Jun 24, 2022 - News

Tennessee to ban most abortions without Roe v. Wade

What will happen immediately in each state now that Roe v Wade has been overturned
Data: Axios research; Cartogram: Sara Wise and Oriana Gonzalez/Axios

Nearly all abortions in Tennessee are set to be banned within weeks after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

  • The high court handed down the seismic decision this morning. The court voted 6-3 to reverse Roe and grant states the power to regulate abortion. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion, as expected after a rare draft copy was leaked in May.

Why it matters: Tennessee is one of several states that has a so-called trigger law that was designed to institute a near-total ban after such a ruling. Performing or attempting to perform an abortion will become a Class C felony.

  • The ban described in the law would only allow limited exceptions when the pregnancy puts the mother's life in jeopardy or if there is a "serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."
  • Mental health threats, including the threat of self-harm, would not qualify. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.
  • Dissenting Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer summarized their view of the impact of the ruling, "one result of today's decision is certain: the curtailment of women's rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.

State of play: Under the law, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is required to notify state officials of a ruling that triggers the ban.

  • The ban would take effect 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court issues its judgement on Dobbs, which should occur by mid-July, to allow for legal challenges.

What they're saying: Republican leaders were swift to applaud the landmark ruling.

  • "Today's ruling will ensure a brighter future for our country, one built on life and a new generation of hope," U.S. Rep. John Rose (R-Gallatin) said.

The other side: State. Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), one of Tennessee's leading progressives in the legislature, conveyed the rage shared by the ruling's critics.

  • "With this one opinion, (the Supreme Court) has rolled back the clock on women's rights. This decision puts the lives of women in imminent danger by handing politicians control over our most personal healthcare decisions. I'm absolutely livid and heartbroken," Akbari said on Twitter.

What's next: The Supreme Court's decision could pave the way for renewed debate over other landmark cases. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said the court should reconsider rulings related to contraception access, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriages.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the trigger law will take effect 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court issues its judgment on Dobbs, which should occur by next month. Tennessee Attorney General Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III's office originally indicated in a filing that the law would take effect 30 days from Friday, June 24.

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