Tennessee lawmakers react to potential overturn of Roe v. Wade

Posted at 5:01 PM, May 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 19:18:06-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A leaked opinion from the Supreme Court of the United States could soon lead to an all-out abortion ban in Tennessee.

The abortion debate cycled through Tennessee for decades, particularly in the legislature.

But one law that passed in 2019 would mean a ban on abortions with very few exceptions. It only takes effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, sponsored the law. It has no exceptions for rape and incest but does note an abortion could happen if it prevented the death of a pregnant woman.

"We are prayerfully hopeful that the Supreme court will decide in a pro-life way and our Tennessee trigger ban can go into effect," said Lynn.

Lynn said she was excited by the news, but also upset that the court's opinion was leaked.

She even went as far as to call it an "insurrection."

"This is obviously a political move. I think this leaker should be rooted out, probably disbarred," said Lynn.

Lynn also said abortion should be banned in Tennessee, but her opponents believe that if the ban is successful, it would represent a profound loss of women's rights.

Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, said the Supreme Court issuing this decision would send a signal that women are second-class citizens.

"It's devastation and frustration," Johnson said. "We are talking about the Supreme Court of the United States saying that women are not equal. That to me is unacceptable. If women do not have bodily autonomy, can't make their own decisions, then what they are saying is women are not equal."

Efforts were made to add exceptions such as rape of a child, aggravated rape and incest to the law, but those efforts failed and those exceptions aren't part of the state statute.

Rep. Johnson said this is dangerous.

"It's going to be the poor women, those trapped in their situations that are going to be taking desperate measures, possibly hurting themselves, maiming themselves or killing themselves, trying to get the services that they need desperately," Johnson said.

There's also a penalty added to performing an abortion under this law. It would make it a class C felony.

In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Bill Lee expressed his sentiments if the law was overturned.

"I am concerned by the leak and any attempt to thwart justice," Lee said. "If the federal courts return full authority to the states, Tennessee’s laws will automatically provide the maximum possible protection and offer a glimmer of redemption as America reconciles our troubled past. We are talking about families in crisis — not isolated clinical procedures — and our state will continue to provide protection, resources and care for both mother and child."

Attorney General Herbert Slatery put out a statement, primarily focusing his disdain on the leak.

"While we have a vested interest in the outcome of Dobbs in Tennessee, we will let the Supreme Court speak for itself," Slatery said. "This leak is more than regrettable, it is an affront to the integrity of our legal process at the highest level. Chief Justice John Roberts has rightly called for an investigation and we would do well to treat this document for what it is — a draft subject to edits and changes."