Tennessee Lawmakers Propose Bill That Would Grant Fathers Veto Power Over Abortion Without Pregnant Woman’s Consent

Senator Mark Pody and Representative Jerry Sexton (R-Tenn.) have proposed a measure that would grant fathers veto power over abortion without a pregnant woman’s consent. The bill, SB494/HB1079, is the latest push to restrict abortion in the state of Tennessee.

The measure, if passed, “permits a person to petition a court for an injunction to prohibit a woman who is pregnant with the person’s unborn child from obtaining an abortion; requires the petitioner to execute a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity that is not subject to being rescinded or challenged.”

It drew immediate criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.

“This unconstitutional legislation demonstrates the condescending mindset underlying this bill: that men should control women’s bodies,” ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said in a statement. “Women are not chattel and this bill needs to be stopped in its tracks.”

Pody has defended the bill.

“I believe a father should have a right to say what’s gonna be happening to that child,” Pody said, noting that he introduced the bill after hearing from a resident who expressed a concern that fathers have no say if a woman decides to get an abortion. “And if somebody is going to kill that child, he should be able to say, ‘No, I don’t want that child to be killed. I want to able to raise that child and love that child.'”

In 2019, the Tennesee House passed  HB 77 by a vote of 66–21. The measure prohibits abortion after the fetus is viable. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “the U.S. abortion landscape has grown increasingly restrictive as more states adopt laws hostile to abortion rights.”

Between January 1, 2011 and July 1, 2019, states enacted 483 new abortion restrictions, and these account for nearly 40% of all abortion restrictions enacted by states in the decades since Roe v. Wade,” the landmark legislation that legalized abortion nationwide, the organization notes. “Some of the most common state-level abortion restrictions are parental notification or consent requirements for minors, limitations on public funding, mandated counseling designed to dissuade individuals from obtaining an abortion, mandated waiting periods before an abortion, and unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations on abortion facilities.”