Second Line Funeral Held to Mourn Passage of Amendment 1 

Advocates of reproductive rights took to the streets with a New Orleans-style funeral march.

There may not have been a body to bury, but last weekend, a "second line funeral" allowed many to mourn how the passage of Amendment 1 may affect their bodies.

Accompanied by musicians on drums and brass, a crowd paraded through Midtown from Overton Park, circling to Madison and walking directly through Overton Square. The mourners also made a stop at CHOICES on Poplar. Honks and cheers came from passersby as marchers danced, sang, and twirled.

"This is not a protest," said Sarah Ledbetter, one of the organizers for the event. "This is a second line funeral, which is a very specific cultural tradition meant to honor loss and regather the energies of that thing in a new direction. A protest is a statement of what you're against. This is a demonstrative act of emotional and energetic loss."

click to enlarge Marchers in the second line displayed signs. - ALEXANDRA PUSATERI
  • Alexandra Pusateri
  • Marchers in the second line displayed signs.

The second line parade — based on New Orleans tradition — may not have been a traditional one, but the symbolism remained. Organizers' portrayal of a jazz funeral was executed well as mourners appeared with parasols, umbrellas, and signs. Some wore black to further drive home the point.

Planning for the event spawned immediately after it was revealed that Amendment 1 had passed.

"I went to all my friends who I encouraged to vote and said, 'I just want you all to feel proud that you voted today,'" Ledbetter said. "From there, the grief and the emotion that was swimming just in this text [message] chain, it was just like an engine that needed to go. In that very text chain, I was like, 'We are going to take to the streets. What day are you free?'"

While the amendment to the state's Constitution itself may not limit access to abortion, nine days after it passed, Rep. Rick Womick (R-Rockvale) filed a bill that would require an ultrasound of the fetus to be offered to the patient two days before a scheduled abortion, unless there's a medical emergency.

If the patient declines, the medical provider would be required to give "a simultaneous verbal explanation of the results of the live, real-time ultrasound images, including a medical description of the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, and the presence of arms, legs, external members and internal organs, and provide a copy of the ultrasound image to the woman," according to the bill. The patient would also be required to hear the heartbeat of the fetus.

A federal lawsuit has been filed by some opponents of Amendment 1, including Rev. Kenneth T. Whalum, Jr., who claims some voters for the amendment were manipulating votes by not also voting for governor, which they say is against the state Constitution's Article IX, Section 3.  The "Yes on 1" campaign called for voters to sit out the governor's race — as it was "doubling" the vote for the amendment.

Shelby County and Hardeman County, along with the counties that house Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and other pockets of rural areas across the state, voted against the amendment.

"So many of our sister cities in Tennessee voted the same way as we did," Ledbetter said. "The only thing that makes me sad is that Shelby County doesn't vote in the numbers that it really should be."

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