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Hundreds of healthcare workers ask Tenn. lawmakers to reconsider the state’s all-out abortion ban

Paige Pfleger
Tennessee’s full abortion ban — called the Human Life Protection Act — has taken effect as of Thursday, Aug. 25. Physicians have led much of the opposition since they are the ones subject to prosecution.

More than 700 Tennessee health care workers have signed an open letter to state lawmakers, asking them to revisit the state’s all-out abortion ban.

Many of them are OB-GYNs like Dr. Nikki Zite of Knoxville, who helped write the letter. She says an original draft asked legislators to repeal the abortion ban, but Zite says repeal seemed too far-fetched.

“I think we live in a state where people want some regulation around this issue,” Zite says. “And we just have to figure out where everybody meets.”

The letter says Tennessee’s law forces health care providers to balance appropriate medical care with the risk of prosecution. In the request for reconsideration, they note there are no exceptions for rape, incest, fetal anomalies or to protect the life of the mother.

The law does offer some protection to physicians who perform abortions to save the pregnant person. But if charged, the burden of proof is on the physician to justify their actions.

Text of the letter:

As medical professionals from across Tennessee, we call on our legislature to reconsider the “trigger law,” which bans abortion without exception and criminalizes physicians for providing lifesaving care.

This law makes ending any pregnancy a felony offense, even when the pregnancy cannot survive to viability and threatens the life of the mother.  This impacts women experiencing miscarriages, tubal pregnancies, or even serious infections or cancers during pregnancy.

Tennesseans should have the right to make personal health care decisions with the assistance of their doctors and healthcare team – without the intrusion of politicians. This law puts the government in charge of deciding which healthcare options are available to patients, setting a dangerous precedent that  violates the sacred physician-patient relationship. And because it includes zero exceptions – not for rape, incest, fetal anomaly, or even to protect the mother’s life – it forces health care providers to balance appropriate medical care with the risk of criminal prosecution.  

We stand united in support of Tennesseans to make their own medical decisions including abortion care, and we affirm the position of all relevant national societies, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association in their opposition of this dangerous legislation.

Blake Farmer is Nashville Public Radio's senior health care reporter. In a partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, Blake covers health in Tennessee and the health care industry in the Nashville area for local and national audiences.
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