Tennessee Senate Locked The Doors And Banned Abortion Last Night
In the dead of night last night, Republican cowards in the Tennessee legislature locked the doors, suspended Senate rules, and banned abortion. The bill, part of Gov. Bill Lee's agenda, was passed in the Senate 23-5, along party lines, just after 12:30 a.m. Friday. It was not on the chamber's legislative agenda.
And it's real bad.
The bill not only bans abortion at the point when a fetal heartbeat can be detected (not really a fetal heartbeat, because there's no heart at that point) — which is about six weeks gestation, before many even know they are pregnant — it also bans abortion if the doctor knows the parent is aborting the fetus because of their sex or race or because the fetus has Down syndrome.
This just goes to show you how much they understand about fetal development, as neither sex nor Down syndrome are things a doctor can detect by six weeks into a pregnancy. A chorionic villus sampling test, which is what will tell a doctor that a fetus has genetic defects, including Down syndrome, can't be done until 10-13 weeks into a pregnancy, and an amniocentesis, which is more accurate and carries less risk of a miscarriage, can't be done until well after that. The sex of a baby can't be determined until after 14 weeks.
There are, for the record, many other genetic defects that can be detected in a CVS test — including Tay-Sachs, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia. There are also myriad other chromosomal disorders that can result in a developmental disability. The forced birth crowd, however, has focused exclusively on Down syndrome.
Why are they pushing to ban abortion at six weeks and also to ban things that cannot be detected until well after six weeks? It's not because they are actually sincerely worried that anyone is going around aborting babies because of their sex, it's not because they're worried about fetuses with Down syndrome in particular, it is because they want to portray those who have abortions as callous, cruel and selfish.
But you wanna talk callous and cruel? Let's talk callous and cruel.
In addition to policing the reasons one might choose to have an abortion, the new law also eliminates all reproductive choice for juveniles in custody of the Department of Children's Services. Previously, such juveniles would have to petition the judge to allow them to have an abortion, but now they can't even do that. They'll just be forced to give birth. Like chattel.
There are exceptions for life of the mother, but not for rape or incest. To be clear, this means that if a teenager is in the custody of the Department of Children's Services because they were being raped by their father and they are pregnant, or if they were raped by a foster parent and became pregnant from that, they will have to carry that baby to term, for the amusement of state Senate Republicans who are apparently so sick that they get off on that kind of thing.
Is that mean? Is that unfair? Well, it's not as mean or unfair as forcing a teenage rape victim to have their father's baby. Or, frankly, as mean or unfair as forcing anyone to give birth against their will.
Is that all? No, that is not all. The new law also requires abortion clinics in Tennessee — all seven of them — to post a sign saying that "chemical abortions" (medical abortions) can be reversed, or face a $10,000 fine. This is not only just not true, but when researchers did try to conduct studies to see if it could be done, they had to stop on account of all of the hemorrhaging patients were doing. Of course, those who push this kind of thing don't really care about that. They are more than willing to risk the life of the mother on the off chance that it could save the fetus.
But wait, there's more!
The physician treating the patient must also do the following things.
Via The Tennessean:
- Determine and inform the mother of the gestational age of the fetus.
- Allow the woman to hear the fetal heartbeat and explain the location of the unborn child within the uterus.
- Conduct an ultrasound and display the images to the mother.
- Provide an explanation of the fetus's dimensions and which external body parts and internal organs are present and visible.
The purpose of this, as we all know, is to guilt the patient into not going through with the abortion. Although why the physician would be required to "[a]llow the woman to hear the fetal heartbeat" if it is illegal to have an abortion once the "fetal heartbeat" can be heard (again, not a thing, because there's no heart yet), is beyond me.
So far, there's been the expected pushback. Sen. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, explained that abortion would still be legal for rich women, which is true. Abortion will always be legal for those with money — a population that includes the very people who make these laws and their children. These laws only make it illegal for poor people. Like those juveniles in the custody of the Department of Children's Services.
The ACLU is calling it unconstitutional, which it is, and gearing up for a lawsuit.
"As promised, we will see them in court," said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee in a statement early Friday morning.
"The Tennessee General Assembly's passage of this dangerous, flatly unconstitutional bill is unacceptable," Weinberg said. "Lawmakers used this measure in a game of political maneuvering to pass the state budget — pushing it through without regard for the actual Tennesseans who will be denied access to the care they need, including abortion."
Unfortunately, that is exactly what Republicans in the state legislature of Tennessee want. They passed this law expecting that it would be challenged, because they want it to go to the Supreme Court, where they have every reason to expect that Roe will be overturned.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (no relation to the map guy as far as we can tell) says he expects the bill to hold up in court, but just in case the six-week ban is struck down, the legislation subsequently provides for bans at eight, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. So they're real prepared.
We're gonna have to be prepared, too.
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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. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse