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Local reverberations continue amid shifting abortion landscape

The U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of the court’s 49-year-old landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, which protected a woman’s right to an abortion, ignited a fire of outraged protests across the country by abortion supporters. 

The high court’s reversal was announced June 24.

In Memphis, for example, pink “Hands Off My Body” t-shirts of Memphis protesters lined intersections along Poplar Avenue.

The court’s 6-3 opinion also set in motion “trigger laws” in several states, including Tennessee. Trigger laws are abortion restriction laws passed by state legislatures, which would become effective if Roe were reversed. 

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed the state’s trigger law in 2019. The measure criminalizes “performing or attempting to perform an abortion,” as early as six weeks, except when pregnancy jeopardizes the mother’s life. 

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals removed the injunction on the trigger law on Tuesday (June 28). 

After criminalization of abortion providers became law, Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi (PPTNM) announced that abortion services would halt immediately.

Ashley Coffield (Screen capture)

“The six-week abortion ban is enacted when an embryo’s cardiac activity is detected on ultrasound,” PPTNM CEO Ashley Coffield explained. “Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi has made the very difficult decision to suspend all abortion services.”

Coffield said PPRNM, instead, is “navigating care for patients outside of Tennessee and providing logistical for patients who need abortion services.”

Social justice leaders and community activists blasted the high court’s action as “disproportionately hurting the least among us.”

Vickie Terry (TSD Archives)

For example, Memphis Branch NAACP Executive Director Vickie Terry, said, “We already knew what was coming in early May when that Supreme Court (abortion-ban draft opinion) was leaked.” 

A statement from the National NAACP said: “We feel the fear. We’ve been here before, and there’s no way we’re ever going back. The fight is on.”

Terry also struck a defiant note Tuesday. 

“This is not the time for silence. The NAACP has always been at the forefront in the fight against social injustice. Black and poor women are going to be disproportionately affected. 

“The state can force women to carry a pregnancy to term, despite any physical, mental, or financial hardship. They want a fight. Well, they’ve got one.”

Although Democrats lay the reversal at the feet of Republicans, not all Republicans feel overturning the law was good.

Pat Rogers (Courtesy photo)

“I don’t think reversing Roe v. Wade was right, because I don’t think the government should make decisions about a woman’s body,” said community activist and long-time Republican Pat Rogers. 

State Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis). (Courtesy photo)

Tennessee state Sen. Raumesh Akbari, a Memphis Democrat, said the ruling “set the clock back on women’s constitutional rights five decades.

“Providing an abortion in Tennessee is now a felony,” said Akbari. “And unless women and girls can afford traveling to a state that provides abortions, they will be forced to carry pregnancies to term, even when they are victims of rape or incest. Younger teens are at greater risk…it is disgraceful.”

Men also weighed in on the decision to reverse Roe v. Wade.

Rep. G.A.Hardaway (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/TSD Archives)

“Reproductive rights don’t just concern women,” said state Rep. G. A. Hardaway (D-Memphis). “Women have husbands and partners… Black and poor women will be disproportionately affected. Their lives will be put at risk when they seek unsafe procedures or are forced to carry a baby to term. Democrats must make this a referendum on Republicans in November.”

Cardell Orrin (Karanja A. Ajanaku/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

Cardell Orrin, executive director of Tennessee Stand for Children, saw the ruling as particularly detrimental to families.

“This is most definitely a social justice issue. Supreme Court Justices were wrong in not respecting precedent, and they all promised to do so. Abortion affects fathers, other children in the family, as well as mothers. Legislation should not regulate what a woman does with her body,” Orrin said. 

Dr. Rosalyn Nichols, pastor of Freedom’s Chapel Christian Church, vowed to wage a personal war against the blatant arrogance of the Roe vs. Wade reversal.

The Rev. Dr. Rosalyn Nichols (TSD Archives)

“…As a young woman, I took for granted that the autonomy and agency for my reproductive health was, and would always be, mine to decide,” said Nichols. “It was for me not a matter of choice, but a matter of liberty…

“As a woman of faith, my fight for the freedom and liberty this country promises, I believe to be the God-given right of every citizen. As strongly as gun advocates fight for the autonomy of their personal right to bear arms, so will I continue to fight for autonomy, as the personal right of women to govern their own bodies…”

Although the reversal stoked widespread anger, not everyone was enraged.

Ann Frase (Courtesy photo)

“My reaction when I heard the announcement was ecstatic,” said Anne Frase, a nurse. “The federal government had no right to make that decision in the first place. I’m a Christian, and I have always attended pro-life churches. The decision on abortion reverts to the states, where it should have been all along…”

Charlotte Bergmann (Courtesy photo)

Local Republican Party activist Charlotte Bergmann said her Christian values dictate that the reversal was right.

“I am a Christian, and God said in his word that He will not hold a nation guiltless that sheds innocent blood,” said Bergmann. “We must turn from those things which are antithetical to God’s word…”

Pastor Brenda Futch (Courtesy photo)

Pastor Brenda Futch of Life Changing World OutReach Ministries also believes that the high court will save the lives of children with the ruling.

“God said in his word do not kill,” said Futch. “The Lord told Jeremiah, ‘I knew you in your mother’s womb, which means that God has a plan for a child’s life, even in the womb. Abortion destroys that life. And God said, ‘Do not kill…’”

Now that abortions are severely restricted in Tennessee, the closest state offering abortion services is Illinois.

 

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