NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Councilman Freddie O'Connell said Tuesday he was working to draft a resolution that would create funding for pregnant people who need to access out-of-state abortions.
O'Connell, who represents District 19, said he is taking his proposal under review legally before drafting the resolution for council on July 5.
After a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision enacting the six-week abortion ban law, Planned Parenthood providers performed their last abortion Tuesday in Tennessee. The legislation — known as the "heartbeat bill" — means abortions can't happen after a cardiac activity is detected on an ultrasound. This all comes down after the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday. Further trigger laws in Tennessee will go into effect in less than 30 days from the Human Life Protection Act voted on by the legislature.
More than a thousand people marched in protest in Nashville after the reversal.
"If we are going to be a forced birth state, it’s appropriate to have an expenditure of public funds for that purpose," O'Connell said. "We are trying to determine whether there is a limitation on the use of public funds for abortion acts in any form and what are municipal rights. It’s not something we used to have to be concerned with. Planned Parenthood clinic in District 19. This is definitely a new and difficult horizon for women and we are grappling with that."
Planned Parenthood of Tennessee-North Mississippi CEO Ashley Coffield said women seeking abortion services from Middle Tennessee should look north Illinois. She said Tuesday they anticipate thousands of women will have to take that route.
Federally, money cannot go to fund abortions outright. Per the Hyde Amendment from 1976, federal dollars can't fund abortions except in case of a life-threatening pregnancy or in cases of incest and rape. This means Medicaid can't be used for abortions.
With that in mind, O'Connell said he would like to see some sort of Nashville funds that could help women with the reversal of Roe v. Wade.
"This is not going away," he said. "It’s not like SCOTUS will reconsider their decision on Roe. We have to offer their citizens the right we have come to expect and probably for years going forward."
O'Connell said he expected other council members to support his legislation when he drafts it into a resolution.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper expressed his disdain already for the reversal of abortion access in the state.
"I am horrified that the Supreme Court would overturn precedent that’s been on the books for 50 years," Cooper said. "I remain firmly in support of protecting women’s health care and a person’s right to choose. The legislature in Tennessee has decided to make it harder for women to access the care that they need — that is not who Nashville is. We strive to be a place where everyone — no matter your zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, income, or belief can live and thrive. It’s why people and businesses from all over the world move to Nashville."
O'Connell said whatever legislation he created could become a target of legislators next session in the Tennessee General Assembly.
"It’s what I expect," O'Connell said. "I am not afraid they will do that. What we will do is what we are elected to do in Nashville. I can tell you right now I have heard from dozens of women in Nashville who expect their rights to be upheld."