NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The abortion law in Tennessee officially went into effect in 2019, though Roe v. Wade protected the right to abortion until this year.
“We face polarizing issues all the time in the legislature, and that’s just part of being a lawmaker,” Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) said. “You have to take a stand on issues.”
Lynn was a prime sponsor of the law when it was still a bill. She said since it went into effect, her constituency has given her positive feedback, and doctors haven’t responded negatively.
“I’ve heard people screaming and claiming that doctors are upset,” Lynn said. “I really haven’t heard from any doctors.”
“She must not be hearing from people who are being honest with her because I certainly am,” Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) said when asked about Lynn’s response.
Campbell and just about every Democrat in the state say the legislature isn’t qualified to make medical decisions for other people.
“The people that I work with are not medical specialists, and they have not thought this through because they don’t have the medical credentials or experience to think this through,” Campbell said.
The language surrounding abortions under an emergency is complex. If a doctor performs an abortion for the life of the mother, it’s up to that doctor to give an ‘affirmative defense’ proving it was medically necessary rather than the legal system proving it was medically unnecessary.
Campbell said it’s a “guilty until proven innocent” system, “They’re having to choose between their Hippocratic Oath and going to jail.”
Lynn disagreed. “They use that argument all the time, but right in the definition of the law, it says that this does not apply if the physician is removing a dead fetus.”
She’s correct there. However, for a live fetus that’s putting the mother’s life at risk, the law is left up to interpretation at some level.
When asked if there could be any changes in the future, Lynn said she had no plans and currently has heard nothing from her colleagues.
Campbell said she and her Democratic colleagues were looking at bills across the spectrum, from codifying Roe v. Wade to making exceptions for rape, incest, etc.