NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Some might call it a walk back from the strictest abortion ban in the country—a new bill in Tennessee’s legislature does legalize some abortions in cases of rape and incest.
But the qualifiers stir fury in the state Democratic party.
“It’s hard to imagine it to be possible to make it worse,” Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said. “But they may have just pulled it off because this is barbaric.”
Under SB0857, if someone puts forward a “false report” of a rape to receive an abortion, “The defendant must be sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence of at least three (3) years in incarceration, and the person must serve one hundred percent (100%) of the three-year minimum sentence.”
Democrats argue this leaves the door open for various problems. They used an example in their criticism: Imagine if a woman is raped while she doesn’t know she’s pregnant. She then finds out about the pregnancy and decides to get an abortion because she believes that child is a product of rape. But that child doesn’t belong to the rapist because the woman was already pregnant beforehand. Democrats said that would be considered filing a “false report” which would then lead to charges.
That stipulation even has some Republicans unsure. House Majority Leader William Lamberth wanted to be clear that he hadn’t read the bill yet, but still wanted to be clear that he wouldn’t tolerate any sort of punishment of victims.
“We’ll definitely take a close look at that, because there’s never a time that you should re-victimize anyone that has already had something horrendous happen to them,” he said.
Furthermore, evidence to convict a suspect usually isn’t available for months.
“TBI came out this year and said it takes between 39 weeks and 42 weeks to get a rape kit tested,” Sen. London Lamar (D-Memphis) said. “That means you’ll have that baby before your rape kit is even tested.”
“Any victim of rape or any crime out there, we’re going to support those victims, we’re going to fight for those victims,” Lamberth said, separately. “We’re going to make sure that they’re not criminalized for the acts that have occurred against them.”
News 2 reached out to the sponsor of the bill – Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) – to see if he wanted to broach the subject Thursday morning following the Senate session. In an email, he responded, “I need to get back to Gallatin today, but as we move forward I would be happy to speak with you. Give me a couple of weeks.”