abortion

New TNJ alert: Abortion ruling opens floodgates, Warner appears at event for GOP leader’s rival

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) and Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia) attend a committee meeting in Nashville on March 28, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tenenssee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Anything goes? Abortion ruling could revive long-thwarted bills.

— Warner’s appearance at Jack Johnson challenger’s event riles colleagues.

— House GOP leaders split over open Nashville race, Cepicky turns to seasoned operative to right campaign ship.

— Could Republicans have won on abortion only to lose the convention in Nashville?

Also: Hickman county doesn’t want other counties’ feces, U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer slaps political interference in mask case, Sheila Butt gets sued for defamation, and Funk gets railroaded.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

6th Circuit clears way for ‘Heartbeat Bill’ to take effect in Tennessee

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has vacated a district judge’s injunction of Tennessee’s “Heartbeat Bill” enacted in 2020.

Here’s the release from state Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office:

Nashville- Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III issued the following statement after the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously vacated the district court’s injunction of the timing provisions in the Tennessee “Heartbeat Bill” in Memphis Center for Reproductive Health v. Slatery.

“Tennesseans, through their elected representatives, passed the “Heartbeat Bill” in 2020,” said General Slatery. “With today’s unanimous decision from the full Sixth Circuit, the timing provisions prohibiting most abortions are now enforceable.” 

It is now illegal in Tennessee to abort an unborn child who has a heartbeat.  Specifically, the Heartbeat Bill protects unborn children at 6 weeks gestational age who have a heartbeat, and it also protects unborn children at 8 weeks gestational age or older.  These provisions in the Heartbeat Bill have an affirmative defense for medical emergencies.

Additionally, and in connection with a separate statute (Tennessee’s Human Life Protection Act, generally known as the Trigger Act), General Slatery will notify the Tennessee Code Commission that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe and Casey decisions in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. He will do this when the Supreme Court issues its judgment in Dobbs, which should occur no later than mid-July. Thirty days after that, Tennessee’s Human Life Protection Act will come into effect and take precedence over the Heartbeat Bill. Thus, around mid‑August, Tennessee’s Human Life Protection Act will prohibit the abortion of unborn children after fertilization. This law has an affirmative defense when necessary to save the mother’s life or to prevent irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.

To read the Order along with this Office’s Emergency Motion and Reply, click here: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/attorneygeneral/documents/pr/2022/pr22-21-motion-reply-order.pdf

Tennessee reaction to Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade

Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision set off shockwaves around the country. Here is some reaction in Tennessee:

Today’s landmark Supreme Court decision marks the beginning of a hopeful, new chapter for our country. After years of heartfelt prayer and thoughtful policy, America has an historic opportunity to support women, children and strong families while reconciling the pain and loss caused by Roe v. Wade. We have spent years preparing for the possibility that authority would return to the states, and Tennessee’s laws will provide the maximum possible protection for both mother and child. In the coming days, we will address the full impacts of this decision for Tennessee. — Gov. Bill Lee.

For too long, abortion policy in this nation has been controlled by the federal judiciary. Now, once again, the voters of the individual states will have the ability to make policy through democratic means. In Tennessee, the voters have already made their views known through the passage of a constitutional amendment that makes clear that no right to abortion is contained in our constitution. With passage of our trigger law and a comprehensive heartbeat bill, Tennessee’s General Assembly has been well prepared for this day. — State Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge).

This is a victory for democracy. For the first time in almost 50 years, the voters and their elected representatives will have control over this issue rather than unelected judges, and we applaud that. This decision will allow our Tennessee laws to reflect our Tennessee values that unborn children should be protected by law and that every person deserves the right to be born. – Tennessee Right to Life President Stacy Dunn.

This decision is a direct assault on the rights of Tennesseans. The Court’s interpretation of the constitution on this issue is flawed and a direct insertion of political activism on the highest court in the land. This decision made by a conservative majority on the court, will empower a radical majority serving in state legislatures across the country. Politicians will be even more emboldened by this decision to impose their most restrictive views on us. Today, an essential and lifesaving freedom was discarded by a court installed to protect it. – Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Hendrell Remus.

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling ends a 50-year-long national tragedy that deprived 63 million innocent human beings of life. For decades, Republicans have fought to advance and uphold the pro-life and pro-family values held by an overwhelming majority of Tennesseans. Today, we celebrate a momentous victory. We applaud the justices for their wisdom in recognizing a vulnerable baby still in its mother’s womb is a precious life worthy of protection. Tennessee House Republicans continue our unwavering commitment to fight for families and defend the defenseless. – State House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland).

The Supreme Court’s unprecedented and unconscionable decision today rolls the clock back nearly 50 years on our fundamental rights, forcing anyone who becomes pregnant in Tennessee into second class status. And politicians won’t stop here. The same anti-abortion extremists seeking to control the bodies of pregnant people are coming for our right to access birth control and gender-affirming care, marry who we love, and vote,” ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg.

