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Politicians used police force to keep the public out of the state legislature. Although several states have tried to enact pandemic-based abortion bans, Tennessee is now set to be the first state to enact an abortion ban since start of coronavirus in the United States.

In an egregious move, the Tennessee legislature — in the dead of night and using police force to keep the public out of the Nashville Capitol building — passed a sweeping abortion ban. The bill, one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country, bans abortion at nearly every stage of pregnancy, including before most people even know they’re pregnant. 

The bill also includes more medically unnecessary abortion restrictions and anti-science measures, like forcing doctors to give patients the misinformation that they can reverse their abortion. It also bans abortion if the reason for the abortion is gender, race, or potential fetal diagnosis. Similar bans throughout the country have been struck down as unconstitutional.

“What happened tonight flies in the face of democracy. In the dead of night, Tenessee politicians hellbent on chipping away at abortion access blocked citizens from entering the state Capitol while they used this draconian abortion ban to pass the state budget.”

—Ashley Coffield, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood Tennessee and North Mississippi

Intersections: COVID-19, Racism, and Iowa

This bill comes after weeks of Senate leadership making public statements that they would not take it upl. The abortion ban also comes amid a botched response by Gov. Bill Lee to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as Tennessee is grappling with the deep racial divide in the state that’s finally getting the attention it deserves. And it’s about two months since Gov. Lee failed at trying to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic by banning abortions through an executive order. 

While Tennesseans are concerned about their health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, politicians used pregnant people’s lives as a bargaining chip to push their political agenda. 

But Tennessee isn’t the first. Just last week, the Iowa legislature pulled a similar move — waiting until the wee hours of the night to pass a harmful bill against abortion access. It’s becoming the new shameful playbook for anti-abortion politicians who are willfully ignoring police violence and COVID-19, both public health crises disproportionately killing Black people. 

Following suit, Tennessee politicians have now passed a deeply racist and discriminatory bill that preys upon inaccurate and offensive stereotypes of communities of color, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, in order to ban abortion.

“It is a disgrace that in the face of a true public health crisis, Tennessee politicians wasted their time with this last-minute move to attack abortion access before closing up shop this session. Amidst protests against police violence and fear around COVID-19, politicians are doubling down — pushing racist stereotypes and ignoring public health to ban abortion. But we won’t let them. We’re going to do everything in our power to fight back and stand up for reproductive freedom.”

—Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

More About the Tennessee Abortion Ban

The sweeping abortion bill is one of the most restrictive in the country. It would:

  • Ban abortion at nearly every stage of pregnancy,

  • Force doctors to give patients misinformation about “reversing” abortion, and

  • Ban abortion if the reason for it is gender, race, or potential fetal diagnosis — which has been struck down as unconstitutional elsewhere

Furthermore, this bill will do nothing to address actual discrimination against women and girls, and instead would open the door to interfere with:

  • doctor-patient relationships

  • open and honest doctor-patient conversations, and 

  • a patient’s right to make private medical decisions

The goal of the politicians behind this bill is simple: a total ban on safe, legal abortion. Politicians know that this bill is blatantly unconstitutional. And they don’t care.

Fighting Back

Each and every one of these restrictions — not just in Tennessee, but in Iowa and beyond — are part of a coordinated strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade and ban abortion outright.

We won’t stand for politicians who are trying to use every restriction they can think of to strip patients of their reproductive rights. We’ll continue fighting these egregious attacks on our patients’ rights — no matter what.

Join the Fight

Visit Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood and find out how to get involved!

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Fight with us if you believe abortion access is ESSENTIAL — now and always.

Politicians are exploiting the fear and urgency of this pandemic to push their political agenda to ban abortion. It’s inhumane, and it’s unconstitutional.

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Timeline: Attacks on Abortion Amid the Pandemic

Some politicians are diverting precious government time and attention away from the COVID-19 pandemic to stop safe, legal access to abortion. See our timeline of opportunistic, unconstitutional abortion bans during the pandemic — and our legal fight against them.

See the Timeline