Democrats' effort to reinstate abortion rights in Tennessee fails, only one exception still has a chance

Rep. Gloria Johnson
Posted at 5:39 PM, Mar 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-14 19:24:47-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — So far, several attempts to provide exceptions to Tennessee's total ban on abortion have either stalled or been thrown out together. Even with that in mind, Tennessee Democrats tried Tuesday afternoon to reinstate the procedure in Tennessee.

"If we had the current trigger ban in place, I wouldn’t be here today, and that might make some of you happy, but I wouldn’t be here today if we had that bill in place. I wouldn’t be able to make the decision that I had to make as a young person who wanted to start a family, but I could not," said Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville.

Rep. Johnson, at times, got emotional talking about her own experience of having to terminate her pregnancy due to an aortic heart issue that would prevent her from taking her child fully to term.

Democratic-backed bills that would fully restore abortion rights in Tennessee were a step Republicans on the House Population Health Subcommittee wouldn't take, so the bills were voted down. However, many Republicans seemed receptive to an exception if the life of the mother was in jeopardy.

"A couple weeks ago, I think we passed a bill out of here that would protect the mothers if a situation like yours came about where it was a medical reason to help save the mother," said Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton.

Now, it appears the only chance for an abortion exception this legislative session could be decided on Wednesday. A new amendment has been proposed for HB 883, that would allow for an abortion if the life of the mother was in jeopardy, but only if it meets the "objective standard" for physicians. In other words, it protects doctors if they do what any other reasonable doctor would do.

But critics of this amendment say it's too vague and still puts Tennessee doctors in too much legal jeopardy.

Of course, NewsChannel 5 will be following this closely and will update you as we learn more.

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