Tennessee lawmakers have passed a bill banning abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy; This new ban comes just two months after Tennessee unsuccessfully attempted to ban abortion procedures under the guise of COVID-19 restrictions
Tennessee first state to pass an abortion ban since start of coronavirus in the U.S.
Nashville, TN — A bill passed by the Tennessee legislature late last night banning abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy was challenged in court today by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. The bill also prevents patients from obtaining an abortion depending on their reason for seeking the procedure, including the potential for a Down syndrome diagnosis or the sex or race of the fetus. These types of “reason bans” insinuate that pregnant people cannot be trusted to make their own medical decisions, and do nothing to address racism, sexism, ableism, or the serious health disparities faced by marginalized communities.
If Governor Bill Lee signs the bill into law, it will take effect immediately. The emergency lawsuit being filed today asks the court to block the bill immediately.
As the bill was being debated into the early hours of the morning, police officers kept the public out of the Capitol building and arrested some protestors. The passage of these abortion bans come just two months after Governor Lee attempted to ban abortion procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic by labelling abortion care as non-essential, despite opposition from leading national medical groups. That attempt was blocked in court in April after a lawsuit was filed by the same organizations filing today’s case.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Enough is enough. It is abhorrent that Gov. Lee and politicians in Tennessee are exploiting the fear and uncertainty of a global pandemic to push their cruel anti-abortion agenda. This opportunistic attack on our reproductive rights, passed in the middle of the night under the cover of darkness, will disproportionately impact Black Tennesseans due to systemic oppression and concerted efforts to stifle their most basic rights and freedoms. We won’t stand for this, and we are going to do everything possible to fight back against this extremely harmful law.”
Statement from Ashley Coffield, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood Tennessee and North Mississippi:
“This is blatantly unconstitutional, and I am confident that once challenged in court, this legislation will go on the same legal trash heap as the abortion bans that have been struck down in other states. Gov. Lee is wasting valuable taxpayer dollars to defend this unconstitutional law, while COVID-19 cases are rising and our state grapples with our history of systemic racism. Gov. Lee’s failed priorities will fall heaviest on people who already face systemic barriers to care including people of color, people with low incomes, and women. We’ll continue fighting these egregious attacks on our patients’ rights — no matter what.”
Statement from Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“For the second time in two months, Tennessee politicians have tried to ban abortion. First, they tried and failed to exploit the pandemic as an excuse to cut off abortion access. Now, they have given up the smokescreen and are unashamedly banning abortion outright. Courts have blocked every such similar ban in other states and Tennessee’s will meet the same fate. Tennessee should be addressing the health care needs of its people, not taking their rights away.”
Statement from Anjali Dalal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:
“It is always shameful — not to mention blatantly unconstitutional — when politicians attempt to take away a pregnant person’s right to make the decision that is best for themselves and their family. But to pass an abortion ban, which disproportionately harms Black and Brown people, when those communities are already suffering under the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and police violence, just proves that these politicians are more interested in furthering an anti-abortion agenda than serving their constituents. The ability to get an abortion must not depend on where you live or how much money you make.”
Last year alone, 25 abortion bans were enacted in 12 states, including: Alabama; Arkansas; Georgia; Indiana; Kentucky; Louisiana; Mississippi; Missouri; North Dakota; Ohio; Tennessee; and Utah. Due to litigation filed by the Center, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and other organizations, none of those bans are in effect, and abortion remains legal in all 50 states. Leading medical associations oppose abortion bans, including the American College for Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). In 2019, ACOG stated, “Politicians must seek to improve access to care, not restrict it... health care decisions should be made jointly only by patients and their trusted health care professionals, not by politicians."
Tennessee has several other abortion restrictions on the books, including a ban on the use of telehealth for medication abortion; a mandatory 48-hour waiting period (which includes a requirement that forces patients to delay their care to make an additional, medically unnecessary trip to the clinic to receive state-mandated information); limits on when state and public insurance can cover abortion services; and a requirement that minors obtain parental consent. The Center and Planned Parenthood are litigating another case in the state challenging the 48-hour waiting period.
The case was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Tennessee on behalf of the Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Tennessee and North Mississippi, Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, carafem, and two abortion providers in Tennessee.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.