Krystle James

I am a woman. I am a female. I am unapologetically pro-choice. I have listened to and read the debates on both sides of the argument over reproductive rights. What pains me the most is that I should have to defend not only my human rights, but my constitutional right for the freedom to govern my own body against the state at all.

These are terrifying times for liberty and if the draft leaked by SCOTUS does overturn Roe v. Wade, this will be the FIRST constitutional right to be rescinded — as early as summer 2022 — in the State of Tennessee.

“We are talking about families in crisis, not isolated clinical procedures. Our state will continue to provide protection, resources & care for both mother & child,” Gov. Bill Lee posted on social media. Yet, this “Constitutionally Conservative” administration continues to move the benchmark of liberty by amending the very document it claims to adhere to, while creating the problems it promises to solve.

In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court made its decision and struck down a series of abortion restrictions enacted by state lawmakers. The judges stated, “A woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.” That ruling concluded that the Tennessee Constitution guaranteed a greater right to privacy — including a woman’s decision to obtain an abortion — than the U.S. Constitution.

However, under an administration led by a Republican supermajority, Tennessee has been positioned as one of 13 states with so-called trigger laws, meaning we have legislation whose effective date is contingent on the eventual overturning of the landmark 1973 abortion case.

In addition to making the freedom to exercise bodily autonomy a crime for physicians, this administration has knocked down legislative attempts to improve access to childcare, been responsible for the closure of rural hospitals, refused to expand access to healthcare, failed to protect women in domestic abuse situations, and is at this very moment using taxpayer-funded dollars via TISA to attempt to deny educational access to children of immigrants and children with disabilities. The celebrated growth it has championed has actually created a dichotomy between job opportunities and the socio-economic divide of a substandard living minimum wage and housing crisis facing Tennessean families.

On top of all that, data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, Guttmacher Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Communications Commission, and a compilation of data about health centers managed by Power to Decide has provided statistics that: 406,360 Tennessean women of reproductive age live in contraceptive deserts and are in need of publicly funded contraception. In addition, 1,170 women in need live in Tennessee counties without access to a single health center that provides the full range of contraceptive methods.

The choice to have an abortion is personal, and it is reprehensible to claim moral superiority while using the state to restrict personal freedoms.

But what makes this administration even more grotesque is the claim that the state will “continue to provide protection, resources and care” when it hasn’t even begun to address the root causes surrounding abortion.

A gentle political nudge infringing on the rights of a woman can easily become a push when the government moves to investigate miscarriages and move towards restricting access to birth control. We need only look towards our global neighbors in Afghanistan to see the oppressive future of our daughters and granddaughters.

Here is where I draw the line: I will not judge you or any woman in your life. I will not demand any woman justify the choices for her life to me, the state or anyone else. The power to choose belongs to the people and I am unapologetically pro-choice. Come November, we will all vote privately in a booth with freedom on the ballot.

Krystle James is a resident of Pegram and small business owner. She will appear as the Democratic candidate for Tennessee State House of Representatives-District 78 on the Aug. 4 and Nov. 8 election ballots.

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