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Feminists Fight Back Against Slew of Abortion Restrictions in Tennessee

When the Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes later this month, they'll be greeted by feminist activists who oppose their lawmakers' proposed attacks on reproductive rights.

The Women's March on Nashville will take place on Tuesday, January 13 at 10 AM CST - the same day that state legislators will be sworn in and have filed to take up various abortion restrictions now made possible by the passage of Amendment 1. That measure, which passed by a small percentage in November, altered Tennessee's constitution and opened the floodgates to previously rejected measures about abortion.

"Our legislators will be sworn in on January 13th and as they have already filed legislation attacking our privacy rights," the event organizers wrote on Facebook. "It is time to show them how we feel about it. We need to let them know we are watching the bills they bring that take away our privacy rights and we don't plan to quietly sit home while it happens."

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R) said in November that she would be supporting three abortion-related measures in the next legislative session. One, HB 2, would implement a mandatory waiting period of between 24 and 72 hours for an abortion procedure, in which women who wish to receive abortions must undergo an ultrasound while listening to a description of their fetus in the womb and also listen to its heartbeat. Harwell also said she would support a measure like SB 13, which forces doctors to deliver manipulative "counseling" to women electing to choose abortion - including exaggerating the medical severity of the procedure and encouraging her to carry to term and choose adoption. According to the Washington Post, Harwell's body also plans to take up a TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) bill requiring stricter clinic inspections.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has struck down variations on all three of these measures in the past, declaring that the state constitution prohibited them. The passage of Amendment 1, which took away privacy rights to abortion from women in the state, now enables lawmakers to push them through nonetheless. Amendment 1 is in direct conflict with a 2000 ruling by the state's Supreme Court that deemed abortion "an inherently intimate and personal enterprise" protected from government interference and was opposed by Tennessee women's groups, OB/GYNs, and major newspapers.

Despite Republican fervor to restrict reproductive freedom in Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam (R) last week warned lawmakers to tread carefully in the face of countless court rulings across the nation marking similar bills unconstitutional and costing states up to millions of dollars in litigation.

"I think anything we do, we should pay attention to what's been ruled legal or not in other states," Haslam said to the Times Free Press. "Let's not go charging up hills that other folks have charged up and have found were outside the law."

Take Action: Sign the petition to Governor Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell, and Lieutenant Governor Rom Ramsey to stand in opposition to these measures and all attacks on women's abortion rights in Tennessee.

Media Resources: Times Free Press 1/2/15; Washington Post 11/6/14; Feminist Newswire 10/23/14, 10/27/14, 10/31/14, 11/5/14

© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

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