Tennessee Ends Abortion on Demand

Today, August 25, marks the day Tennessee’s pro-life “trigger law” goes into effect. In 2019, the Tennessee legislature passed the Human Life Protection Act, which provided for the criminalization of abortion on demand should the U. S. Supreme Court ever overturn Roe v. Wade and return abortion regulation to the states. On June 24 SCOTUS did just that, triggering the application of the Human Life Protection Act.

State Representative and bill sponsor Susan Lynn said of the HLPA, “The end of abortion on demand in our state is a badge of honor for Tennessee. We are proud of the fact that we will no longer tolerate those who profit from the destruction of children and the exploitation of their mothers. No longer will the abortionist have free rein in our state.” The HLPA makes it a Class C Felony to provide abortion services in Tennessee but, notably, does not punish women who try to obtain abortions.

According to Criminal Defense Lawyer Chloe Akers in an interview with WBIR in June, the law does not impede a physician providing surgical or medical therapy to remove the fetal remains of a child lost by miscarriage. Since the child is already dead, Ms. Akers said, “The removal of that fetus is not even considered an abortion under the definition.” 

There are no exceptions in the law for cases of women becoming pregnant by rape, incest, human trafficking or risk to the life of the mother. There are, Ms. Akers said, what are called “affirmative defenses.” That is, if a physician ascertains that “the abortion was necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman,” the physician would need to make a legal judgment on top of their medical judgment on whether or not they should perform an abortion. Ectopic pregnancy comes to mind.

Will Brewer, Legislative Liaison for Tennessee Right Life, notes, “A similar affirmative defense has existed in various pro-life laws in Ohio since 2011. Since then, 70 abortions have been performed to save the life of the mother and no doctor has been prosecuted.”

However, in a 2019 open letter published in “Public Discourse,” the journal of the Witherspoon Institute, in support of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, organizations representing 30,000 physicians state that intentionally killing a late-term unborn baby in an abortion is never necessary to save a mother’s life. The letter, written and signed by representatives of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Pediatrics, the Catholic Medical Association, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, includes the following:

“There are rare circumstances in which a mother’s life is in jeopardy due to either pre-existing conditions or pregnancy complications. It is extremely rare for this to occur prior to the point of viability (currently 22 weeks after last menstrual period, 20 weeks after fertilization). After 20 weeks fertilization age, it is never necessary to intentionally kill the fetal human being in order to save a woman’s life. In cases where the mother’s life actually is in danger in the latter half of pregnancy, there is not time for an abortion, because an abortion typically is a two to three-day process. Instead, immediate delivery is needed in these situations, and can be done in a medically appropriate way (labor induction or C-section) by the woman’s own physician. We can, and do, save the life of the mother through delivery of an intact infant in a hospital where both the mother and her newborn can receive the care that they need. There is no medical reason to intentionally kill that fetal human being through an inhumane abortion procedure, e.g. dismembering a living human being capable of feeling pain, or saline induction which burns off the skin, or feticide with subsequent induction.”

The central issue on abortion is and always has been the identity of the one in the womb. If the one in the womb is not a human life, abortion is a medical procedure bearing no greater moral weight than removing a skin tag. If the one in the womb is a human life, abortion is the willful destruction of innocent human life, which is never morally justified. Abortion “rights” advocates insist that we do not and cannot know when human life begins. As such, abortion is justified because we know that the mother is a human life, but we don’t know if the fetus is a human life. Therefore, we weigh a certainty against an uncertainty and justify abortion. But they have their moral reasoning exactly backwards. If we do not know if a human life is present, we are obliged to act as if it is, otherwise we risk the destruction of innocent human life, a risk that is never justified. If a hunter observes movement among the bushes in a forest but does not know if the movement is caused by a deer or by a man, he is not justified in taking aim and shooting under the principle that he did not know with certainty that it was not a deer. No. He may only shoot on the certainty that it is not a person. In the same way, if we do not know with certainty that the one in the womb is a human life, we must presume it is or risk the destruction of innocent human life. We cannot justify that risk. We can only act against the one in the womb on certain knowledge that we are not dealing with human life. Basically, the abortion “rights” advocates are saying the hunter is justified in shooting at the bushes because, well, it may be a deer.

All of this, of course, is a moot point, because we do know when life begins, and life begins at the moment of conception. Immediately at the moment of conception, a new life is formed with unique DNA that has never existed before. The new life begins growing immediately and acts in every way consistent with life at each stage of development. Life, really, is a continuum, from conception to death. Birth is certainly a momentous moment in that continuum, but it holds no special significance in determining the human identity of the one born. The one born has been a human since conception, all through his or her development in utero, and now at birth and on through infancy, toddlerhood, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, mature adulthood, older adulthood, and on to the end of life. Even death is part of this continuum in the minds and hearts of believers, since death is not the end of life but, much like birth, the jumping off point to the next adventure in life.

Those aghast at restrictions to abortion fail to consider the humanity of the one in the womb. Like other groups that have been marked for genocide, they have convinced themselves that these people are not people and are, therefore, expendable. It is a deplorable position to claim that a particular group of people are not people, but it has a long, unfortunate history. The claim, too, is that the dignity and independence of women depends on their having access to abortion. It is moral insanity to claim that the dignity of one group of people is contingent on their possessing the privilege to kill another group of people. Yet that is the claim of abortion advocates, and it is the claim on which the abortion industry is founded. It is moral insanity.

Thanks be to God that the legislature of Tennessee had the moral foresight to put in place a law that would protect her most vulnerable citizens. Now, it is up to Tennesseans to ensure that women who face crisis pregnancies have the resources and services needed to manage their lives and raise their children. There are almost 200 crisis pregnancy centers in Tennessee. They deserve our moral, prayerful, and financial support. I am convinced that most women who consider abortion do so because they genuinely feel they have no other option, and abortion is presented as an option. Stacy Dunn, president of Tennessee Right to Life, says, “Our goal is not only to make abortion illegal but to make it unthinkable.” We all need to work toward the goal that a woman who is afraid, alone, and desperate knows there are those here to help her and her child make it. It is our moral duty.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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