Tennessee GOP Lawmakers Want To Let Rapists Sue Victims To Make Them Stay Pregnant
Last week, Tennessee legislators introduced a bill that would permit "a person to petition a court for an injunction to prohibit a woman who is pregnant with the person's unborn child from obtaining an abortion." That sounds pretty horrible to begin with, right? Like nothing could possibly be worse than having some asshole sue you in court for the right to use your body as an incubation chamber for his progeny, right? Especially given that it is highly unlikely that the kind of man who would do that kind of thing would not be an abusive piece of shit to begin with.
But it actually does get worse than that! Because while SB0494 would require the petitioner to submit a "voluntary acknowledgement of paternity that is not subject to being rescinded or challenged," it would not require a DNA test. This would mean, hypothetically, that some disturbed stalker who isn't even the actual father of your child could sue you and force you to have a baby against your will, and then, we can assume, take possession of that baby because "Hey! He said he was the father in court! He signed a thing!" This could also be easily abused by forced birth enthusiasts who want to stop all of the abortions, period.
GOP state Sen. Mark Pody (R) and state Rep. Jerry Sexton (R), neither of whom will ever be pregnant, sponsored the legislation.
Additionally, there is no exception for rape or incest, and wow, could that ever go very, very wrong. There have already been multiple cases across the United States where rapists have sued, sometimes successfully, for joint custody. While Minnesota remains the only state where rapists retain parental rights, there have been cases elsewhere. Tennessee requires "clear and convincing evidence" that a rape occurred to terminate parental rights, but it is unclear how that would work in this situation. Would the state make an exception if the rapist were also forcing his victim to have his child?
On the somewhat bright side, it is at least fairly unlikely this would actually stand up in court if passed:
If enacted into law, the measure is likely to be found unconstitutional. In the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, the Supreme Court struck down a state requirement that a woman notify her husband before she sought an abortion.
Similar efforts to allow fathers to veto abortions in other states have been unsuccessful. In 2014, a Missouri legislator introduced a bill that would have required doctors to receive "written, notarized consent" prior to performing an abortion from the man who got the woman pregnant. The bill did not receive a vote.
Last summer, Tennessee passed a sweeping anti-abortion bill outlawing abortion once a doctor can detect cardiac activity in an embryo, which typically happens about six weeks into a pregnancy ― before most people would know they are pregnant. The measure was promptly blocked in court.
Of course, given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, it's hard to say anything is beyond the pale these days. The fact that there are people in the Tennessee government who would just love it if this were the law alone is worth fretting over.
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