Republicans in the Tennessee House of Representatives proposed a bill Jan. 23 that, if passed, would ban abortions at any point after a heartbeat is detected within a fetus, except for medical emergencies.
Tennessee House Bill 77, sponsored by Representative Micah Van Huss, will effectively deny women a choice of having a safe abortion in Tennessee because a fetus can have a heartbeat as early as six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. It has been discussed and shut down once before in the previous legislative cycle.
Soraya Morcelo, a University of Memphis student and mother of two children, said she does not have a definitive stance but understands the perspectives of both pro-choice and pro-life arguments.
“I say that because women should have a right to make decisions on their own just as any other living being,” Morcelo said. “I became a parent at the age of 16, and when I told my dad, he was enraged.”
Morcelo said her father offered to partially pay for her to get an abortion when he found out about her pregnancy.
“He took me to an abortion clinic and basically told me that I had to get an abortion,” Morcelo said. “The counselors talked to me and asked me what I wanted to do and let me know that nobody can force or threaten you into having this procedure. I told them I didn’t want to get the abortion and they explained that to my dad.”
Despite of her own experiences asserting her right to see her pregnancy through, Morcelo also said she supports women who do not feel circumstances can let them carry out a pregnancy.
“On the other hand, I have also been in support of abortions,” Morcelo said. “I have been there physically in the room with a friend a few years ago, and I understood that she had to do it due to her personal circumstances. The bottom line is she had that right. Banning abortions can also create a ‘back to the wall’ effect and push certain people to extreme measures to terminate their own pregnancies.”
Ashley Coffield, Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi’s President and CEO, said the decision to have an abortion is only up to women to make.
“Rather than focusing on unconstitutional legislation that would restrict access to safe and legal abortions, Tennessee’s legislators should focus on increasing health care access and laws that support comprehensive sexuality education,” Coffield said.
There have been numerous attempts to make abortions illegal, but both state and federal courts keep shutting it down. Both the Tennessee and Mississippi General Assembly said Arkansas and North Dakota’s attempts to ban abortions have not only been struck down, but also resulted in large monetary losses.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee expressed support for HB 77 and is expected to sign it into Tennessee law if it passes both the Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate.