While the pro-choice movement seeks to leverage the eternal debate over abortion into the hands of solely women, a bill introduced by the Tennessee General Assembly attempts to bring the man back into the conversation. Under the new legislation, the father to the unborn child could request an injunction and prohibit the woman from having an abortion.
Sponsored by state Sen. Mark Pody (R-Ten) and state Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Ten), the bill “permits a person to petition a court for an injunction to prohibit a woman who is pregnant with the person’s unborn child from obtaining an abortion.”
“If he can prove to the courts that he is the father, the biological father, then he has rights to what’s going on with his son or daughter,” Senator Pody told Fox News 17 Nashville.
Once the petition is filed, a court hearing must take place within fourteen days to allow both sides to present their case, as long as the man has a “reasonable probability” the woman will seek an abortion and is the biological father of the child. If the two are not married, the man must sign “a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity… that is not subject to being rescinded.”
In the event the woman goes through with the abortion despite the injuction, the court may hold her “in civil or criminal contempt and punish [her] in accordance with the law.”
If signed into law, the legislation would, most likely, be found unconstitutional due to a 1992 Supreme Court decision, where the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruled requiring a woman seeking an abortion to tell her husband was unconstitutional.
The bill does not address exceptions for rape or incest.
Francie Hunt, Executive Director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood, lambasted the “unconstitutional, insulting, and dangerous bill,” arguing “a pregnant person must have the ultimate control over their body and their pregnancy.”
“Nobody should have the power to make health care decisions for someone else — not a judge, a partner, and certainly not a rapist regardless of paternity,” Hunt continued, as she turned the argument to Governer Bill Lee’s response to coronavirus. “Tennessee politicians’ priorities couldn’t be more out of step with the dire needs of their constituents as they suffer from the consequences of Gov. Lee’s botched response to the pandemic. The legislature needs to stop trying to distract the public from their leadership failures with increasingly stigmatizing abortion restrictions.”
Despite abortion seemingly prevailing as a women’s issue, a woman does not become pregnant without a man, but the law grants the decision to only the mother. While a rather blunt legislation, the bill’s aim of returning the man to the decision of abortion is a noble one.
Tennessee is no stranger to being the epicenter of the abortion debate, with Republican Gov. Lee signing the heartbeat bill into law, which banned abortions after a heartbeat can be detected. The law came under immediate legal challenges, with a federal court blocking the law hours after it was signed.