KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Abortion: It’s a hot-button issue that is brought up year after year in our state.
Back in the spring, state lawmakers debated what was then referred to as the Heartbeat Bill – aiming to make it a felony to perform an abortion once a heartbeat is detected.
Lawmakers made several changes to the bill as time has gone on, and now critics say it goes too far.
Several Knoxville doctors and abortion rights advocates say the legislation is dangerous and unconstitutional, speaking out in opposition Friday at the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health.
“From what I understand it would ban all abortions, totally in Tennessee,” said Dr. Susan Dodd, Medical Director for the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health.
Dodd is against the bill from a personal and medical standpoint, saying the issue is why she became an OBGYN.
“I found myself pregnant at 16 with no legal options available for me,” said Dodd. “There were legal abortions being performed in faraway places I couldn’t afford to go to so I had an illegal abortion, luckily by a very compassionate doctor.”
Dodd has since had two daughters after getting married nearly 40 years ago.
“And you know none of that would have been possible if I’d had a child at 16. My two daughters Ana and Rose, they would not be here,” Dodd said.
“I think ultimately from my perspective, I believe that life does begin at conception,” said Andrew Wood, Executive Director for the Hope Resource Center in Knoxville.
Opening in 1997 as a faith-based organization, Hope Resource Center offers free medical services and parenting classes for women and does not provide or refer for abortions.
“I long for a society that abortion wouldn’t just be unlawful, that it would be unthinkable,” said Wood. “I long for a society where our neighbors facing unplanned pregnancies and difficult circumstances would find the community that would surround them and loves them well, and I don’t think the answer starts at the legislature.”
Wood sees the answer in individual neighborhoods and communities.
“Our message from Hope Resource Center is that you can have your baby and your dreams, you don’t have to pick one or the other,” Wood said.
“I love women who are excited about pregnancy, but I also grew up poor and I see the consequences of poverty and adding more children to a family that’s already full,” added Dodd.
This issue is sure to come up again in the legislature during the next session. We’ll keep following it and bring the latest.