NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In a report by nonprofit news organization ProPublica, anti-abortion activists are calling on Tennessee lawmakers to not give in to pressure to change the state’s abortion law.
“I implore you, please don’t say we only cast this law because we never thought Roe was going to be overturned,” said one person on a recording of a webinar obtained by ProPublica.
The webinar happened in late October and was hosted by Tennessee Right to Life for state GOP lawmakers and also included representatives from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, according to the outlet.
In the audio, anti-abortion activists urged lawmakers to keep the ban as is with no exceptions. As it is written, doctors have a defense to use in court if they perform an abortion because they believe a mother’s life was in danger.
“A doctor can make their case that what they did is justifiable,” said state police director Katie Glenn with Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America on the webinar. “So, it’s not that they didn’t violate the text of the statute it’s that they have a justifiable reason to do so and that reason you’ve defined very narrowly is to save her life. To prevent an organ system from failing.”
Glenn told WKRN this comment was made in the context of her saying that claims that doctors will be criminalized under the abortion law have not happened and the law gives deference to a doctor’s independent judgment.
In a statement about the ProPublica article, a spokesperson for SBA Pro-Life America said, “The original article cherrypicked quotes from a briefing to further their agenda. The law is direct and unambiguous.”
However, doctors and lawyers are pushing for the law to be changed during this upcoming legislative session because it makes performing abortions a Class C Felony.
“The statute in itself criminalizes an entire medical procedure without exception,” said attorney Jennifer Eberle.
In another part of the meeting, SBA Pro-Life America VP of State Affairs Stephen Billy responded to a lawmaker’s questions about other restrictions like regulations on IVF and contraception.
“Maybe your caucus gets to a point next year, two years from now, three years from now where you do want to talk about IVF,” he said on the call. “And how to regulate it in a more ethical way, or deal with some of those contraceptive issues. But, I don’t think that’s the conversation that you need to have now. I would not recommend having it now in the context of your current pro-life law.”
Billy told WKRN he was not advocating for any future legislation but was rather trying to reinforce the same message from others: focus on the state abortion law as it is.