CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s all for her daughter, Miley Rose, Allie Phillips says.
Phillips has announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Tennessee House District 75, which covers part of Montgomery County, including a portion of Clarksville. The seat is a newer one established after the 2020 Census and is currently held by Republican Rep. Jeff Burkhart.
According to Phillips, a lifelong Tennessean, her decision to run for the newly-created seat came after the traumatic loss of her second child, Miley Rose, this year.
“I decided to run after an experience that I had earlier this year. Back in March, I lost a pregnancy, and Tennessee’s law did not give me the option of healthcare that I needed here, so I had to fly out of state – to New York,” she said. “What I experienced on that journey, I wouldn’t wish on anybody, and I don’t think it’s okay that they’re making laws on healthcare decisions. That is the huge reason why I’m running.”
Phillips shared her pregnancy journey and subsequent termination on TikTok, garnering millions of views and hundreds of thousands of followers – many of whom had a similar or the same experience as she did.
“I felt the need to share such a personal update so people understood what exactly was about to happen,” she said. “Throughout the process, I knew I had to share every heartbreaking detail because it humanizes it and it makes it real. When people see me going through this in real time, it brings back that sense of reality, like, ‘This could happen to me. This could happen to my loved one.'”
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Phillips, who started posting on TikTok at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, saw her audience respond mostly positively to her story.
“Being that I already built myself a platform on TikTok, my followers already knew I was pregnant. They were waiting for updates,” she said. “The feedback was phenomenal. The original video I shared has over 3 million views and so much support; so much love. I had so many other women reach out to me and share their stories with me.”
The videos also got the attention of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who asked her to sign onto a multi-state lawsuit challenging abortion bans in several states, including Tennessee.
However, not all the response she’s received has been positive. There are, of course, those critical of her decision to terminate her pregnancy.
“Of course, with being public there was a lot of hate that came with it, too, but I have to internalize my story and understand why I did what I did,” she said. “It was for my health and my family, and I can’t please everybody. Not everybody in the world is going to agree with me.”
Having such a personal decision be out in the open has been hard, Phillips said, but she’s also been “so honored” to reach so many people with similar experiences to hers.
“I feel proud that my story has helped so many people along the way and continues to do so,” she said.
That inspiration is what’s carrying her through her decision to run in District 75, especially after meeting with her current representative, she said.
“My representative is Jeff Burkhart, and he is a self-proclaimed pro-life Republican man,” Phillips told News 2. “When I told him my story, I tried to humanize it and normalize it for him. He has a daughter that’s not too far from my age. She’s a little bit younger than me. I said, ‘If this was your daughter, and she called you and told you everything I just said, what advice would you give your daughter?’ He told me that the way he grew up, he would tell her he thinks she should continue her pregnancy.”
Even after further pressing Burkhart, Phillips said the representative stuck to his position, even if the pregnancy would put his daughter’s life at risk, which rendered her “nearly speechless.”
Additionally, Phillips said she came away from that meeting unsettled by the legislator’s lack of knowledge of women’s reproductive health.
“We already knew a lot of our representatives don’t know much about women’s health when they’re voting on these bills and laws, but to hear him say it right in front of my face kind of made me feel like, ‘Oh yeah, no, this is bad,'” she told News 2.
“At the same time, I didn’t appreciate the lack of sympathy for my story,” Phillips added. “It was kind of like he met with me because he has to. He was looking at his watch, checking his phone throughout my story. He didn’t really care. That told me all I needed to know, and if he’s not a representative for everybody in his district, including me, then he doesn’t need to be a representative at all.”
That alone would have been enough for her to run, she said, but Phillips said she’s also concerned about public schools in the Clarksville area and beyond.
“Aside from reproductive health care, I have a 6-year-old daughter that’s in our public schools up here, so public schools is a huge thing for me—the funding for it, the staffing for it,” she said. “My daughter in particular has an IEP so she needs special education, she needs special treatment, and trying to get that special treatment is a whirlwind, and it’s very difficult to get. There’s a lot of kids in our school systems that are struggling because they’re not getting the attention and the proper care that they’re needing while in the classroom.”
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Phillips is also concerned about gun safety.
“I’m scared that one day my daughter’s not going to come back home from first grade. I have to remember what clothes I put her in in case she doesn’t come back home. That’s a constant fear as a mother in America, and it shouldn’t be like that,” she said.
Locally, Phillips said infrastructure is in critical need in her district.
“Infrastructure up here in Clarksville—traffic here is a nightmare. I thought Nashville was bad, but up here we’re just as bad,” she said. “The amount of housing going up is great. It’s great that we’re having people join us, but we’re not expanding everything else along with it. The housing cost up here is getting unattainable. It’s pushing people out because they can no longer afford it.”
Phillips said her candidacy is likely going to be “an uphill battle.”
“I don’t feel like I’m going to be taken seriously during this because I’m young; I’m a woman; I don’t have any political experience, so people are going to look at me like, ‘What is she doing?'” she said. “But I do know that there are different approaches that you can take when it comes to trying to make change.”
To that end, Phillips said she’s been out in the community meeting people at various events, as well as gauging points of interest online in local chat groups.
“The biggest thing is going to meet with my constituents, hear their concerns, and then meet with the proper people in order to get those concerns met, whether that be the mayor, the school board, the city council, [or] down in Nashville. There’s steps to take for each process, and I’m going to do my best to make sure that I follow the proper steps and try to make at least District 75, if not all of Clarksville, to be a better place, a happier place for the people that live here,” she said.
For now, Phillips said she’s forging ahead, running for office for her family, herself, and all Tennesseans.
“It’s for my deceased daughter, for myself, for my 6-year-old daughter and everybody else across the state that is of reproductive health age,” she said. “I’m here to help make better change and not upset everybody along the way. I want a better Tennessee. I want a Tennessee that I’m happy to raise my daughter in, and hopefully she’ll raise her family here as well.”