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they choose not to, then we’re there. We’re still kind to them.” Wade says she started the coalition because many women don’t realize the number of resources that are available to help with unplanned pregnancies. “They feel like that’s the only option, so we’re just there to offer them another option. If we really respect a woman’s right to choose, we’d want her to have all her options. I’m willing to sacrifice my nights and weekends so these women have the support that they need.” Some of the support resources the coalition connects women with are prenatal care, parenting classes, adoption services, and post-abortion counseling. “Most of the women that we talk to who are considering abortion aren’t doing it because they hate babies and love abortion,” Wade says. “They’re doing it because they can’t pay their rent or their doctor bills and have a baby at the same time. But they don’t have to choose between a career and having a baby or going to school and having a baby. They can do both.” Wade admits that the group’s mission of ending abortion in Memphis is a “lofty goal,” but she believes it’s possible. “If women felt like they had support … I don’t think nearly as many women would choose abortion if they knew there was help for them. I think even pro-choice advocates would say that if women had really strong support systems, they don’t necessarily need an abortion.” If abortion does become illegal in Tennessee, Wade says it’s important that women are offered resources to support their pregnancies. “We’re not just telling her ‘Don’t have an abortion’ and leaving her in a crisis,” Wade says. “We want to empower women to choose life. I believe abortion is wrong and immoral, but I know that an unplanned pregnancy is scary and women need help. Abortion needs to end, but women need to be supported.” State of Emergency Coffield of PPTNM says Tennessee could be dangerously close to passing total-ban legislation next session that would make it nearly impossible for women to get abortions here. Abortion is currently legal in Tennessee up to the point of viability, which the Constitution cites at 24 weeks. Coffield says the new legislation being heavily pushed by Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) is a total abortion ban. It aims to redefine viability to the moment of conception, she says, and this type of legislation interferes with women’s personal and private decisions. “We have a Supreme Court that puts Roe v. Wade at risk, and we have a state that is doing everything it can to eliminate the right and challenge women,” she says. “Politicians in Tennessee are out of touch with what people in Tennessee actually want them to be focusing on.” Coffield says a total abortion ban is

unconstitutional. “It’s an extreme and draconian measure. It’s being introduced by a group of privileged radicals that want nothing more than to hurt the health and well-being of women in Tennessee.” She also says the ban is “dangerous,” and it “threatens the lives of pregnant women.” When abortion is not an option, she says women and babies suffer. “Physicians know that protecting women and children’s health requires giving them the option to terminate a pregnancy,” Coffield says. “Pregnancy is a medical diagnosis, and they should have all their options to decide if they want to continue with that or not.” States with more abortion restrictions, tend to have poorer health outcomes for women and children, as well as a higher rate of infant and maternal mortality, Coffield notes. A total ban would predominantly affect women who already experience disadvantages in health care, she says. These include young women, women of color, women with disabilities, undocumented women, as well as women living in low-income and rural areas. “A total ban would put their lives in jeopardy,” she says. “And the state’s health and racial disparities are exacerbated by policies like this — ones that make it difficult or impossible to access a full range of reproductive services.” Women of means can afford time off work and travel to other states to get an abortion, Coffield says. They also typically have better health care, which means they will know they are pregnant earlier and in time to legally terminate their pregnancy. “If passed in Tennessee, the six-week abortion ban will be challenged in court,” Coffield said. “Just like every other state that’s passed similar laws, we would be setting Tennessee up for an expensive lawsuit that wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money.” Coffield says in other states that have passed six-week bans, including Kentucky, Mississippi, Iowa, North Dakota, and Ohio, the court has “easily blocked these bans,” on the basis that it is unconstitutional for states to prohibit a woman from choosing abortion before viability. Still, she says “this is a state of emergency. In the 40-plus years since Roe v. Wade, there’s never been a more precarious time for women’s health. Abortion rights give women control over their bodies and their lives and without that, we’ll never be free or equal.” Two Years After … Two years after Ashley Howell decided to have an abortion, she’s expecting again and intends to carry her baby to term this time. She says she’s fully equipped, stable, and further along in her sobriety. She and her husband are ready now. “It’s something I want, and it’s something I planned for,” Howell says. “I have a different perspective entirely. It’s such a lie that women who have abortions hate children.”

Profile for Contemporary Media

Memphis Flyer 08.15.19  

Memphis Flyer 08.15.19