TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) — If the Supreme Court decides to overturn the landmark ruling Roe v. Wade that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion, Tennesseans will quickly feel the impacts.
The 1973 landmark ruling declared abortion a constitutional right.
However, a leaked Supreme Court draft shows justices are positioned to overturn the decision in a final ruling in June or July.
In March, two Tri-Cities Republican state lawmakers, Rep. Rebecca Alexander and Sen. Rusty Crowe, lead the charge to introduce a total ban on abortions in Tennessee.
That bill was recently withdrawn.
But, if the Supreme Court rules that abortion is no longer a constitutional right, Tennessee already has laws in place to then ban all abortions.
The Volunteer State is not alone. Tennessee is one of 26 states expected to ban abortion if Roe is overturned.
“I am pro-life. I do think that those sorts of issues are state issues. Local control is better,” Crowe said.
“If it is ruled unconstitutional from a federal perspective, from a constitutional perspective, then it reverts to the states.”
Lincoln Memorial University constitutional law professor Stewart Harris told News Channel 11 the process would move very quickly.
“Here in Tennessee we have a trigger law which would immediately criminalize, make it a felony, to perform an abortion,” said Harris.
Tennessee’s trigger law was passed in 2019 and states if Roe v. Wade is overturned, an abortion ban would go into place.
It outlines abortion as a Class C felony. The only exception for abortion is if a provider deems it necessary to prevent death or serious injury to the pregnant woman.
The law would seek to prosecute the doctors who perform illegal abortions, not the women who receive them.
Once the trigger law is enacted, the attorney general is responsible for alerting the Tennessee Code Commission. Then in 30 days, an abortion ban would become Tennessee law.
“It could have a cascading effect over the next few years. That’s one of the many things people are concerned about,” Harris said.
Of those effects, Harris says it is possible states will go a step further.
“The states that are moving in that direction such as Tennessee have made it pretty clear that they are not going to simply allow their citizens to go to other states and get an abortion. They are trying to pass laws that would restrict that activity as well,” Harris said.
Tennessee’s staunchly pro-life Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement:
“If the federal courts return full authority to the states, Tennessee’s laws will automatically provide the maximum possible protection and offer a glimmer of redemption as America reconciles our troubled past.”Gov. Bill Lee
Lee in 2020 signed a law banning all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, but it was not enacted due to federal challenges to its legality.
The draft that was leaked is not an official ruling of the court and abortion is still legal nationwide.
Harris commented that Donald Trump’s presidency paved the way for these potential nationwide changes regarding access to abortion.
“Elections matter. In 2016 we elected a president who then had the opportunity to appoint three Supreme Court justices. It’s those three justices who have supposedly given necessary votes to overturn Roe,” Harris said.