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All Eyes on Reproductive Rights: Is Tennessee the Next Texas?

All Eyes on Reproductive Rights: Is Tennessee the Next Texas?

On RACblog, we’ve been following the restrictive Texas law that attempted to shut down more than half of the state’s reproductive health clinics. If you’re as appalled as we are by this effort to limit women’s reproductive freedom, I have upsetting news: Tennessee could be next. On November 4, voters in the Volunteer State will decide on Amendment One, which would undo language in the state constitution that defines abortion as a fundamental right. Currently, the Tennessee state legislature does not have the power to enact abortion restrictions, a welcome, if surprising protection in a region with strong opposition to reproductive rights. With the passage of Amendment One, Tennessee lawmakers would have the authority to enforce restrictive policies like those in Texas, like the mandatory 72-hour waiting period in Missouri, or like the 20-week bans that limit abortion access in nine states.

Tennessee clergy from a variety of faith traditions have made clear their opposition to Amendment One, highlighting that the law would strip women of their right to make personal, private medical decisions. Rabbi Micah Greenstein of Temple Israel in Memphis, a URJ congregation, shared his perspective at an interfaith gathering of opposition earlier this month:

“People have been misled by this amendment. It’s not about whether you’re for or against. It's about who decides that question. The government or your faith? Politicians or doctors?”

Rabbi Greenstein’s words reflect our firm belief as Reform Jews that all women have the right and ability to make their own health care decisions—and indeed, a woman’s decision to have an abortion should be made in conversation with a doctor, family, clergy or anyone else she chooses to include. Our tradition also teaches that health care is of utmost importance; Maimonides listed health care first on his list of the ten most important communal services that a city can provide its residents (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot IV: 23).

I’ll be watching closely as the results roll in on Election Day. Before then, we can do more than watch; urge your friends in Tennessee to make their voices heard on November 4!

Published: 10/28/2014

Categories: Social Justice