Grassroots voters slay outside abortion Goliaths in 'Yes on 1' battle

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez |

A pro-life supporter celebrates the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling striking down a Massachusetts law that mandated a protective buffer zone around abortion clinics, outside the Court in Washington June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) -- The grassroots movement of Tennessee churches and pro-life supporters struck a blow Nov. 4 to a Goliath-sized opposition of the state's now-approved protections for vulnerable mothers and the unborn.

The amendment's passage will add language to the constitution that: "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion." The impact will be felt widely, as one in four abortions in Tennessee are performed on women from another state. Eight bordering states already had protections like those provided for by Amendment 1 and that made Tennessee a destination for abortions.

The "No" campaign spent over $3.4 million on its efforts to defeat the measure, and brought out singer, actress and Lexington, Ky. native, Ashley Judd, and Massachusetts-born actress Connie Britton, who moved to Nashville in 2012 after signing on to the television series, Nashville. Outside interests also provided much of the opposition funding including large donations from Planned Parenthood chapters in Seattle ($750,000), California ($500,000) and Florida ($110,000).

The amendment passed by a 56 percent vote statewide but was opposed in Davidson County, which encompasses Nashville, by a 2 to 1 margin according to the Tennessean.

Updates on the "Yes on 1" site credit their "hard-fought" victory to a coalition of advocates who educated and mobilized local communities to support the initiative.

In September, churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, United Pentecostal, Presbyterian and Free Will Baptist traditions coordinated a "Yes on 1" Sunday to inform congregants and encourage them to make it to the polls.

"In the end this could be characterized as pastors and pulpits in opposition to Planned Parenthood's abortion-profiteering," Harris said. "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."

The amendment was a response to a 2000 state Supreme Court decision that found a right to abortion in the Tennessee constitution and imposed a standard for pro-life legislation that was more stringent than found in the rest of the country. The approved referendum will allow Tennessee legislators to restore protections such as a waiting period, requiring abortion facilities to meet medical clinic standards, and permitting educational materials to be offered to women who are considering an abortion.

David Fowler, president of The Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT), claimed "a great victory for the people of Tennessee" over an activist state Supreme Court.

"It is a victory for a government of and by and for the people, and a victory for the protection of women and their unborn," he wrote in a statement released on the FACT website.

Tennessee is the fourth state to amend its constitution to directly address abortion. However, "personhood" referendums failed as midterm ballot initiatives in North Dakota and Colorado.