Tennessee set to establish anti-choice monument on State Capitol grounds
A monument dedicated to “victims of abortion” is one step closer to being built on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol. On Monday, the state’s Republican-controlled Senate voted 23-3 to commission the work, which will be inscribed with the words “Tennessee Monument to Unborn Children, In Memory of the Victims of Abortion: Babies, Women, and Men.”
The bill will now be sent back to the House, which already passed the legislation earlier in the month, and then, if passed again, go to Governor Bill Haslam to sign into law. Haslam vetoed a 2016 of the bill.
After the monument bill initially passed the House, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee condemned the development. “At its core, the purpose of this monument is to further stigmatize abortion,” Tereva Parham told The Charlotte Observer. “Our initial reaction to this proposal is that it's another form of political posturing to further create a hostile environment toward reproductive health.”
Supporters of the bill, meanwhile, have said it belongs on the Capitol grounds, alongside the existing monuments to slavery and the Holocaust.
“Both of these monuments that are already here recognize that atrocities occurred because human beings were treated as less than human,” Republican Rep. Bill Dunn told The Tennessee Star in March. “In both cases, the vulnerable and defenseless were subjected to the will of the powerful.” Proponents of the bill say the monument will be built with private donations instead of public funds.
Tennessee has a history of passing anti-choice legislation. In 2014, 53 percent of state voters approved adding language to the State Constitution that says, in part: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to an abortion.” A number of states, including West Virginia and Florida, have recently considered implementing similar measures.
Tennessee’s Amendment 1, passed in 2015, enabled lawmakers to pass stricter restrictions on the right to choose, including a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking the procedure, according to USA Today,. The legislation also requires physicians to follow specific rules on what to tell patients during their in-person counseling sessions, or face misdemeanor or felony charges or risk having their medical licenses revoked. For example, physicians are required to inform patients that “numerous public and private agencies and services are available to assist her during her pregnancy and after the birth of her child, if she chooses not to have the abortion.”
The monument bill is not the only anti-choice legislation to be debated in Tennessee this month. On April 3, the State Senate’s Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to be offered a chance to view an ultrasound. The original version of the bill proposed outlawing abortions in Tennessee after a fetal heartbeat could be detected.
Although Tennessee may soon become the first state to host an anti-choice monument on its Capital grounds, the Tennessee Monument to Unborn Children would actually be the second such monument built in the state. The National Memorial for the Unborn, located in Chattanooga, was founded in 1994.
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