MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Memphis lawmaker is getting heat for supporting a controversial abortion bill in the Tennessee General Assembly.
State Representative John DeBerry (D) voted in favor of a bill that, if it passes, would be one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
DeBerry said it was the first chance he's had in 25 years to go on the record to say he disagrees with abortion.
A bill to ban abortions in Tennessee after just six weeks of pregnancy was passed in the House last week 65 to 21.
Three Democrats, including DeBerry, voted for the bill. DeBerry, an ordained minister, told the Tennessean a lack of “personal responsibility” led to women getting abortions.
“I choose my battles, and I choose to give girls self-esteem, self-worth, to where they don’t feel that their bodies are just a vessel for somebody to play with and they don’t get themselves in that position,” DeBerry said. “I think that’s what’s being lost. Personal responsibility, pride, self-esteem — it makes a person walk away from those situations that get them in this position.”
Cherisse Scott is founder of SisterReach, a Memphis nonprofit that fights for reproductive rights for women of color.
"To do this, to say this, to even co-sign this, any black man that jumps behind a bill like this in 2019 is irresponsible and ought to be ashamed,” Scott said.
She says DeBerry's comments conflict with the views of many women in his district and represent an outdated patriarchal attitude.
"Women are going to do what we need to do to have an abortion regardless or not whether it’s going to be illegal or legal, whether there’s a six-week abortion ban or not because at the end of the day it is our lives on the line, not John DeBerry’s life,” Scott said.
We contacted DeBerry's press secretary multiple times Wednesday to try to schedule an interview. He said he'd work on it, but we never heard back.
Tennessee Democratic Party said women who lobby for affordable care for their reproductive health display more personal responsibility than anyone.