Tennessee legislators react to leak from SCOTUS on Roe v. Wade

By: - May 3, 2022 12:02 pm
Supporters of Planned Parenthood in the gallery of the Tennessee House of Representatives. (Photo: Ray Di Pietro))

Supporters of Planned Parenthood in the gallery of the Tennessee House of Representatives during a 2021 debate about abortion. (Photo: Ray Di Pietro)

Said state Rep. Jason Zachary, a Knoxville Republican, “If the leaked document truly represents the pending opinion of the judges, it will save millions of babies’ lives across our nation by pushing the decisions about abortion back to the states.”

Asked whether women could put themselves in danger by seeking abortions from unlicensed clinics, Zachary pointed out that based on the trigger bill, any unlicensed doctor who performs an abortion could be charged with a felony. 

Tennessee’s trigger bill would effectively ban abortions in Tennessee if Roe is overturned, Zachary said, adding he consulted with Attorney General Herbert Slatery Tuesday morning and was told the state could “navigate” other legal avenues if Roe is not struck down as a whole. 

“I’m encouraged and praying for our Justices,” Zachary said.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison of Cosby in East Tennessee took the report as if the High Court had made its ruling.

"I'm encouraged and praying for our Justices," said Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville(Photo: John Partipilo)
“I’m encouraged and praying for our Justices,” said Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville. (Photo: John Partipilo)

“The SCOTUS has apparently made the single most important decision of my lifetime by overturning Roe v. Wade. Abortion should never have been a federal issue. Abortion is a state issue that should be voted on by the people not left up to 9 justices.”

Faison also took a shot at Planned Parenthood in light of the draft report, saying on Twitter its two “biggest money makers” are abortions and transgender hormone therapy. He added he would be “beyond grateful” for Planned Parenthood to leave Tennessee.

Tennessee Democrats took the opposite view.

State Sen. London Lamar said the court will be making “one of the most consequential decisions” for the country in half a century.

On Twitter, however, she noted that “Women and babies will die” as a result of such a ruling.

“Tennessee is 9th in the nation for maternal and infant deaths. This number will increase dramatically (by) reversing Roe v. Wade,” a move she called “the opposite of ‘pro-life.’”

“I still haven’t found the words to express my frustration and anger … but I’m baffled that my state advocates to ban abortion when we don’t do a good job of taking care of the kids we have.” 

Tennessee’s performance on children welfare is “terrible,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro in a Twitter post, pointed out the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was decided 7-2 and written by Nixon appointee Justice Harry Blackmun. The 1987 Casey decision that upheld Roe v. Wade was written by a Reagan appointee on a court with eight justices appointed by Republican presidents.

I’m baffled that my state advocates to ban abortion when we don’t do a good job of taking care of the kids we have.

– Sen. London Lamar, D-Memphis

“Rejecting Roe as ‘egregiously wrong’ 50 years later = a radical political act,” Yarbro said on Twitter. “And while leaking draft opinions is certainly wrong & a troubling sign for the institution, I’d argue the brazenness with which this Court is overturning established precedents is – is by any normal, human measure – the bigger threat to the Court’s legitimacy,” Yarbro said.

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn directed her ire at the way the opinion made its way into the public eye, issuing a statement on Twitter that she had “no doubt” Chief Justice John Roberts would try to “root out the radical activist” who “betrayed the sacred tradition of the court” and leaked the draft opinion to Politico.

“The leak must be immediately removed from their position and exiled from the legal community,” Blackburn said.

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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial from the Tennessee Press Association.