I believe we have a moral duty to protect unborn children who cannot protect themselves. Today is a consequential day, not only for those who believe that all life is a precious gift, but also for American democracy and the rule of law. This decision doesn’t ban abortion—it simply returns decision-making on abortion to the people. That’s how it should be in a republic—matters not addressed by the Constitution should be decided by the people through their elected representatives, not by nine unelected judges in Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Nashville).

Having worked alongside Tennesseans to protect the innocent lives of unborn children for years, I applaud today’s Supreme Court ruling. Despite false claims from the left, this decision will not ban abortion. Instead, it returns the decision to the states and empowers state legislatures with more flexibility to craft policy through the democratic process. – U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood).

Abortion is a complicated and very personal decision. And I personally believe that we don’t spend enough time on finding solutions to the reasons why some people have to have abortions. However, this ruling means that in Tennessee, all abortions will be criminalized, including for victims of rape and incest. Women should have the right to make their own, personal healthcare decisions. This is an unfortunate decision based on politics instead of established law and, according to the vast majority of polls, the will of people. — State House Minority Leader Karen Camper (D-Memphis).

Harwell gets backing from anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 29, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former state House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville has landed an endorsement from the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. Harwell is running for the Republican nomination in the 5th Congressional District.

Here’s the release from the Harwell campaign:

NASHVILLE, TN – Today, pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony’s List (SBA) announced its endorsement of Congressional District 5 candidate and former Speaker of the Tennessee House, Beth Harwell.

Hon. Marilyn Musgrave, SBA List’s vice president of government affairs, said, “Beth Harwell is a faithful champion of the unborn who proves that pro-life is truly pro-woman. Beth’s dynamic efforts as House speaker led to a pro-life constitutional amendment, strongly approved by voters, paving the way for swift enactment of life-saving laws. She did not rest, but immediately put her support behind health and safety requirements to hold the profit-driven abortion industry accountable, as well as legislation to protect women’s right to see an ultrasound and hear their baby’s heartbeat. Finally, under her leadership Tennessee successfully defunded abortion businesses of taxpayer dollars. In Congress she will stand up to pro-abortion Democrats for Tennessee’s pro-life values, and we couldn’t be prouder to support her.”  

Per SBA’s press release, “SBA List is a network of 900,000 pro-life Americans nationwide, dedicated to ending abortion by electing national leaders and advocating for laws that save lives, with a special calling to promote pro-life women leaders.”

“Thank you Susan B. Anthony’s list for putting your faith in me to stand up for the lives of unborn Americans and expectant mothers in Congress. In this day and age, we should be celebrating the arrival of a new life and uplifting pregnant women with the resources they need to make sure their child is cared for. I look forward to fighting for the right to life on the floor of the U.S. House,” said Beth Harwell.

6th Circuit restores Tennessee’s waiting period for abortions

Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period for abortions has been reinstated in an en banc decision by the 6th Circuit.

See a release from state Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office below:

Nashville- Today the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period for abortions is constitutional. The Court’s ruling reverses the district court’s decision in Bristol Regional Women’s Center v. Slatery.

In its opinion, the Court recognized that, “before making life’s big decisions, it is often wise to take time to reflect. The people of Tennessee believed that having an abortion was one of those decisions. So they passed a law requiring a waiting period of 48 hours.”

“The Sixth Circuit’s decision is gratifying for several reasons,” said Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III. “First, the result: a law passed by our representative lawmakers and signed by the Governor five years ago—yes, five years ago—is constitutional. It has been on the books a long time. The Court concluded that, during this time, the 48-hour waiting period has not been a substantial obstacle to getting an abortion in Tennessee. Second, the opinion was a reasoned analysis of the law and the lack of proof offered by the plaintiffs, rather than a decision based on policy. Also, this ruling comes after the full Court reconsidered an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the same Court.”

To read the ruling, click here:https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/attorneygeneral/documents/pr/2021/pr21-26-opinion.pdf

Another provision of TN abortion law blocked in federal court

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference announcing his sweeping bill seeking to ban most Tennessee abortions in Nashville on Jan. 23, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Another provision of Tennessee’s sweeping anti-abortion law has been blocked in federal court. U.S. District Judge Chip Campbell, a Trump appointee, put a hold on a requirement that would have gone into effect on Thursday to require patients be informed about “abortion reversal.” He previously blocked other elements of the law seeking to ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The plaintiffs argued the law would violate abortion providers’ First Amendment rights by requiring them to convey “scientifically unsupported and misleading information.” Campbell said he was unable to fully assess competing expert opinions about whether such reversals are possible, but said he plans to hear what expert witnesses have to say on the matter during a hearing scheduled for Oct. 13.

