The election results across the country last week affirmed something that has become increasingly evident as of late: there is a war being waged against women. If those waging this war successfully curtail women's fundamental reproductive rights and eliminate women's ability to make profoundly personal medical decisions, including whether or not to have an abortion, then we all lose. Abortions will not cease to occur. Rather, we will return to the era of wire hangers and clandestine clinics.
One of the more alarming outcomes of the elections occurred in Tennessee. Fifty three percent of voters in Tennessee turned their backs on women by passing Amendment 1 to their state constitution. The amendment represents a 14 year effort of legislators to circumvent the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in a case brought by Planned Parenthood. In that case, the court struck down several state laws that created barriers to abortion, including a two day waiting period, mandatory counseling prior to receiving an abortion, and requirement that all abortions to be performed in a hospital.
Amendment 1 provides that the Tennessee state constitution does not protect a woman's right to an abortion, and that lawmakers are free to enact or repeal laws regulating abortion. Whatever protections that were restored in the 2000 Planned Parenthood case are at risk, and based on the language of the amendment, it appears that anti-choicers are gearing up to decimate women's reproductive rights in that state. Women's health in Tennessee is now subject to the whims of the legislature.
Proponents of the law called it a victory for those who believe that life is sacred. Yet, they appear willing to restrict access to abortion to such a degree that women will most certainly die.
If lawmakers in Tennessee successfully legislate away women's access to abortions in that state, the negative impact will reach much further. As it stands, Tennessee is the only state in the southern U.S. without significant restrictions on access to abortion. One in four women who receive an abortion in Tennessee come from a neighboring state. If Tennessee joins its neighbors in severely restricting access, the South will be a large void without any meaningful access to reproductive healthcare for women.
Last Tuesday's election results bring into focus the acute crisis state of women's reproductive rights in this country. We are at risk of losing gains established in the 1970s, when Roe v. Wade decriminalized abortion. And so continues the struggle...