Some Tennessee Republicans switch gears to support abortion exceptions

New bill would create exceptions to abortion ban
Tennessee Capitol sunset
Posted at 4:57 PM, Dec 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-14 19:40:13-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Some Republicans will now support exceptions in the state's abortion ban.

When Roe v. Wade was overturned, it paved the way for Tennessee's trigger law — which banned abortion — to go into effect. There are no exceptions in the law.

"Tennessee has perhaps the harshest of all the trigger laws that have been passed across the country," Republican State Senator Richard Briggs said.

According to a Vanderbilt University poll, 75% of polled voters think abortion should be legal in Tennessee for rape and incest victims. Support was strong regardless of partisanship. And their data indicates that the support for a pro-life position dropped from 46% in 2012 to 36% in 2022.

As a doctor who has treated patients in life-threatening situations, Briggs said he would now support an exception for the life of the mother.

“It puts me in a difficult position," Briggs said. "About 1 in 50 to 1 in 100 pregnancies will be tubal pregnancies that can rupture, and that’s one of the leading causes of death in pregnant women: is a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. But if a doctor in emergency circumstances — under the present law, if he operated on a woman with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, he’s committed a crime; he’s a felon."

Briggs said he would also vote for exceptions in cases of incest, fetal abnormalities, and rape.

"Twelve-year-old girl that is raped, or becomes pregnant as a result of incest, where her 11-year-old, 12-year-old body may not be ready for a pregnancy, where things get stretched out, her uterus could be damaged to the point where she could not get married and have children in the future," Briggs said.

On Wednesday, there was some backlash to his statements. The Tennessee Right to Life PAC revoked his endorsement. Director of Government Relations Will Brewer said in part:

"While I respect disagreements from trusted colleagues, Senator Briggs’ mass publicity tour is more than a mere disagreement. Once his election was over and he had secured the political benefit of the PAC’s endorsement, he reversed course on his views. He has engaged in a media tour to justify his actions and has even posed for photo shoots to make himself the headline for hostile articles set out to tear down the Human Life Protection Act. His constituents deserve better than a legislator who only votes for legislation because he never believes it will come to fruition and then reverses his philosophy only when it is least consequential."

"I’m just trying to put some common sense into a bill that we passed nearly 4 years ago," Briggs said.

As of December 8th, there is a plan in place to introduce a bill that would create some exceptions for medical emergencies and rape cases. If passed in this upcoming legislative session, it would go into effect in the summer of 2023.

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