In the early hours of Friday morning, the Tennessee General Assembly passed what pro-choice groups are calling the most restrictive abortion ban in the country.
The legislation criminalizes medical professionals who perform abortions after six weeks, while restricting the reasons a women can get an abortion. It also requires women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound, in which the doctor decribes the image and gives the woman the option to view the image.
- Maya Smith
- A recent pro-choice rally at Memphis Civic Center Plaza
The bill also prohibits abortion at multiple points throughout pregnancy, so that if the six-week ban is struck down in court, access to abortions will still be taken away at later points in the pregnancy. The bill will become law and take effect immediately after it is signed by Gov. Bill Lee, who has already expressed his support of the bill.
Katy Leopard, director of external affairs for CHOICES, said one of the many issues with the bill is that it bans abortion before most women even know they are pregnant.
"Thursday night while most of us were asleep, Tennessee's primarily Republican legislators passed an anti-choice bill that bans abortion as early as six weeks — before many people even know they are pregnant," she said. "The bill contains no exceptions for victims of rape or incest and forces providers to give patients misleading and non-medical information about abortion reversal."
Less than 24 hours after the bill passed, four groups challenged the legislation in court. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Tennessee, along with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an emergency lawsuit Friday asking the court to block the bill.
The lawsuit specifically asked the court to determine that the bill is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, which ensures the right to due process, privacy, and liberty.
"The courts have long held that politicians cannot interfere in someone else's personal, private decision to end their pregnancy," said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU of Tennessee legal director. "In Tennessee, people of color, people in rural areas, young people, and people with limited incomes already face significant barriers to healthcare, and they are the very groups that will bear the brunt of this legislation. We filed this lawsuit because we cannot allow politicians who want to push abortion completely out of reach to implement yet another law that stands in the way of necessary, constitutionally protected abortion care."
Leopard called the passing of the bill by the General Assembly a "truly stunning display of hypocrisy."
"While they refused to fund $6 million in postnatal care for TennCare recipients, they were willing to spend millions of the state's dollars to defend clearly unconstitutional abortion bans," Leopard said. "These decisions are quite the opposite of pro-life. These bills are anti-life, anti-woman, anti-Black lives, anti-poor, anti-children, anti-reason."
Leopard continued, saying Tennesseans do not want elected officials "to control our bodies in this way, especially during a time when they should be working to keep our community safe. Abortion is still legal in Tennessee today, and CHOICES is open and seeing patients."