Tennessee Abortion Exception Requires Affirmative Defense in Court

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — Tennessee’s “Right to Life Act” is expected to become law in mid-August, banning all abortions in the state except those which are necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.

But this exception is written in the statute as an affirmative defense, meaning a physician would have to prove the necessity of the procedure in a court of
law.

“Now, think about that… We’re supposed to be big on HIPPA laws and privacy about people’s medical conditions and, you know, people’s decisions they make
at the hospital… now you’re going to force them to put that out there, in a public forum?” said local attorney Robin Flores.

The language of the statute requires a defendant to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the facts known at the time indicated that an abortion was absolutely necessary to prevent the death or serious injury of the pregnant woman.

The statute prohibits any abortion performed on the basis that a woman’s subsequent conduct would result in her death or injury.

It also prohibits any abortion performed on the basis of a woman’s mental health.

“She may be suffering from some type of severe disassociative schizophrenia. She may have Down Syndrome… That would prevent people who are mentally unable to care for a child from having an abortion,” said Flores.

What the statute does not prohibit, however, is the vast majority of contraception.

“Most forms of birth control work to prevent fertilization. And then some, as a secondary mechanism, work to prevent implantation, which is, you know,
is where it gets a little trickier with legislation. But most birth control works to prevent fertilization in the first place,” said Mandy Cowley, Executive Director of A Step Ahead Chattanooga.

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