Healthy & Free Tennessee: Fighting for Reproductive Care And Against Discrimination
Healthy and Free Tennessee is an organization with many focuses, the main three are intersections of racism, the criminal legal system, and reproductive justice. They fight for better access to reproductive care for marginalized communities and fight policies that are determined to criminalize reproductive outcomes.
In the criminal legal system, Healthy and Free Tennessee work alongside an organization called Free Hearts which is run by formerly incarcerated people, and who also works with formerly incarcerated people. Together, in the most recent session in 2022, they were able to pass the Anti-Shackling Bill, which would prevent the harmful practice of shackling pregnant people while they are in prison. Another bill brought to the state capitol and signed by the governor is Senate Bill 2150, which Introduces TennCare Coverage for doula services. Healthy and Free Tennessee also worked to amend the Medication Abortion Ban, and stop Tennessee's Bounty Hunter Abortion Ban.
With a lot of talk in Tennessee over bills that discriminate against women, our undocumented community, the LGBTQ+ community, and people of color, Healthy and Free work to share the most accurate information when it comes to understanding and comprehending these bills. Most are set out to have confusing and hard-to-understand language, which makes it unclear as to what they are doing, and whether it's legal. Because of this, the organization posts slides of easy-to-share information on its Instagram account to spread the message of what is happening in our legislation, and nation, and how we can take a stance against it.
Right now many individuals' health and lives are at risk, with the strong possibility of Roe v. Wade becoming overruled. In Tennessee, if it is overturned, abortion will be immediately banned because the state enacted a "trigger law." According to Planned Parenthood, this law makes abortion not only illegal, but also a felony in all circumstances including sexual assault, or incest. Planned Parenthood says providers who handled or attempted to provide an abortion could face prison time and fines, but not the person seeking the abortion. During my conversation with Heather Allison, who is the reproductive justice fellow with Healthy and Free Tennessee, we talked about what our state would look like post-Roe. There will be those who can travel out of state to seek an abortion, however there are many who will not be able to, due to a disability, their job, childcare, immigration status, or criminal status. Healthy and Free TN say they are also preparing for an increase in policies that will criminalize pregnant people, based on the circumstances in other countries where abortion is banned. Right now, they are focused on encouraging healthcare providers to not report their patients who have pregnancy loss and asking district attorney's not to prosecute people for self-managing their abortions. For those who are wanting to learn more about self-managed abortions, Healthy and Free are offering training for that as well. They are also encouraging those who track their menstrual cycle or pregnancy through their cell phones to stop doing so, due to privacy concerns.
With Roe v. Wade in danger, those who are experiencing pregnancy loss due to miscarriage will be turned away from life saving-care. Heather Allison says when a patient goes to their doctor, there is no way for the provider to know whether the patient took an abortion pill or suffered a miscarriage. If a doctor suspect's a person had an abortion, they can call the police. Earlier this year Governor Bill Lee signed a bill increasing criminal penalties for anyone distributing abortion medication through telehealth or mail. According to the Tennessean, the bill prohibits any distribution of abortion medication, except when it is done in person, by a physician. However, their doctor is not required to monitor the patient during or after they are given the medication, except for a required follow-up appointment within two weeks. If this is not followed the legislation makes the procedure a Class E felony punishable by a fine of up to $50,000. The FDA approved the delivery and telehealth dispensing of the medication last year. It's also been endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as a safe procedure.
If you or someone you know wants to learn more about abortion access or self managed abortions, Healthy and Free Tennessee has a section of their website completely dedicated to that, just click the link here.
For more on immigrant rights, click this link.
To contact Healthy and Free Tennessee you can send them an email with this address: email@example.com and their socials are linked below.
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My name is Jess and I love telling other peoples stories and bringing awareness to the community.