One of the nation’s biggest abortion battles this year is unfolding in Tennessee. On Nov. 4, Tennessee voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to give lawmakers more authority to enact abortion regulations and restrictions.
Proponents of the ballot measure, Amendment 1, say its passage will allow lawmakers the ability to enact “common sense” abortion regulations. Opponents say it would open the floodgates for burdensome and extreme abortion restrictions.
The measure is being closely watched by national advocates on both sides of the abortion divide, who see the outcome impacting not only abortion rights in Tennessee — but abortion access across an increasingly abortion-hostile South. That’s because 1 in 4 abortions in Tennessee is sought by women from neighboring states.
Tennessee is one of three states with abortion measures on the ballot this year. Voters in North Dakota and Colorado are weighing so-called “personhood” measures that would define, in different ways, when life begins. North Dakota’s measure says “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.” Colorado’s Amendment 67 would define a fetus as a person under Colorado’s criminal code, a change that opponents say could make abortion a crime.
Voters in the past have shown reluctance to support abortion ballot measures that make fundamental changes to state constitutions — even as legislative efforts have succeeded in passing specific restrictions, including waiting periods, parental consent laws, and bans on abortions after 20 weeks. Since 1978, 25 of 33 state ballot measures restricting abortion have failed.
A poll released Wednesday by Middle Tennessee State University said results were “too close to call,” with 39% of 600 registered voters saying they were in favor of the measure, while 32% opposed it. Fifteen percent remain undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.