Tennessee invoice would grant fathers veto energy over abortion

To further restrict abortion in Tennessee, two Tennessee lawmakers introduced laws that would allow a father to refuse an abortion without the pregnant woman’s consent.

SB494 / HB1079, sponsored by Senator Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, and Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, would give a man who conceives a woman the right to veto an abortion by obtaining an injunction in a court of law requested against the procedure.

Tennessee lawmakers passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country last year, though much of it has faced legal challenges from advocates of abortion rights. The ongoing legal battle could stretch for months, if not years.

Despite the prospect of potential litigation, state lawmakers seem relentless to push for stricter abortion laws during this term. Including Pody and Sexton legislation, six bills were tabled this year to further restrict abortion.

Pody said Wednesday he introduced his bill after a Tennessee resident raised concerns that fathers have no say in abortions under current law. He said his bill would ensure fathers’ right to make a decision about an unborn child.

“I think a father should have a right to say what will happen to that child,” said Pody. “And if someone wants to kill this child, he should be able to say, ‘No, I don’t want this child to be killed. I want to raise this child and be able to love this child.'”

Litigation:The legal battle over Tennessee’s abortion restrictions rages on. Why it doesn’t end so quickly.

The legislative language, however, has been criticized by abortion rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union in Tennessee and the state’s planned parenting chapter.

“This unconstitutional legislation demonstrates the condescending mindset underlying this bill: men should control the bodies of women,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU in Tennessee, in a statement. “Women are not gossip, and this bill needs to be stopped.”

Francie Hunt, executive director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood, described the bill as “offensive” in a statement on Wednesday. She criticized state lawmakers’ legislative priorities as “inconsistent with the urgent needs” of Tennesseans amid a pandemic.

“A pregnant person needs to have ultimate control over their body and their pregnancy,” she said in a statement. “Legislators must stop trying to distract the public from their leadership failures by increasingly stigmatizing abortion restrictions.”

How the bill would work

Under the law, a judge could uphold the petition as long as the petitioner can show that he is the birth father of an unborn child and that there is a “reasonable possibility” that the woman could seek an abortion. If the woman accepts the petitioner’s paternity, no DNA evidence would be required, Pody said.

It would be up to the judge to ultimately decide if there is enough evidence to establish paternity, Pody said.

For unmarried couples, the father would have to voluntarily establish his paternity, but can do so without the consent of the woman. Once paternity is established, the father can refuse an abortion.

A man who voluntarily establishes paternity should be responsible for child upkeep and other parental obligations, Pody said, and would not be able to revoke or contest paternity recognition thereafter.

“Under no circumstances can he turn around and say, ‘I was wrong and it’s not mine,'” he said.

The injunction against abortion could be issued without the presence of both parties, Pody said. The woman would be punished, at the discretion of the court, if she violated the order.

The bill makes no exception for rape or incest. Weinberg said the legislation could lead to “dangerous” consequences.

“This extreme and dangerous bill would even allow a rapist to prevent his victim from terminating a pregnancy,” she said in the statement.

Hunt repeated Weinberg’s concern.

“Nobody should have the power to make healthcare decisions for anyone else – not a judge, a partner, and certainly not a rapist, regardless of paternity,” she said.

But Pody said he doesn’t think rapists would voluntarily go to court and acknowledge their paternity in order to stop an abortion.

“If someone shows up and says, ‘Yes, I raped her and I am the father,’ they should go to jail immediately,” he said. “I just don’t think anyone would come in and say, ‘I committed this crime, I am guilty of this crime. Put me in jail.'”

Tennessee’s Abortion Restrictions

Women seeking abortions are allowed to continue doing so under current law as the legal challenges for many of the restrictions have stopped enforcement.

The law passed last summer prohibits abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can last as long as six weeks. The language includes an exception for women whose lives are in danger, but makes no exception for rape or incest. In these cases, it would be considered a Class C crime for a doctor to perform an abortion.

Part of the ban, which weathered a judicial challenge last November, also bans abortions based on the child’s sex, race or diagnosis of Down syndrome.

“Reasons for bans”:The appeals court upheld “prohibitions of reason” and denied abortions because of Down syndrome, gender or race

Under the law, doctors would also have to show women pictures of the fetus, allow them to listen to the fetus’s heartbeat and inform them of certain information about the fetus, including gestational age, location within the uterus, dimensions and body parts, and Organs.

Reach Yue Stella Yu at [email protected] or 615-913-0945. Follow her on Twitter at @bystellayu_tnsn.

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