The people of Tennessee woke up to some horrifying news on Saturday morning: Their Republican-controlled legislature had passed one of the strictest abortion bans in the country while a lot of them were fast asleep.
Despite promises for weeks from Senate leaders that they wouldn’t consider any legislation that didn’t directly pertain to the state’s budget or the covid-19 pandemic, GOP lawmakers managed to squeeze the anti-abortion measure into the General Assembly’s late-night budget negotiations, the Associated Press reports. Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Reproductive Rights have since filed a lawsuit in the hopes of blocking the bill.
The 38-page bill bans abortions after the fetus’ heartbeat can be detected. This is usually possible at around six weeks into pregnancy, the AP says, noting that a lot of pregnant people don’t even realize that they’re with child at that point. Mississippi passed a similar ban in 2019, as have other states in recent years, though successful legal challenges have left them all blocked—at least for now.
Tennessee’s abortion ban also includes various needlessly cruel measures like requiring patients to undergo an ultrasound, requiring abortion providers to describe that ultrasound and display an image of it to the patient, and requiring providers to say scientifically dubious things like “drug-induced abortions may be halted halfway.”
At least a few members of Tennessee’s legislature have retained a scrap of humanity. Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson decried the ban, telling the AP that her fellow lawmakers used Tennesseeans’ reproductive rights “like a bargaining chip” to finish budget negotiations.
Governor Bill Lee, the state’s Republican governor since last year, has said he will sign the bill, Fox 17 Nashville reports, to the detriment of all the poor women, women of color, and others it will harm.