Photo: Tennessee Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty
Photo Credit: AP
Published February 1, 2021
On January 22nd in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the decision that women in the United States have a fundamental right to choose whether or not to have abortions without excessive government restriction.
Abortion legislation has been evolving ever-since, across the country and close to home. Over the summer, Gov. Lee reignited legislative plans to further restrict abortion in Tennessee.
Lee’s legislative agenda that was mostly abandoned last spring due the coronavirus pandemic, but found new life through last-minute budget negotiations.
That bill was successful in banning abortions after the point a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is as early as six weeks. The legislation also prohibits the procedure under a variety of other voluntary circumstances.
The bill was passed with Senate rules suspended, as it wasn’t on the chamber’s legislative calendar, and without any members of the public present.
Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and other abortion rights groups filed a lawsuit against the bill in U.S. District Court in Nashville. Federal courts dismissed some parts of the bill as unconstitutional, but ultimately upholds the legislation.
In April, a federal judge blocked the state’s attempt to limit abortion procedure when the governor had placed limits on non-emergency medical procedures because of the coronavirus pandemic. Planned Parenthood challenged one of Lee’s executive orders.
Six months later, a judge further ruled that Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period law for abortions was unconstitutional for placing a “substantial burden” on women who seek abortions in Tennessee.
This law requiring women to make two trips to an abortion clinic, first for mandatory counseling and then for the abortion at least 48 hours later has previously been upheld since 2015.
However, in November, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of restriction. Announcing that Tennessee can begin outlawing abortions that are being sought in response to a prenatal diagnosis of intellectual disability (Down’s) as well as prohibiting abortions based on the race or gender of the fetus.
While the tug-of-war for abortion legislation has continued between state and federal courts, last week, Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty joined a group of lawmakers looking to create a bill that will end taxpayer-funded abortion.
Tennessee is not alone in pursuing such legislation. Arkansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma have increased restrictive measures as recently as 2019.
Since 1976, federal law has prohibited use of federal funds for abortions.
Despite performing hundreds of thousands of abortions every year, organizations like Planned Parenthood have received tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money annually.
“We must close loopholes that allow for abortion giants like Planned Parenthood to receive federal funding,” said Senator Blackburn. “This legislation will help end taxpayer funded support for the abortion industry and protect the unborn.”