Sen. Charlane Oliver, Rep. Gloria Johnson announce Tennessee Contraceptive Freedom Act
Legislation aims to protect access to birth control in a post-Roe legal landscape
NASHVILLE — Sen. Charlane Oliver and Rep. Gloria Johnson joined concerned Tennesseans today to announce Tennessee’s “Contraceptive Freedom Act.” The historic legislation — set to be filed in the 2024 legislative session — seeks to protect and preserve Tennesseans’ right to contraception, including condoms, the pill and IUDs.
Other speakers at the event included Dr. Amy Gordon Bono, MD, MPH, a board-certified internal medicine primary care physician practicing in Middle Tennessee, Sarah Denison, a resident of Davidson County, Bailey Jones, a resident of Wilson County, and Rev. Dr. Donna Whitney, a retired physician and Pastoral Assistant at Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville.
Senator Charlane Oliver said, “Today we are here to mark the next chapter in our fight to rebuild and secure personal reproductive freedom for all Tennesseans by announcing our intention to introduce the ‘Tennessee Contraceptive Freedom Act’. This legislation embodies our commitment to make sure that every Tennessean has the freedom to start a family — or not — when they’re ready, on their own terms, and without government interference.”
Senator Oliver continued, “This legislation will strengthen access to birth control — in all forms including condoms, the pill, IUDs, and emergency contraception in Tennessee, and it also enshrines the right for people to use or refuse the method of their choice, regardless of sex, race, age, gender, income, ability to pay, marital status, citizenship or motive.”
Rep. Gloria Johnson emphasized, “Access to contraception is a cornerstone of women’s health and equality. Tennessee’s Contraceptive Freedom Act is our commitment to safeguard this right against those who wish to undermine it.
“Some politicians believe,” continued Rep. Johnson, “that they have the right to make healthcare decisions that should rightfully be made by the patient and their physician. Some politicians believe it is up to the government to decide what kind of birth control, if any, you can use. I simply believe in the freedom for Tennesseans to make their own decisions based on their own faith and values, in consultation with their physician and those they love. We cannot afford to leave such a fundamental right to the whims of extremist legislators. With this legislation, we have a chance to protect the right to contraception for all Tennesseans.”
Sarah Denison described growing up in a Christian household, the youngest of three girls. “Sex has always been an uncomfortable topic in my family. My parents believe and teach abstinence, but my sisters and I grew up to think differently about sex,” said Ms. Denison. “It isn’t about our religious beliefs…it’s about keeping us safe. That includes birth control and annual doctor visits. Access to birth control allows me to have control over my body and my future. It gives me the freedom to decide when, where, if, and with whom I would want to embark on the journey of parenthood. This is about safety, health, and wellness for everybody. It should not be a privilege, it is a necessity.”
Bailey Jones is the mother of two sons, and is a survivor of sexual assault. “I wanted both of my children, and I was so grateful to have the CHOICE to become a mother to them,” said Ms. Jones. Five years ago, two miles from the State Capitol, she was violently sexually assaulted. “Throughout the process of being in the hospital, having an intrusive rape kit done, talking to the police — one question kept coming up and lingering in my mind. ‘Could you be pregnant?’
“The answer was no. I was not pregnant and I was over 99% sure, solely because I had an IUD inserted 6 weeks after my first pregnancy. I thank God every single day for that little piece of metal in my uterus. Because of that IUD I did not have to carry the child of a rapist to term. That little piece of metal allowed me the choice to take my reproductive health into my own hands,” concluded Ms. Jones.
Rev. Dr. Donna Whitney said, “Tennessee’s Contraceptive Freedom Act aligns with our values of compassion and care for all. It is our moral duty to ensure that every Tennessean has the right to make personal health decisions without interference.
“As a pastor, I believe that all people, regardless of where we live or what we look like, deserve to be able to make our own healthcare choices. The decision of when or if to start or add to our families is one of the most important many of us will ever make. And, the right to parent the children we already have in safe and sustainable communities, including adequate food and housing, excellent education and available, affordable childcare, is a fundamental human right.”
Dr. Amy Gordon Bono added, “From a medical standpoint, Tennessee’s Contraceptive Freedom Act is more than just legislation. It’s a commitment to the health and well-being of Tennesseans. As a physician, I see every day how access to contraception can change lives for the better. Contraception is a basic right that allows individuals to take control of their own lives and make choices about their reproductive health. We must defend this right against any efforts to curtail access or impose unnecessary restrictions.
“Contraception helps us all,” Dr. Bono continued. “In fact, allowing patients to access birth control and funding that access to birth control is smart public health policy. Time and time again, research shows that when we invest in women and families, that’s a winning bet.”
Contraception is a fundamental human right that is central to an individual’s privacy, health, well-being, career growth, and participation in our nation’s social and economic life. Beyond just family planning, contraception is also essential to preventing and treating various medical conditions like endometritis, iron deficiency, ovarian cancer, and other cancers.
Last year, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called on the Court to overturn the constitutional right to contraception — a right established in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965. U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn has stated that the right to contraception is “constitutionally unsound.” Also, last year, 195 Members of Congress voted against the “Right to Contraception Act,” which would have codified the right to contraception in federal law. Senate Republicans proceeded to block all action in the Senate and did so again in June.