Governor Lee Signs Extreme Abortion Bill Passed Late at Night Amid Pandemic


July 13, 2020
Contact: Nikki Metzgar
(202) 599-7642 /

Washington, D.C. – Women of color and people with disabilities have a message for Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee: signing his state’s abortion ban into law is a betrayal of our communities. The legislation, one of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in the country, was voted on and passed, late at night in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, with no public notice. Among the law’s many restrictions, including a ban at 6 weeks, is a ban on abortion if the reason an individual chooses to end a pregnancy is race selection, sex selection, or fetal diagnosis. These bans force abortion providers to discriminate against their patients and interrogate them for their reasons for seeking care.  

Reason bans particularly target women of color, people with disabilities, and those at the intersections of these identities. These laws seek to stigmatize their abortion decisions and restrict access to time-sensitive and needed care. These bans are yet another part of the strategy to chip away at abortion access, without doing anything to address the underlying issues anti-abortion politicians use to justify the bans, including ableism, racism, and gender inequity. 

“This law is flat out racist,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “It is based on offensive racist stereotypes about Asian American and Pacific Islander women and immigrants and uses falsehoods to justify pushing abortion care further out of reach. Not only that, but laws that make abortion harder to access disproportionately impact women of color and immigrants, who already face barriers to getting the care they need. We won’t stand for this.”

“Rather than focusing resources on helping Tennesseans through a global health pandemic, anti-abortion politicians drove ahead in the middle of the night with extreme legislation that attacks on our ability to make decisions about our lives,” said Yvonne Chen, a member of the NAPAWF Nashville Chapter. “This legislation is unjustifiable, dangerous, and wrong. It is based on inaccurate information and negative stereotypes about Asian communities, and we will not stand to be a wedge in the fight for reproductive justice. Moreover, this bill will restrict medical access and place an undue burden on vulnerable people, particularly for women of color, women facing economic hardship, and immigrant women. Politicians have no business interrogating people’s personal and private decisions about pregnancy and should instead interrogate why they are pushing forward a sexist, racist, and classist bill.” 

“The sweeping anti-abortion legislation passed in Tennessee is an attack on the most vulnerable Tennessee women and pregnant people, specifically Black women and girls,” said Cherisse Scott, founder and CEO of SisterReach. “The unconstitutional legislation was decided by a majority white, male legislature in the middle of the night in a pandemic during a budget discussion. Our rights were traded away for a budget. The Tennessee legislature refused to expand Medicaid, cut funding to schools and continued to sanction violence and killing against Black and Brown bodies in our communities. Vulnerable Tennesseans will die without safe and legal access to abortion care.”

“The disability community has a commitment to bodily autonomy. Reason bans like what was just passed in Tennessee fly in the face of our community and our values and treat our community like a prop,” said Rebecca Cokley, Director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress.

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