U.S. Supreme Court justices are preparing to make one of the most important decisions the nation’s high court has made in decades in the Mississippi Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. The landmark case could decide whether states can protect the lives of unborn babies before viability.
Technically, the court is hearing three abortion cases, but this is the one which has the potential to overturn the 48-year old Roe v. Wade decision.
One of the key provisions of Roe v. Wade is that state and federal governments can’t ban abortion before viability. The Mississippi law, which was blocked by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, falls short of the viability threshold which is why the case has the potential to be a landmark decision on abortion.
So what would such a decision mean for Tennessee and other states?
It is not clear yet whether the Supreme Court will restrict themselves to the question of fetal viability or will completely overturn Roe v. Wade. If it is overturned, the decision could mean that states will be responsible for their laws on abortion, including the right to ban it within their borders.
Tennessee is prepared should the court decide to overturn the Roe decision with a law I co-sponsored in 2019 called the Human Protection Act. This Act is the next step towards restoring constitutional protections for the unborn. It proactively triggers the restoration of Tennessee’s abortion laws prior to the Roe v. Wade ruling when the power to regulate it is returned to the states. That is why it is commonly referred to as a “trigger law.”
The Human Protection Act requires the Attorney General and Reporter to notify the Tennessee Code Commission in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned or a U.S. constitutional amendment is adopted. Then, 30 days following either event, Tennessee’s abortion law would be restored to its 1972 statute. Twelve states, including Tennessee, have trigger laws.
When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Roe decision, it rendered Tennessee’s strong abortion laws null and void, which prohibited abortion except when the life of the mother was at risk. Since then, Pro-Life Tennesseans have worked diligently to prevent abortion through the passage of numerous laws. This includes initiating a constitutional amendment adopted by Tennessee voters that allowed the General Assembly to enact a 48-hour waiting period. It also included action to defund Planned Parenthood.
If the U.S. Supreme Court decision does not overturn Roe v. Wade, the Human Protection Act has one other vehicle to restore state power over abortion laws. This is through the constitutional process. For this to occur, an amendment would have to be adopted to the U.S. Constitution that returns the authority to regulate abortion back to the states. The amendment process is very long and tedious.
The Supreme Court will likely deliver an opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case in June. We are praying that the decision will be to overturn Roe v. Wade and restore the rights of states on this critically important matter of life.
I agree with Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart who said during his oral arguments that “the Constitution places trust in the people, on hard issue after hard issue, the people make this country where abortion is a hard issue. “It demands the best from all of us, not a judgment by just a few of us.”
The Court should let the democratic process work. If Roe is overturned, states will be free to reflect the values of their people in protecting the rights of the unborn. In Tennessee, it means that the constitutional rights of the unborn will be protected.
The 28th District State Senate seat is held by Dr. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and includes Giles and five other counties.