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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Boom! Supreme Court’s decision blows up decades of legal footing for abortion rights

For some, it was the dreaded arrival of a threatening sea change. Others likened it to deliverance from a menacing threat to life. Either way, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion is a game-changer.

On Friday, soon after the court struck down Roe v. Wade, which established abortion rights in 1973, the Tennessee attorney general’s office filed an emergency motion asking a federal appeals court to let the state immediately begin banning abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Tennessee also has a trigger law that was written to ban nearly all abortions if Roe v. Wade was overturned. That ban cannot take effect until 30 days after Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

However, a six-week ban in Tennessee could be implemented as early as next week, if the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agrees to lift a court injunction.

Tennessee’s emergency motion urges the appeals court to move quickly. It cites the state’s “valid interest in protecting the lives of unborn Tennesseans. … Those lives are at risk each day the preliminary injunction remains in place.”

Ashley Coffield (Screen capture)

Ashley Coffield, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, said the Planned Parenthood centers she oversees are fully booked with abortion patients through July 1, after which she expects Tennessee to be under the six-week ban. Planned Parenthood plans to keep providing abortions for now, Coffield said at a Friday online news conference.

The monumental Supreme Court decision came via a 6-3 ruling, with conservative justices appointed by former President Donald Trump tilting the balance.

“This is why elections have consequences,” said Karen Carter Richards, National Newspaper Publishing Association board chair, and Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the association’s president and CEO, in a joint statement.

Dr. Ben Chavis and Karen Carter Richards (Photo via afro.com)

“The NNPA will increase our efforts to turn out the Black vote in 2022. … The latest Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe V. Wade is a bad decision that will impact the civil rights of communities of color and particularly women.”

Tennessee House Minority Leader Karen Camper recounted her long-held view of abortion as “a complicated and very personal decision,” noting that, “I personally believe that we don’t spend enough time on finding solutions to the reasons why some people have to have abortions.”

Rep. Karen Camper (Photo: capitol.tn.gov)

However, the ruling means that in Tennessee, all abortions will be criminalized, including for victims of rape and incest, Camper said in a released statement.

“Women should have the right to make their own, personal healthcare decisions. This is an unfortunate decision based on politics instead of established law and, according to the vast majority of polls, the will of people.”

For the Tennessee Republican Party, however, the Supreme Court’s decision was an embraceable, reverse-course moment that allows “the States to determine questions of life. …

“However, we know the fight for life does not end today, it merely shifts the debate from Washington to all the State Houses across the country and serves as a reminder that our struggle is not complete,” the TNGOP said while sharing the group’s position in a statement.

“The prayers of millions and the actions of many were answered today as we all rejoice in the gift of life on this day.”

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said, “Despite false claims from the left, this decision will not ban abortion. Instead, it returns the decision to the states and empowers state legislatures with more flexibility to craft policy through the democratic process.”

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn). (Photo: blackburn.senate.gov)

Amplifying her viewpoint online, Blackburn said, “It is unacceptable that a draft opinion (of the decision) was leaked in advance and that the person responsible has not been caught. The leaker has jeopardized the safety of our justices, and threats of violence by the radical militant mob are unacceptable. We appreciate the brave law enforcement officers working overtime to protect our justices and their families.”

Brit Bender (Photo: linkedin.com)

Brit Bender, executive director of the Tennessee Democratic Party, said the TNDP will “keep pushing back against anti-choice representatives and legislation any chance we get. The Tennessee Democratic Party will work to support pro-choice candidates and legislators as well as abortion rights groups in the state. We’re prepared to fight for the safety and autonomy of Tennesseeans.”

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) and the Congressional Black Caucus lamented the “extreme right-wing Supreme Court majority’s decision,” and “far-reaching and painful consequences.

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio)

“Moreover, in the midst of a Black maternal mortality crisis, restricting access to abortion care will disproportionately endanger the lives of Black Americans.”

Beatty continued: “…government-mandated pregnancy is not pro-life, it is pro-policing of women’s bodies. In response to this unacceptable decision, I, along with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are co-leading a letter to President Biden urging him to swiftly declare this unprecedented attack on abortion rights and access as the public health the national emergency that it is. We have seen what life was like pre-Roe v. Wade, and America cannot afford to go back.”


Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) recalled a conversation from years ago with Lucius Burch, whom he described as “a great Memphis lawyer,” about the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis)

“He said it would never happen because women in this country would march in the streets in protest,” Cohen noted in a released statement. “Mr. Burch was wrong about Roe never being overturned. But he was right about how women will react. Women in this country will march and march and march – and they will vote and vote and vote.”

Marcella Howell (Photo: linkedin.com)

Marcela Howell, president, and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Health Imperative and a conglomerate of other women’s rights groups, rebuked the high court’s decision as declaring “open season on women and birthing people’s rights and lives….

“While we call on Congress and the Biden administration to take immediate action to uphold the Constitution, we will not depend on governing bodies to protect our rights.”

(This story includes reports from the Associated Press and NNPA Newswire.)

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