NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Monday, state Democrats revealed their plan to open up abortion access in the state, naming it the Fundamental Right to Reproductive Health Care Act.
“Today we begin our journey to restore our rights in Tennessee,” Sen. London Lamar (D-Memphis) said.
If passed, the package would make abortion legal in Tennessee again.
“This common-sense legislation would rewrite Tennessee law to explicitly prohibit state and local government officials from interfering with women’s reproductive health care decisions,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said.
Some Republican leadership has signaled they’re willing to change pieces of the law as it currently stands – particularly the affirmative defense language – but Republican support for this new Democrat package is likely to be minimal.
“Affirmative defense, I don’t think it’s reasonable to make a physician prove their innocence,” Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said. “So, let’s go back to the normal way the judicial system is – you have to prove they’re guilty.”
“If it’s my daughter or a loved one or your loved one who is on the table, and their life is in danger, I don’t want a physician to have to think twice, second guess, call a lawyer to see what they need to do,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) said, separately.
But not every Republican is on board with changes.
“It’s the same defense that’s used when someone breaks into your house and you have to use force to take care of it,” Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) said. “I support the law as it is now.”
The law, as it is now, does not make exceptions for rape and incest.
“If you are raped, you have to carry your rapist’s baby,” Lamar said. “If an uncle decides to take advantage of his 12-year-old niece, she has to carry that baby created from incest and rape.”
The Senate Democratic Caucus Chair made the point that Tennessee is arguably struggling to take care of the children it has now, pointing to DCS struggles as an example.
“We are already failing the children we’ve got in this state,” Lamar said. “For too long, this state has made it a crime to parent while poor.”