Tennessee Gets Terrible Abortion Ban Back
In 2020, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a bill that banned abortion after six weeks, and banned abortion in any circumstance based on the sex or race of the child or because the child has Down syndrome. You can tell the law was written and approved of by people with no chance of getting pregnant themselves, as neither the sex nor whether the child has Down syndrome is a thing anyone would know at six weeks as that is before many people even know they are pregnant.
The six-week ban was immediately blocked by the courts, but the "reasoning" part of the bill has gone back and forth between being blocked and being allowed. On Wednesday, a federal court decided to just let Tennessee enforce that part of the bill until the Supreme Court makes a decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the Mississippi abortion law case likely to result in Roe being overturned.
Via the Associated Press:
In a four-page dissent, Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote that the appeals court was refusing to schedule the hearing until the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision on whether to uphold Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The decision could dramatically limit abortion rights in the United States. According to Moore, the appeals court is waiting to see if the high court’s decision will affect Tennessee’s case.
“(These) stay-and-delay tactics subvert the normal judicial process, harming both the substance of our ultimate decision and our court’s legitimacy,” she added.
The reasoning bans themselves are a clever way of undermining Roe, which rests on the right to privacy — that the decision to terminate a pregnancy should be between a patient and their doctor until viability. If the state can interfere because it doesn't like the reason for abortion, then that itself eliminates the idea that there is any right to privacy whatsoever.
It's certainly not out of any great love of women or people of color, given that the state also recently banned teaching about gender or teaching that racism exists and is bad. It's not even out of any great love of children born with Down syndrome, who are significantly less likely to be adopted if given up than children without any chromosomal anomalies.
It's not out of any great love for children. One in three Tennessee families is food insecure while Senator Marsha Blackburn is arguing that President Joe Biden's child tax credit — which many parents in Tennessee had been relying on to buy food — is "dangerous," and Senator Bill Hagerty is inveighing against Build Back Better, which would have provided child care, subsidized pre-K and multiple other programs that would help children and make it easier to raise children for those who choose to do so.
The state also has very high maternal and infant mortality rates, with twice as many Black infants dying as white and two to three times as many Black women dying as compared to their white peers. One would think that people who care so deeply about children, and who care so deeply about racial issues, might want to deal with that issue before forcing anyone to give birth.
Of course, if the Supreme Court overrules Roe, none of this is going to matter, because Tennessee will likely ban all abortion anyway. And it will not be pretty.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse