FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2017
CONTACT: Lindsay Kee, 615-320-7142
NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today sent a letter to Governor Bill Haslam urging him to veto SB 1180/HB 1189, a measure that creates obstacles for women seeking abortions and potentially criminalizes the doctors who care for them.
“We urge Governor Haslam to veto this legislation and halt this blatant attempt to undermine a woman’s constitutional right to make her own medical decisions,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee executive director. “While we may not all agree about abortion, it is important that we support a woman and allow her to make the best decision for her health and personal circumstances — without political interference.”
SB 1180/HB 1189 essentially bans abortions after 20-weeks except in medical emergencies, makes the definition of “medical emergency” harder to meet, and places the burden on doctors to prove their innocence should the state try to prosecute them under this law.
ACLU-TN’s letter explains that this measure is “constitutionally suspect because it does not actually include a true medical exception” and fails to include severe mental and emotional injury in its medical necessity exception language, despite a Sixth Circuit ruling that legislation that proscribes post-viability abortions must do so.
According to the letter, this legislation also runs afoul of the Constitution by threatening doctors with criminal liability even when they are making decisions in good faith using their best medical judgement. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that legislation imposing criminal liability without requiring that the defendant have at least some level of intent to commit a criminal act is unconstitutionally vague.
The Tennessee attorney general recently issued an opinion stating that SB 1180/HB 1189 was “constitutionally suspect.”
In the letter sent today, ACLU-TN urges Governor Haslam to veto SB 1180/HB 1189 because it “drastically limits a woman’s constitutional right to make her own medical decisions,” flouting the long-established constitutional precedent that “the decision to terminate a pregnancy belongs to the woman and the individuals she chooses to be involved, not the government.”
A copy of ACLU-TN’s letter can be found at http://www.aclu-tn.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/SB1180-HB1189ACLUTN-VetoLetter.pdf.