Proposed Tennessee Bill Would Allow Fathers to Establish Paternity, Stop Abortion Without Mom’s Consent

By Nancy Flory Published on February 23, 2021

Tennessee lawmakers Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, and Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, have proposed legislation that would allow fathers to establish paternity and stop a woman from getting an abortion. If the bill passes, a father would be able to petition a court for an injunction against an abortion, according to the Tennessean. SB494/HB1079 was proposed by Pody and Sexton.

Pody proposed SB494 after a Tennessean stated that fathers do not have the authority to do anything if a woman wants an abortion. “I believe a father should have a right to say what’s gonna be happening to that child,” said Pody. “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 [be] able to raise that child and love that child.'”

If passed, a judge would be able to grant the petition if the father established paternity and there is a “reasonable possibility” that the woman would seek an abortion, according to the Tennessean. No DNA results would be required if the mom acknowledged the man as the father. If the couple is not married, the father may establish his paternity without the woman’s consent. After that, he would be able to deny an abortion.

Pody stated that should a father voluntarily establish paternity, he would be responsible for that child, through support or other obligations. He would not be able to later rescind or challenge the paternity. “He can’t turn around under any circumstance and say, ‘I was wrong, and it’s not mine.'”

The bill does not require that both mom and dad be at the injunction proceeding. And the mom would be penalized if she violated the injunction.

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Francie Hunt is the executive director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood. She called the bill “insulting” in a Wednesday statement. “A pregnant person must have the ultimate control over their body and their pregnancy.” Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said that men just want to control women’s bodies. “Women are not chattel and this bill needs to be stopped in its tracks.”

Weinberg added that the bill, if passed, could lead to dangerous consequences. “This extreme and dangerous bill would even allow a rapist to stop his victim from ending a pregnancy.”

Pody doesn’t believe men will volunteer that they raped a woman to stop an abortion. “If somebody comes up and says, ‘Yes, I raped her and I’m the father,’ he should immediately go to jail. I just do not believe that somebody is gonna come in and say, ‘I committed this crime, I’m guilty of this crime. Put me in jail.”

Last year, Tennessee passed legislation that forbids abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected, as early as six weeks. The law also bans abortions because of the child’s race, sex or in cases when the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. There was no exception for cases of incest or rape. The law has been held up due to legal challenges by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.


Nancy Flory is an associate editor at The Stream. You can follow her @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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