America doesn't make sense anymore. How is it that we've become numbed to the massacre of children in classrooms (four killed this week in Michigan and another seven injured) by classmates wielding guns that, more often than not, were purchased by their parents. Yet at the same time, the loudest "pro-life" folks among us insist that abortion is murder and must be restricted if not completely outlawed?
To these folks — all too often Republican men — "pro-life" doesn't carry the same urgency when they demand it be easier for Americans even as young as 18 to obtain and carry deadly weapons. In Tennessee, one can do this with "permitless carry." And with no gun safety training, either.
But you'd best believe that's not the case for women carrying a fetus they cannot care for or do not want to see reach viability.
The abortion case before the U.S. Supreme Court now, the one likely to be decided in June, is a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. But here in Tennessee, we have a law pushed and signed by Gov. Bill Lee that is said to be one of the most conservative, "pro-life" pieces of legislation in the country. (A federal judge almost immediately blocked the measure and it's still tied up in courts.)
Under our law, no abortion would be allowed when a fetal heartbeat is detected, at around six weeks gestation — a time when many women don't even yet know they are pregnant. This while we have virtually wide-open access to guns with no carry permit and no instruction.
But there's more disconnect: Tennessee's supermajority Republican lawmakers have been busy for years tightening the screws to women and getting ready for the Roe v. Wade showdown. We also have a 48-hour waiting period, mandatory counseling, a bar on the state's Affordable Care Act insurance coverage, a bar against telemedicine for medication abortions, a requirement that a woman undergo and see an ultrasound, a requirement that fetal remains be buried or cremated and a ban on abortions for sex or race selection or due to a genetic anomaly.
In 2014, the Tennessee anti-abortion crowd successfully pushed to amend our state Constitution to explicitly bar a right to an abortion in Tennessee — a right that had been protected in 1999 by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
And in 2019, they pushed our lawmakers to enact a so-called "trigger law" that would bring a near-total abortion ban to Tennessee should Roe fall.
But guns? No problem. In September, Chattanoogans saw a shooting that left five people injured and two dead Two days later, the FBI released data revealing murders rose nationwide by nearly 30% in 2020 compared to 2019 — the largest one-year increase since the FBI began keeping national statistics in 1960. About 77% of those killings involved guns. This year, there was another 16% surge in murders in the first six months of 2021, according to the nonprofit Council on Criminal Justice.
And in Tennessee alone? Over the decade from 2010 to 2019, the rate of gun deaths increased 28%, compared to a 17% increase nationwide. The rate of gun suicides increased 15% and gun homicides increased 59%, compared to a 13% increase and 26% increase nationwide, respectively. Everytown for Gun Safety reports that in an average year, 1,193 people die and 2,220 are wounded in Tennessee.
We already noted on this page earlier this week that America's (and Tennessee's) abortion rate has been steadily falling. In the Volunteer State, there were 12,140 abortions performed in 2017, the most recent year chronicled by Guttmacher Institute. But more living, breathing Tennesseans died of COVID-19 — 17,196 — over the past 20 months.
Of course, our Tennessee lawmakers aren't pro-life on COVID, either — having recently all-but-outlawed vaccine and mask mandates in our businesses and schools.
Pro-life? No. Senseless? Yes.