After the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade back in June, a Tennessee law that was put on the books in 2019 came to the forefront of legislators’, attorneys’, and women’s minds.
Abortion, which is defined as any measure used to terminate a pregnancy, will be illegal in the state of Tennessee.
“This trigger law was actually passed in 2019, but it just reverts back to what the law was prior to Roe v. Wade,” explained State Senator Richard Briggs.
The trigger law features several main points, however, one point is now under increased scrutiny: exceptions vs. defense. According to Attorney Greg Isaacs, the law is clear.
“There are no abortions and there are no exceptions,” said Isaacs.
But that contradicts how some political leaders, like Briggs, interpret the act.
“There are really two exceptions,” said Briggs. “Number one, it’s performed to prevent the death of the mother or number two it’s to prevent serious or substantial or irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
According to Isaacs, there are no exceptions when it comes to the law. Instead, there is what is known as “affirmative defense.”
“If you’re prosecuted you can say it was a decision I had to make to save the life of my patient to comply with my Hippocratic Oath,” Isaacs told WATE. “But does it keep them from being prosecuted? No. Is it a defense? Yes. Are there exceptions? No.”
Hippocratic oath, ethical code attributed to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, adopted as a guide to conduct by the medical profession throughout the ages and still used in the graduation ceremonies of many medical schools.Britannica.com
This leaves doctors and patients left in limbo as doctors must now decide if and when an abortion is required. It’s a predicament Briggs says he is seeing doctors struggle with.
“They’re treating women that have certain medical conditions such as ectopic pregnancy and then you also have the situations such as rape and incest. There’s confusion about what can and cannot be done in those circumstances.”
Briggs says Tennessee’s trigger law will remain as it is through the rest of this year. Come January, he expects lawmakers to review the bill and decide whether changes need to be made.
For now, starting on Aug. 25, 2022, abortion will be a felony in Tennessee.