This past week, the Tennessee state legislature brought forth a bill that would create a legal means by which fathers could be brought into the abortion conversation.
The controversial legislation seeks to put forth a legal procedure in which a father could request an injunction to prohibit the woman from obtaining an abortion if the woman is pregnant with the man’s child.
The legislation, introduced by Republican state Rep. Jerry Sexton and Republican state Sen. Mark Pody, expressly “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.”
By definition, an “injunction” is “a court order requiring a person to do or cease doing a specific action.”
The bill would outline a timeline of fourteen days when the father’s petition could be filed, resulting in the court hearing the case and allowing both sides to “present evidence.”
There must also be a “reasonable probability” that the mother will seek an abortion of the unborn child in order for the biological father to request the injunction. If the man and woman are not married, the father must acknowledge paternity of the child. A DNA test does not need to be conducted because the definition of “proof of parenthood” only requires “the petitioner acknowledge paternity,” according to HuffPost.
The legislation also permits the court to hold the woman “in civil or criminal contempt and punish [her] in accordance with the law” if she proceeds with the abortion after the injunction has been served to her.
No exceptions for rape or incest are currently included in the bill.
The HuffPost also suggests that the law would likely be found unconstitutional if passed, citing the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. There, the Supreme Court ruled it not constitutional for a woman to be required to inform her husband before obtaining an abortion.
Pody told Fox 17 News that the father has a right to know “what’s going on” with his child.
“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,” Pody said.
“In this case, we’re saying that we want that father who is just as much of a parent as that mother is, it took two of them to create this human being, and we believe that they should have that opportunity to raise that child,” Pody continued.
He also said that the mother would be allowed to explain why she should proceed with the abortion and that any medical conditions would be considered.
The Executive Director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood, Francie Hunt, responded to the proposed bill stating, “A pregnant person must have the ultimate control over their body and their pregnancy. This is an unconstitutional, insulting, and dangerous bill. 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. 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.”
This is not the first time that Tennessee has engaged in the abortion conversation. Last year, Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed the heartbeat bill banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. This law is currently being challenged in court.