Dear Governor Haslam,
After reading your recent statements about your support of Tennessee’s Constitutional Amendment 1, which will be up for vote in November 2014, I dare say that many women and men are horrified. If this amendment passes, women’s reproductive and gynecological health will be in the hands of our state legislators rather than being decided upon by women, their families, their doctors and their faiths. Do you really care about the safety of women, families and babies?
You say that with this new amendment, you and state legislators have no plans to create new rules, however, passing this amendment gives carte blanche to all future politicians - elected officials - to do what they choose about women, no matter how traumatic. What could be more tragic than the rape of a girl or woman through an attack or incest who will then be told by her state legislature that she cannot have an abortion? That she must birth this child created by a criminal act even if she is only 12 years old? What about pregnant women who have been diagnosed with cancer, who need chemotherapy? Are they to risk their lives for a microscopic embryo?
A recent Vanderbilt University poll found that 71 percent of Tennessee voters oppose the idea of giving the legislature more authority to restrict abortions. Many conservative, moderate, and liberal women are agreeing on one thing: that we all want the privacy to make such personal medical decisions with our doctors and our families. This is not a partisan issue. It is a right to life issue. It just depends on whose right to life you consider. We are pro-life and pro-rights for women, those of us who want to protect ourselves, our sisters, mothers, and daughters from having to suffer unduly because of an accident, illness, or an attack.
The one partisan issue, related to your majority party, Governor Haslam, is your desire to cut welfare and food stamp programs. Agreeing to this amendment means more women and children will need these programs if abortions are limited.
Also, how will men in this state feel if they decide to have unprotected sexual intercourse with a woman, when there is no alternative to the birth of their baby who will need their support throughout life? What if a condom breaks? Perhaps men won’t feel so safe either, if this amendment passes.
One problem with this amendment is that the wording is complicated so if not read carefully, some may think that they are voting “yes” to preserve the rights that women now have when in fact the opposite will occur. That’s some cagey writing, an attempt to confuse voters.
Governor Haslam, if you care about your wife, daughters, son, and all babies who need to start out life with love and support, you will reconsider your support of this amendment.
Barbara Sanders, LCSW
Published in The Tennessean, June 5, 2014