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Pro-choice Tennessee candidates stress work to 'restore' women's rights

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Posted at 4:29 PM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-28 13:20:15-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Before other women, Senate District 19 candidate Charlane Oliver took the mic.

Taking her time with her words, Oliver said Friday felt sobering with the reversal of Roe v. Wade, a decision that will send abortion rights back to the states. In Tennessee, trigger laws will soon effectively eliminate abortions for women unless their life is in peril from the pregnancy.

"There are things we can do about what happened today," Oliver said. "Today is a very sobering day. Today is heavy for many of us standing up here. There is a woman that you know who has had an abortion. Today I stand before you as a young Black woman. I stand before you as a wife, as a mother who has birthed three children but been pregnant four times. You do the math. I stand before you as a sexual assault survivor."

Oliver stood with many women running for public office in Tennessee, from Congressional seats to local school boards. She said that she and other candidates didn't find this situation to necessarily be about pro-life.

"Let's be real clear. Abortion is a medical procedure and its health care. This isn't about pro-life. The Bible I pray to tells me to love my neighbor and see people's humanity. My Christianity gives me the right and free will to choose. You don't get to own my religion. Let's be very clear. Republicans are to blame to what happened today. Republicans put power over people. If this were about pro-life, then we wouldn't be criminalizing homelessness. If this were about pro-life, you would care about gun control. If this were about pro-life, you would care about police brutality. You would care about women."

Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, said that she and others would continue to fight for women's rights despite Friday's decision. She's running for the newly drawn Tennessee District 5 Congressional seat, which Jim Cooper will vacate after his term ends.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery already asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to lift its current injunction of the six-week abortion ban — known as the heartbeat bill, which passed the state legislature in 2020. A decision hasn't yet been rendered. Slatery said he wanted the bill to go into law as soon as possible, which would make abortions illegal as soon as a heartbeat is detected. He said in 30 days, the 2019 Human Life Protection Act would go into effect in Tennessee. The overturn came in the face of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

"If anyone thinks this is the end of it, then they are diluted," Campbell said. "I think people need to think seriously about what's going on here. This isn't just about women. This is about the rights in this country. I encourage everyone to get out and vote and register voters. We are one of the worst states for voting in the country. We have three more days to register for the primary. Democracy is hard work."

Metro Council member Delisha Porterfield, who is running for a seat in the Tennessee legislature, said she will file bills with the council ahead of its next meeting to ensure women wouldn't be criminalized for making decisions regarding their health care.

"I am mad," Porterfield said. I woke up angry looking for resources. We have to stand up and say we are tired of men making decisions for women and our bodies. As a sitting legislator, I do more than talk. I file legislation."