But Campbell said he did not have to wait to find one aspect of the law misleading: A requirement for the state Department of Health to post information about the reversal of chemical abortions on its website within 90 days of the law going into effect, meaning there would be up to three-month delay between when such signage had to be posted and when information must be made available. No details had yet been posted on the Health Department site as of Tuesday, Campbell said.

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Hagerty gets Right to Life endorsement

Republican U.S. Senate nominee Bill Hagerty appears at a Republican event in Franklin on Aug. 8, 2020 (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The National Right to Life Committee has endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty following his Republican primary win last week. The move comes as a bit of a surprise because Hagerty has expressed support for keeping access to abortions to women who are victims of incest or rape and for mothers whose pregnancies put their lives in danger. A similar position by U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn has long kept the Brentwood Republican from gaining the Right to Life endorsement.

Here’s the release from the Hagerty campaign:

Nashville, TN — Today, Bill Hagerty, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, announced the National Right to Life Committee endorsed Hagerty to serve in the U.S. Senate.

“As a Christian conservative and a father of four children, I know just how precious the right to life is, and I am humbled to have the support of the National Right to Life Committee,” said Bill Hagerty. “Radical Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden, seek to implement their socialist agenda that includes abortion funded by taxpayers for any reason up to and even after the moment of birth. As your Senator, I will be a voice for the voiceless, fight for pro-life legislation including the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and work to defund Planned Parenthood once and for all.”

“National Right to Life is pleased to endorse Bill Hagerty for election to the U.S. Senate, to represent the state of Tennessee,” said Carol Tobias, National Right to Life Committee President. “Bill is a strong advocate for life. All Tennessee voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family should vote to send Bill to the Senate, so that he can work to advance vital pro-life public policies.”

National Right To Life Committee joins the Susan B. Anthony List in supporting Bill Hagerty for Senate.

Sethi blasts ruling by Trump-appointed judge who is son of RNC member

It didn’t take Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi long to blast a federal judge in Nashville for issuing a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the new abortion ban Gov. Bill Lee signed into law on Monday.

According to Sethi, “an activist judge barely waited until the ink was dry to promote his own pro-choice view.”

There’s two problems with Sethi’s logic. First, U.S. District Judge Chip Campbell was appointed by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate on a 97-0 vote. And second, Campbell’s mother, Beth Campbell, is a Tennessee representative on the Republican National Committee and served as host to a Sethi fundraiser in Nashville in September.

Sethi wasn’t alone in in criticizing the judge. Rival Republican candidate Bill Hagerty also spoke out against the ruling.

Tenn. abortion ban in effect for less than an hour before it is halted

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A federal judge on Monday granted an temporary restraining order against enforcing Tennessee’s sweeping abortion ban less than an hour after Gov. Bill Lee signed it into law.

U.S. District Judge Chip Campbell, an appointee President Donald Trump, found  “plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong or substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that the restrictions …  are unconstitutional under current law.”

“Like the Seventh, Eighth, and Fifth Circuits, this Court is bound by the Supreme Court holdings prohibiting undue burdens on the availability of pre-viability abortions,” he wrote in the ruling.

Read the order here.

The bill seeking to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected passed in a last-minute deal between the House and Senate the night the General Assembly adjourned for the year.  If any part of the bill was found to be unconstitutional, the law seeks to impose successive abortion bans eight, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 weeks of gestation. That “ladder” approach didn’t appear to keep most of the law from being enjoined.

 

Abortion law must take effect before judge considers injunction

The Tennessee Senate meets on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

U.S. District Judge Chip Campbell says he won’t decide about whether to impose an emergency injunction on sweeping abortion restrictions passed by the General Assembly until Gov. Bill Lee signs the legislation into law.

Despite earlier assurances that the Senate wouldn’t take up the abortion bill in its return from a 75-day coronavirus hiatus, the chamber abruptly brought the measure up for a vote after midnight on the last night of the session. It passed 23-5 in the Senate and 70-20 in House.

Neither House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) nor Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) has yet signed the engrossed bill. Once that occurs, the governor has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to sign,  veto, or allow the bill to become law without his signature. Lee, who originally proposed the measure, is expected to sign the bill quickly once it reaches his desk.

The bill seeks to enact a nearly universal abortion ban once a fetal heartbeat is detected. If successfully challenged in court, the bill seeks to automatically impose successive abortion bans eight, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 weeks of gestation.

Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the law the same day the bill gained final approval in the General Assembly.

The plaintiffs asked Judge Campbell to take up their motion for an emergency temporary restraining order without waiting for the state to file its response, which is due by Friday. Campbell said he won’t rule on the injunction until the bill has been signed into law and that he will consider the state’s response if it is filed by the time the governor puts his signature on the bill.