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After Another Legal Setback, A Tennessee Anti-Abortion Group Wants To Re-Evaluate Their Strategy

The US Supreme Court building
Creative Commons
The US Supreme Court building

A U.S. Supreme Court decision is being described as a “small victory” for abortion rights supporters in Tennessee, and it’s causing a leading anti-abortion group to call for a reset on opponents’ strategy.

The court ruled Monday that doctors do not have admitting privileges at a local hospital, striking down a Louisiana law. Tennessee has had a similar measure on the books since 2012, but it hasn’t been enforced for the past four years, when the Supreme Court struck down the same law in Texas.

Ashley Coffield, the president of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, told WPLN News the decision shows the highest court won’t support extreme measures to ban abortion.

“What’s happening is exactly what we warned voters about when they took up this bill,” Coffield says. “The state is going to waste taxpayer money defending this clearly unconstitutional law.”

The decision was a setback for abortion opponents who hoped that a court that’s become more conservative under President Donald Trump would reverse itself. Chief Justice John Roberts broke a tie on the court, saying that the precedent set in the Texas case requires the court to strike down Louisiana’s requirement.

But Coffield says Roberts has left himself some room to potentially allow other abortion restrictions.

“We still have a long way to go,” Coffield said. “What we did was win (Monday), but there are many battles ahead and it really couldn’t make it clearer how important the upcoming election is.”

Coffield is turning her attention to a new anti-abortion measure in Tennessee that would ban the procedure once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The measure has yet to be signed by Gov. Bill Lee. But, similar measures passed in other states have been ruled unconstitutional by lower courts.

That leaves some anti-abortion groups pessimistic about the chances conservative justices will give them a win in those cases.

Echoing his organization at the national level, Brian Harris, the president of Tennessee Right to Life, says that those who oppose abortion need to rethink how they take on the issue.

“Pro-life advocates must reevaluate our legislative strategies,” Harris wrote in a prepared statement, “to determine the most effective way to save women and children from the pain and destruction of abortion decisions.”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.
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