abortion facilities;
■ Waiting periods for those considering abortion.
“With the support of Tennessee Right to Life, our pro-life majorities will now be able to again enact and enforce these safeguards for the protection of abortion-vulnerable women in our state and their unborn children,” Mrs. Dunn said.