NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — District Attorney General Glenn Funk is responsible for the prosecution of all alleged violations of state criminal laws that occur within Davidson County.
He explains the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe V. Wade in June means now in Tennessee, life begins at conception and a total ban on abortion is in effect with no exception for rape or incest.
“A person who performs or attempts to perform an abortion commits criminal abortion.” Funk continues, “Criminal abortion is a Class C Felony which carries 3 to 15 years in the state penitentiary.”
State law does include an affirmative legal defense for medical providers when the care given is necessary to protect the life of the pregnant individual, or to prevent substantial harm to their physical health.
“Which means the doctor can still be charged,” Funk says. “Fingerprinted, booked, mugshot taken, have to post a bond, get a lawyer, come to court, then at a jury trial. The doctor would then put on an affirmative defense that if the jury believes, then the jury could acquit.”
If the jury does not believe the mother’s life was in danger Funk continues, “then the jury could convict this doctor.”
Funk admits the law is unclear in cases where complications occur during the use of legal contraceptives such as an intrauterine device, known as an IUD, or the morning-after pill.
“It’s those folks who come to the hospital that could wind up leading to an investigation,” he says.
“I made that statement two years ago. I repeated it in May, and I repeated it again the day after the Dobbs decision was handed down,” Funk says.
He claims he has the power to make that decision as district attorneys serve as arbiters, essentially umpires, between the people and their government with the purpose to seek justice, not conviction.
He gives the following example: There are roughly 60,000 charges that take place in Davidson County every year, but only 210 possible jury trial dates.
“We have to use our discretion every day and in every case, and we always look at what’s in the best interest of public safety,” Funk says.
With that being said, there are 32 elected DAs in the state each representing the community they serve, and each with the same discretionary power.
“Every district attorney will be making a decision when presented with these cases,” Funk explains. “The voters of that judicial district will have selected their district attorney, and we’ll see what they do.”