How leaked SCOTUS draft on Roe v. Wade could affect Tennessee

A state law passed in 2019 would ban abortions in Tennessee if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
Published: May. 3, 2022 at 4:05 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Governor Bill Lee released a statement Tuesday following the information released about the United States Supreme Court’s deliberations on Roe v. Wade.

In his statement, Lee’s office said he has enacted the following laws with the help of the Tennessee General Assembly since 2019 to pass the maximum possible protection for pre-born children:

  • Anti-Discrimination Law – Prohibits abortion based on sex, race, or Down Syndrome (TCA 39-15-217)
  • Ultrasound Law – Requires a physician to perform an ultrasound, making the ultrasound images visible and the fetal heartbeat audible for the expecting mother (TCA 39-15-215)
  • Heartbeat Law – Prohibits an abortion where a fetal heartbeat exists, in increments beginning at six weeks (TCA 39-15-216) (currently enjoined and subject to ongoing litigation)
  • Trigger Law – Should the U.S. Supreme Court issue a decision overturning Roe v. Wade, this law would criminalize performing or attempting to perform an abortion, except in extreme cases where it is necessary to prevent death or severe and permanent bodily injury to the mother. (TCA 39-15-213)

The Human Life Protection Act, passed by the state legislature, would make it a felony for doctors to perform an abortion unless the patient’s life is in danger. However, women seeking an abortion would not be prosecuted.

SCOTUS would have to overturn Roe v. Wade for the law to become effective. The law would go into effect in Tennessee 30 days after the SCOTUS ruling.

Emergency physician Dr. Katrina Green expects, with an abortion ban, she’ll be forced to treat her first patient with complications from a back-alley abortion.

“I’ve never had to take care of a woman who did not have access to a safe and legal abortion, who then had to take matters into her own hands,” Dr. Green said. “And that’s something I’m terrified will become a very real reality for me.”

If SCOTUS decided to reverse Roe vs. Wade, it would set off a state law and make it illegal across Tennessee for doctors to give abortions.

In 2021, Lee’s office said Tennessee officials “successfully defended the 48-Hour Waiting Period law before the en banc panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.” (TCA 39-15-202)

Expanded Support for Families in Crisis

  • Supporting new and expecting mothers enrolled in TennCare by enhancing maternal health care coverage from 60 days to 12 months postpartum
  • Expanding TennCare’s Health Starts Initiative to support maternal health and holistic care for mothers and children
  • Reforming the TANF program to promote economic mobility and improve outcomes for parents and children

Investments in Public-Private Partnerships

  • Launching Tennessee Fosters Hope, a public-private partnership, to ensure every Tennessee child has a safe, loving home and make our state the most foster-friendly state in America
  • $433,000 to Psalm 139 Ministries to place ultrasounds in crisis pregnancy centers across the state
  • $1 million to Agape Child & Family Services to support expecting and new mothers

According to the Guttmacher Institute, Tennessee is one of 26 states with laws indicating they intend to ban abortions.

A map from the Center for Reproductive Rights shows Illinois, Virginia and Kansas are the closest states to Tennessee that will likely still have abortion care if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Dr. Green’s advice to women is to prepare now for what she says will be one of the strictest abortion laws in the country.

“Now we know that what we have feared is going to happen, will ultimately happen,” Dr. Green said. “Do anything to prevent you having to need an abortion when it’s not legal anymore.”

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