Attorney General Slatery takes steps to codify new abortion laws

By: - June 24, 2022 3:30 pm
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Attorney General Herb Slatery said Friday he will “quickly” notify the Tennessee Code Commission that Roe v. Wade and Casey have been overturned, a step required by state law.

The emergency motion he filed with the 6th District Court of Appeals sought to lift a federal injunction against the fetal heartbeat law, prohibiting abortions at six week, eight weeks and on, based on the high court’s ruling.

The state’s laws on 48-hour waiting periods and anti-discrimination law are in place already, but the timing provisions in the fetal heartbeat measure are on hold.

“Dobbs is a momentous decision. Our republic is founded on the rule of law. We accord respect to the supremacy clause, to the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court when they are issues that agree with the law of the state of Tennessee, which largely is the case in this instance. But we also follow the rule of law when it’s not,” Slatery said.

Slatery noted he was the attorney general in 2015 and made similar comments about the Obergefell decision allowing same-sex marriage, and those decisions did not agree with the view of most Tennesseans and the statutes Tennessee had in place.

After 50 years, the high court’s decision sends abortion law back to the states, leaving it up to Tennessee to decide whether women should have the right to an abortion.

“Where it should be in my opinion,” he said. “This is an issue the court called a profound moral issue and the policy discussions and issues are best heard at the state level, in our opinion, and that’s where it will be. The people of Tennessee, for the first time in 50 years, will have the chance to weigh in on this issue through their elected representatives.”

Some 26 states have enacted strict abortion measures already, in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling. Slatery said he was not aware, though, of anything that would prevent women from going to another state to have abortion services.

The court’s ruling paves the way for Tennessee law to take effect making is a Class C felony for a physician to perform an abortion. The law would not criminalize a woman’s actions, and he was unable to address whether a woman could be charged if she self-administered an abortion.

Davidson County District Attorney General Glenn Funk has said he would not prosecute any doctor for providing abortion services. But Slatery declined to comment on whether he would take action against Funk.

The attorney general also declined to respond to comments by Democratic state Sen. Jeff Yarbro that his filing with the 6th District Court of Appeals and request that it be considered in advance of his 2 p.m. press conference was the equivalent of “spiking a political football” and “slimy.”



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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.

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