NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Supreme Court issued a shameful ruling today overturning Roe v. Wade — the landmark decision recognizing the constitutional right to abortion nearly 50 years ago.
While abortion is still legal today in Tennessee, politicians have passed what is known as a trigger ban: A law from 2019 that bans abortion 30 days after a mandate from the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Tennessee also passed a law in 2020 that would ban abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. This law has been blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, but with today’s decision, this ban could also soon go into effect.
In addition, the ruling in this case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, will set off a chain reaction with states banning abortion and criminalizing essential care throughout entire regions of the country.
This decision is an unprecedented attack on women’s rights and reproductive freedom. Half the states in the country are expected to ban abortion, denying the 36 million women and other people who can become pregnant the fundamental right to decide for themselves whether and when to become a parent. That includes over 1.3 million women of reproductive age in Tennessee.
The ACLU of Tennessee is working with partners and providers to respond to this ruling and fight back. Decision day mobilization events are being held across Tennessee. Additional ways to support clinics and people who need abortions, and to get involved in the fight for reproductive justice can be found on the ACLU of Tennessee “Abortion in Tennessee” webpage.
“The Supreme Court’s unprecedented and unconscionable decision today rolls the clock back nearly 50 years on our fundamental rights, forcing anyone who becomes pregnant in Tennessee into second class status. And politicians won’t stop here. The same anti-abortion extremists seeking to control the bodies of pregnant people are coming for our right to access birth control and gender-affirming care, marry who we love, and vote,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee executive director. “While we will do everything in our power to block these bans in the courts, we’re not stopping there. Tennesseans across the state are already mobilizing. We will be in the streets, demanding access to reproductive health care, and we will take our fight to the ballot box to hold politicians accountable. The road to regain our rights is long, but the ACLU will be there every step of the way, until we have the control and power to make the best decisions for ourselves and our families.”
As some Tennessee residents have already experienced due to severe obstacles to abortion care, banning abortion leaves many with no other option than to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth. Forcing someone to carry a pregnancy against their will has life-altering consequences, including enduring serious health risks from continued pregnancy and childbirth, making it harder to escape poverty, derailing educational and career plans, perpetuating the trauma of rape and incest, and making it more difficult to leave an abusive partner.
Today’s ruling will also have deadly consequences, with the harm falling hardest on Black women and other people of color who already face a severe maternal mortality crisis that is the worst in the same states that are determined to ban abortion. In Tennessee, Black women are 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women. If abortion is banned nationwide, pregnancy-related deaths are estimated to increase by 21 percent nationwide, and 33 percent among Black women.
Banning abortion will also have an immediate and devastating impact on women and all people who can become pregnant, taking from them a right that has been central to their ability to plan their lives, families, and careers. But the burdens will disproportionately fall on women of color, those struggling to make ends meet, young people, rural residents, undocumented immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. The Supreme Court opinion will also lead to people experiencing pregnancy losses being subject to suspicion, investigation, and arrest, and patients and doctors facing charges and potentially serving time behind bars.
Weinberg continued, “Politicians who do not believe in protecting the civil rights and liberties of their constituents have no business in governors’ mansions, in state attorneys general’s offices, on state supreme court benches, or in state legislatures. We will be here to hold them to account.”
More information on access to abortion in Tennessee and ways to get involved can be found here: https://www.aclu-tn.org/abortion-in-tennessee/
More information on local decision day mobilization events can be found at: https://map.wewontgoback.com/