Press Releases

Women, Girls Reminded Of Increasing Impact Of HIV/AIDS

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Health, March 9, 2010:

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is March 10

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today about one in four Americans living with HIV is a woman, and a new woman in the United States is diagnosed with HIV every 35 minutes. These sobering facts are the foundation of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The Tennessee Department of Health is participating in this annual health observance March 10 by reminding women and girls about preventing HIV and the importance of getting tested.

“It is vitally important that all women and girls in Tennessee who are sexually active get tested for HIV,” said Veronica Gunn, MD, MPH, FAAP, chief medical officer for the Department of Health. “By knowing their status, women can take steps to protect themselves from HIV, to receive treatment, or prevent passing it on to others, including their children.”

All women need to know about the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. HIV can cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, a disease that weakens the body’s ability to fight infection and certain cancers. Having unprotected sex is the main way HIV is spread; 80 percent of new HIV infections in American women and girls result from sex with an infected male partner. HIV is also spread through injection drug use or from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.

Women and girls of color, particularly African American women and girls, continue to bear a disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is now the leading cause of death for African American women aged 25 to 34. In Tennessee, there were 1,071 new cases of HIV diagnosed in 2008. Of that number, 285 cases were in women, and 75 percent of the cases in women were among African Americans.

A person may feel perfectly healthy for several years after becoming infected with HIV, and may be at risk for passing the virus on to others. The only way to know for certain if an individual is infected with HIV is to be tested. While there is still no cure for HIV, people with HIV and AIDS are living longer and stronger lives thanks to a number of new treatments.

The Tennessee Department of Health offers confidential HIV testing at all county health department clinics. TDOH clinics also offer counseling with a trained health care provider on ways to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. Find a list of county health department clinics online at Other sties that offer HIV tests can be found online at Mobile phone users can send a text message with their ZIP code to “KNOWIT” (566948), and within seconds will receive a text message identifying a testing site near them.

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a nationwide initiative coordinated by the Office of Women’s Health to raise awareness of the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. To learn more, visit

Liberty and Justice News

Legislature Considering Bills Relating to Pregnancy

A House subcommittee this week delayed voting on an abortion bill but passed two other measures relating to pregnant women.

Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, is sponsoring a measure, House Bill 3301, that would require facilities that perform abortions to post signs reminding patients that’s it illegal to force or coerce a woman into an abortion.

Currently, coercing or forcing a woman to have an abortion is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

Under the legislation, the woman seeking an abortion must also sign a written consent form before going forward with the procedure. Lynn’s bill would also require that additional information be given to minors.

The proposed legislation would also allow women to sue for damages if there were no signs posted, or if the provisions concerning minors weren’t met, which alarmed Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah.

“It’s arguable you could be creating an action just because the sign is not posted even though the minor read the language and signed the informed consent,” he said. “It gives me a little bit of concern.”

Other legislators questioned whether the bill would apply to emergency rooms and certain other medical facilities.

Beth Barry, with the Tennessee Hospital Association, said the legislation could put hospitals in a difficult position during emergency situations.

“We could be in an emergent situation with a comatose minor but be forced to choose between ignoring the informed consent portion of the bill and treating the minor to save the life,” she said.

At Dennis’ request, the subcommittee put off a vote on the bill until next Wednesday to address those issues.

Meanwhile, the subcommittee advanced a bill strengthening penalties for those convicted of perpetrating violent acts against pregnant women, and another to allow women to obtain birth certificates for stillborns.

Rep. Joshua Evans, R-Greenbriar, is sponsoring House Bill 3495, which allows a fetus to be legally classified as a victim if a pregnant woman is assaulted or killed.

“It changes simply the language for the assault and homicide statute from the age of viability for a pregnant female to just her being pregnant as 26 other states do,” he said.

The legislation could be affected by a pending opinion about the matter that’s been requested from the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office.

The companion bill in the Senate is currently assigned to the Judiciary Committee and has yet to see action taken on it.

The bill allowing women to get stillborn baby birth certificates, House Bill 3286, passed after the subcommittee heard from two mothers.

One, Beth Barnett, of Cordova, told the panel she lost a baby approximately 28-30 weeks into her pregnancy.

“To us, he was our child,” she told the panel. “(My children) have to have something to relate to understand what happened to their brother. I didn’t know what to tell them. There was nothing there that told me he was ever recognized as anything but a bad procedure that happened in the hospital.”

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada, R-Oak Grove. The companion bill in the Senate is awaiting a floor vote.

Press Releases

Sen. Jackson Wants Tougher Penalties for Crimes Against Women, Kids

Press Release from Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, 23 Feb. 2010:

Bill would make murderers of pregnant women eligible for death penalty

NASHVILLE – Sen. Doug Jackson (D-Dickson) will present two bills in a Senate committee Tuesday afternoon that enforce harsher penalties for crimes committed against pregnant women and young children.

“We have a duty to protect those who are vulnerable, and pregnant women and children are the ultimate examples,” Jackson said. “Criminals who commit heinous acts against these groups deserve punishments that fit the crimes.”

Under Senate Bill 2392, a killer convicted of first-degree murder for knowingly killing a pregnant woman automatically would become eligible for the death penalty or life without parole. The bill will give a jury the opportunity to impose an appropriate punishment against a murderer of a pregnant woman, thereby assuring justice for society and the victim’s family.

“A premeditated murder against a pregnant woman is repugnant to society,” Jackson said. “The tragic loss of a mother-to-be is particularly shocking and harmful to a family. The family loses much more than a wife and a mother.”

Senate Bill 2388 requires convicted child rapists who complete their prison sentences to be supervised by an officer of the state of Tennessee for the rest of their lives.

During his time in the legislature, Sen. Jackson has sponsored bills that made the sex offender registry public and accessible via the Internet, as well as the legislation that required state lifetime supervision of sex offenders. Child rapists would be added to that list under SB2388.

“I have led the charge against sex offenders in Tennessee,” Jackson said. “Child rapists should serve long sentences without parole, and once they have completed every day of their sentences, they should never be released back into our communities without active supervision by a state officer.”

Both bills are scheduled to be discussed during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday in LP12.

Senator Doug Jackson represents Dickson, Giles, Hickman, Humphreys, Lawrence, and Lewis Counties. Contact him at or (615) 741-4499 or 302 War Memorial Building, Nashville, TN 37243-0025.