Abortion rules in New York and Tennessee are heading in opposite directions.
New York’s Productive Health Act defines abortion as a fundamental right and allows late-term abortions after 24 weeks if the mother’s life or health is at risk or the fetus will not survive. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law Tuesday.
In Tennessee, rules have been going the other way. The time limit on abortions in the Volunteer State is at 20 weeks. This, is in addition to the amendment that states nothing in Tennessee’s constitution gives a right to abortion or abortion funding.
There is a provision in Tennessee, similar to New York, that allows for abortions past 20 weeks if it is “necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”
To attorney Marcos Garza, the Tennessee provision simply has more hoops for the expecting mother. In Tennessee, if a doctor believes there is a health threat, it has to be justified to the hospital and certified in writing, then the District Attorney General’s Office, which is comprised of non-medical experts.
New York law simply says the requirement for an abortion for health reason passed 24 weeks is should be “in the physician’s reasonable and good faith professional judgment.”
Tennessee Right to Life has more information on Tennessee Laws on abortion.
Kimberly Bradford volunteers for Planned Parenthood and believes a woman has a right, set by the U.S. Supreme Court, to have an abortion. She believes in the cause so much she knocks on people’s doors to talk about the issue.
“No one is going to be able to come to an agreement or understand each other unless we talk about it. So much is we just refuse to talk about it,” she said.
Bradford has seen outrage locally over New York’s new law. The outrage, she believes, stems mostly from misconceptions.
“I think the misconception is somebody is rolling up to the hospital a week before they’re due saying, ‘I don’t want this baby anymore’ – and that’s not reality,” Bradford added.
She also believes Tennessee is far behind in terms of abortion access.
Pastor Rich Elseroad at Grace Lutheran Church says it’s science and his belief in Psalms 139 that make him pro-life.
He says a fetus is a “true individual,” with different DNA, blood type and possibly gender than its expecting mother. He also believes in taking a compassionate approach to the issue.
“I think there ought to be compassion for those faced with this decision. At the same time, just like other laws, I think we need to protect life and this is life for most Christians, this is considered a matter of life and death,” he said.
As a congregation, Elseroad says they don’t ostracize people who have had abortions in the past.
He says he believes Tennessee, as a state, has an obligation to protect unborn children. He would even like to see Roe V. Wade overturned.
While he feels strongly on the abortion issue, he doesn’t see it as an unforgivable sin. He believes there should be compassion for those who have had abortions and those considering to have one. An abortion, due to a health risk for the mother, is an exception in Elseroad’s view.
On New York’s new law, he said: “I think it’s a living being before 24 weeks, but after 24 weeks it is very problematic.”
While Elseroad and Bradford both believe in the idea of a civil discussion surrounding the debate, Bradford doesn’t think religious beliefs should be a factor in abortion access.
“You can believe what you want to believe personally. You can have your religious beliefs. But the idea that your personal belief would impede a woman’s right she has been given and a woman’s medical decisions between her and her doctor, isn’t fair and that’s not ok.”